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Infiniti's luxury sport-ute enters its third year with no major changes.
In 1997, Infiniti released a luxury sport-utility vehicle based on the then-new Nissan Pathfinder. With little to differentiate the QX4 from the Pathfinder, other than a $10,000 price increase and a fancy-shmancy four-wheel drive system, many critics unleashed a torrent of criticism at the vehicle.
The problem was not that people disliked the mechanics, driving style or appearance of this truck; they couldn't get around the fact that the QX4 offered little, other than full-time four-wheel drive and an impressive Infiniti warranty, to distinguish itself from the already-capable Pathfinder.
The critics might have cried foul, but the buying public seemed not to notice. The QX4 has been a strong seller for Infiniti, outpacing the optimistic projections that Infiniti had for this sport-ute. Its first year out, the QX4 received an award from J.D. Power and Associates in their initial quality study, ranking the QX4 the best compact sport utility vehicle. Seems that those who did buy this truck were pretty darn happy with the purchase.
So what is it that people like about the QX4? Well, there is the full-time four-wheel drive system that offers drivers the security of having maximum traction without having to change gear levers or control knobs. Called All-Mode 4WD, the system employs a wet multi-plate clutch in the center differential that shifts power between the front and rear wheels depending on road surface conditions. It does this by monitoring power distribution and wheel slippage via electronic sensors in the front and rear differentials, a throttle position sensor, and a transfer unit sensor in the antilock braking system. The unit works by making sure that the tires have traction by shifting up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels if the rear wheels start to slip. All-Mode 4WD can also be locked into four-wheel drive by switching a dashboard-mounted dial to LOCK and selecting 4HI or 4LO with the floor-mounted transfer case shifter. There is even a 2WD mode for travelling on dry roads. Despite all these choices, Infiniti recommends leaving the transfer case selector switch turned to AUTO for most driving conditions. They're probably right, the truck can make driving decision faster than mostmotorists do.
Another difference between the QX4 and the Pathfinder is the relative appearance of the two trucks. The QX4 has a monotone paint scheme, as well as unique grille, headlights, fog lamps, bumper caps, and rear-end styling. The effect is not dissimilar to the look of the Ford Explorer Limited, meaning that some on our staff hate it while others find it attractive.
The final difference between the Pathfinder and QX4 is the treatment that the dealer is likely to give you when you attempt to buy one. Nissan dealers are like all car dealers; some are good, some are bad. Infiniti dealers, however, uniformly display style, grace and respect for their customers. For some, this alone is worth the extra money.
The similarities between the QX4 and the Pathfinder keep us from recommending the Infiniti. Same basic shape. Same asthmatic 168-horsepower engine. Same interior materials. Is a great four-wheel drive system and decent treatment at the dealership worth the price of admission to the Infiniti club? Nah. Give us the Pathfinder SE, the extra 10K, and send us to Hawaii for a vacation.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.