What's New for 2001
For 2001, the QX4 gets a substantial power boost from a brand-new V6 engine. Cosmetic updates include the addition of standard xenon high-intensity headlights, revised exterior styling, new alloy wheels and a more upscale interior. A navigation system is available, as is an onboard entertainment system. A less costly 2WD model is offered for the first time, and Infiniti's signature analog clock has been added to the dash, along with electrofluorescent gauge illumination.
In years past, the QX4 hasn't been deemed worthy of the price premium it commanded over its mechanical and structural twin, the Nissan Pathfinder. Infiniti's main selling points for the Q were its exclusive All-Mode four-wheel-drive system and a few exclusive features. Despite significant updates for 2001 that add more standard and available content, along with a big boost in power, the decidedly car-like QX4 has finally dusted itself off and stepped up to the plate in relation to its direct competition. But since most of these new items can be had on the Pathfinder, along with the Q's trick 4WD system, this Infiniti still suffers an identity crisis.
Like its Nissan kinsman, the 2001 QX4 receives a new engine based on the Maxima's award-winning powerplant. This powerful 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 produces 240 horsepower and 265 foot-pounds of torque, and is mated to a four-speed automatic that drives the rear or all wheels. Smooth and quiet, the V6 supplies surprisingly spirited around-town acceleration, but mid-range oomph for passing could be better. Handling is superbly rendered for an SUV, with an independent strut front and five-link coil beam rear axle suspension working through pavement-biased tires to create confidence-inspiring levels of road holding. Engine-speed sensitive rack-and-pinion steering proves quite responsive and stout unibody (Monoframe, in Infiniti parlance) construction keeps chassis flex under control. Front disc/rear drum ABS brakes work with authority, and provide good pedal feel and modulation. Overall, the QX4, especially with the new motor, is satisfying to drive, with a sportier demeanor than most other SUVs.
QX4 boasts an automatic 4WD system that offers drivers the security of having maximum traction with the simple twist of a control knob. Called All-Mode 4WD, the system, when set to "Auto," shifts power between the front and rear wheels depending on road surface conditions. It does this by monitoring power distribution and wheel slippage, ensuring that the tires have traction by shifting up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels. If you opt for the sport package you'll get a rear limited-slip differential, which further increases traction. All-Mode offers further selections, including 2WD, 4WD-Hi, and 4WD-Lo.
This year, QX4 is newly available in a lower-priced 2WD model, which saves buyers $1,400. Other changes for 2001 include revised exterior styling with sharp new alloy wheels (16-inch standard, 17-inch part of the optional premium package), and an updated interior that features color-coordinated bird's eye maple wood-tone trim and the signature Infiniti analog clock on the dashboard. An optional navigation system, encumbered with teensy buttons to control functions, offers an exclusive "Birdview" display that we appreciated during a test drive. Also available is the Infiniti Mobile Entertainment Center, which includes a video player and jacks for gaming systems, all viewed on a fold-down LCD screen. Safety features that carry over from last year include front head and chest side-impact airbags and a new active head restraint system that helps reduce whiplash in rear-end collisions.
Despite the upgrades for 2001, the QX4 amounts to little more than just a flashy Nissan Pathfinder LE. Though not distanced from its progenitor as much as it ought to be, the QX4 does appeal to those who want all the doodads as well as a premium warranty and superior dealer service. The Q's real test will now be how well it can compete with the Acura MDX, Audi allroad quattro, BMW X5 3.0i and the improved Lexus RX 300, not to mention true off-roaders like the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited and Land Rover Discovery Series II. Easily cresting $40,000 fully loaded, the much-improved but still mid-pack QX4 is good, but is it good enough?