1999 Infiniti QX4 (242)

Affectionately referred to as the \”Q by Four\”, this Infiniti is a Beverly Hills SUV pussycat. I doubt if these guys will ever be used off road, so it doesn’t matter that the ground clearance is less than off road conditions would demand. Anyway it’s too pretty to get its hair mussed and soiled in the mud. It’s like a \”real\” SUV in a Prom Dress or Tuxedo if you bought a black one.

Essentially, Nissan Design International (NDI) stylists in San Diego simply turned the Nissan Pathfinder pumpkin into a luxury carriage with their magic wand. My thanks to them because I always enjoy driving this car. Coincidentally a friend bought one the week I was testing this model. Shirley really does her homework and is very particular about the car she drives. Money isn’t really the issue so although she could have paid a lot more I believe the styling, beauty and comfort had more to do with her buying decision than the technical specifications. I don’t think off road entered the equation for which SUV she should buy. Interesting I would word it that way. Even though she’s a pretty rough and tumble kind of gal, I don’t think a regular car even entered her mind as an option, but rather, which SUV should she buy. I suspect she wanted an SUV for all the same reasons so many others opt for this very versatile vehicle. They appeal to almost everyone so it’s no wonder all the automakers have jumped into this market with both feet.

The QX4 has a steel unibody with an H-frame making it very resistant to twisting and bending. The only protective skidplate is over the gas tank, which seems to assume you wouldn’t be going off-road anyway. It is equipped with a sophisticated full-time all-wheel-drive system engaged by a dashboard-mounted switch. There are three settings: rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and all-wheel low range with a locked differential. A Y2K compliant computer detects wheel slippage and distributes the engine\’s power based on this information. And you get all this comfort and convenience, out the door, at about thirty grand. Not bad when you consider standard equipment is quite lavish with the only option being a sunroof for about a grand more.

Of the competition listed below, I’m partial to the Lexus RX300 and I particularly like the Mercedes ML320. From a detail point of view however, this QX4 is on a par with these two favorites. Like most of the Nissan line, this QX4 is \”Squeaky Clean\” and almost boring. It’s not as off road capable I feel and I like the idea of 4-wheel independent suspension, which they both have and the QX4 has a solid rear axle.

My engineer friend Merkel agrees the QX4 is well made but doesn’t care for the design and actually called it a pig. I don’t think it’s all that bad. In fact I think it has more of a conventional look in today’s market, and by comparison I see the RX300 and ML320 as being \”Odd\” in appearance. Not a pig, Merkel. Boring perhaps, but not a pig.

The Competition:

Acura SLX $36 K, GMC Envoy $33 K, Jeep Grand Cherokee $26-34 K, Lexus RX 300 $32-33 K, Mercedes-Benz M-Class $35-43 K, Mercury Mountaineer $27-29 K, Oldsmobile Bravada $31 K.

Good News:

Conventional styling, easy all wheel drive operation, good handling from the rigid body structure, car-like ride, well-padded seats, excellent sound insulation, nicely laid out and assembled interior design and good visibility.

Bad News:

Low ground clearance for a 4×4, drivetrain vulnerability due to lack of skidplates, lousy gas stats, and sluggish power.

Standard Equipment:

3.3-liter 168-horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, dual airbags, anti-lock brake system (ABS), full-time 4WD, child safety locks, projector-beam fog lights, power front seats, leather upholstery, wood trim, 16-inch aluminum wheels, 150-watt Bose AM/FM stereo system with CD and cassette.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.


MSRP $35,550

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
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