During Saturday’s long slog north in holiday traffic, the rain got heavier and heavier and then, after dark, it turned to sleet.
The wiper-washers on our Infiniti QX70 kept the front and rear windscreens clear, but the radar eye in the car’s nose was getting plastered with sand, salt and slush.
Finally the adaptive cruise control gave a despairing, high-pitched beep and simply switched itself off. “I give up,” it seemed to say. “I can’t see a thing. You’re on your own, captain.”
The automatic braking assistance soldiered on through the mess—don’t ask how I found out—but the LDW and LDP (lane-departure warning and lane-departure prevention) went AWOL too. The white lines on the highway were buried, so the sensors couldn’t see them any longer.
Sometimes we just have to man up, pay attention and get the job done by ourselves.
And then the road began to get slick. I had to switch the AWD system over to Snow mode. This brought the tail-wagging nature of the QX70 to heel, so it buckled down and behaved like a workhorse 4×4 instead of a rear-wheel-drive sports car. It also proved again that a vehicle that handles really well on dry pavement has a built-in edge when the going gets slippery—provided the driver can feed the power to the ground smoothly.
A four-hour trek that could have been a nightmare ended up only slightly longer and a bit more demanding than normal, at least for me. In the Infiniti’s highly polished, quilted-leather cabin, the passenger-in-chief could hardly have been more comfortable.
The 2014 QX70 3.7 is pretty much the 2013 FX35 by another name. To welcome several new models to the family, Infiniti has renamed its entire lineup, replacing the various M, G, F, J and E designations with the letter Q. (In memory of Nissan’s very first Infiniti, the 1990 Q45.) Sport-utes still get the letter X, whether they’re all-wheel or two-wheel-drive. Thus last year’s EX, JX, FX and QX Infinitis are now—in order of ascending size—the QX50, QX60, QX70 and QX80.
Infiniti calls this one, the QX70, its “high-performance luxury crossover” vehicle, and I’m not going to disagree. For 2014, the 3.7-liter V-6 has been bumped up to 325 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. (An even hotter, 390HP V-8 is also available.) With its long nose and sharply cut-down hindquarters, the QX70 loses space behind the rear seats—and legroom in the rear seats—but we do get something in exchange.
There are more powerful and quicker SUVs, but none is more eager than the QX70. From throttle pedal to front and rear differentials by way of the super-smooth seven-speed, multi-mode transmission, the entire drivetrain is beautifully calibrated to make the most of its power.
Upshifts are nearly seamless, with the sort of torque flow we’d expect from a dual-clutch gearbox, not an automatic. Downshift manually, with the stick or paddles on the steering wheel, and the computer blips the engine to smooth out the changes.
The suspension is crisp but resilient, the steering and brakes are willing allies, and a heavenly purr cascades from the two fist-sized exhaust outlets under the back bumper. Bend this athlete into a curve and, despite its weight and tall stance, the QX70 stays upright and the chassis never quits. A track session might find some handling deficiencies, but on the street there aren’t any.
By now, you’re thinking it’s at least 75 grand, and maybe more with those the optional electronics (the ones that went toes-up in the storm). Not so. A QX70 AWD with a premium Bose stereo, the big six, a power tailgate, xenon headlights and everything else that makes the driver happy starts at $47,395.
Then it’s a matter of how much more comfort ($3,300 for the Deluxe Touring Package), status ($4,300 for the Premium Package) or gadgetry ($2,950 for the Technology Package) we can’t live without.
The tab on our QX70 came to $57,945. At that price, we were left wanting just three more things: blind-spot monitors, one-touch signaling, and 25 MPG instead of just 19.