Thursday, May 1, 2014


Although Infiniti’s previous hybrid-electric offerings have been sporty sedans such as the new Q50S hybrid, this 2014 QX60 luxury crossover is the brand’s latest model to gain electric assistance. Freed from the burden of range-topping power and lofty performance promises, the hybridized QX—a model previously known as the JX35 and sometimes described as a gussied-up Nissan Pathfinder—follows a path of sensible expectations for buyers simply wanting greater fuel economy for a few extra grand up front.                                                                                                                                                                                             Changes in the second year of Infiniti’s JX35 include a name change to QX60 and the addition of a hybrid. The combo of a 2.5-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine, electric motor, lithium-ion battery pack and continuously variable transmission delivers a combined fuel economy estimate of 26 mpg. That’s just 4 mpg better than the lower-cost non-hybrid that continues to employ a smoother 3.5-liter V-6. Both models offer AWD, curvaceous styling,  luxury plus seven-passenger seating.
2014 Infiniti QX60 hybrid

Similar to the also-new Nissan Pathfinder hybrid, the seven-seat QX60 hybrid ditches the venerable 265-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 for a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a belt-driven supercharger and Atkinson-cycle combustion. The blown four only produces 230 horsepower on 11 psi of boost yet pumps out V-6 levels of torque: 248 lb-ft at 4400 rpm. Nissan’s CVT still handles the power transfer and is fitted with a 20-hp electric motor sandwiched between two clutches, upping the system’s total output to 250 horsepower.

A 0.6-kWh lithium-ion battery rests neatly beneath the QX60’s third row of seats and takes up only a small portion of underfloor storage space. An EPA highway rating of 28 mpg is 4 mpg greater than the nonhybrid front-driver’s and 5 mpg better than that of an AWD model with the V-6.

Our initial time behind the wheel of the hybrid QX60 was brief and limited to a few miles of roads surrounding the Nashville Superspeedway. But we can report that the ute drives about the same as did the last JX35 we tested, which Infiniti says was the goal. The electric power steering is rather mute, and the ride felt around-town pleasant on the $1600 20-inch wheels (18s are standard fare). Weight gain is claimed to be minimal, and Infiniti predicts straight-line performance will shadow that of the nonhybrids. Expect 0­-to-60  
around eight seconds. The brake pedal is relatively smooth for a hybrid’s, and regenerative braking will recharge the modest battery, which can be monitored via digital readouts dashbroad. The lithium-ion battery lacks the juice to accelerate such a heavy vehicle on electricity alone, but the QX60 can coast with its engine off at speeds up to about 50 mph.

Although the new four-cylinder emits a faint thrum on startup and an occasional whine from the supercharger, the sound is generally pleasant and remote in normal driving. But accelerate the two-plus-ton QX60 up to highway speeds, and the CVT makes the engine drone as expected. A dial on the console engages Snow and Eco modes, as well as Sport. The latter sharpens the throttle responses, and the transmission simulates the stepped gear ratios of a conventional automatic.
 Front-drive QX60 hybrids start at $45,545, some three grand more than the V-6 model. Adding all-wheel drive tacks on another $1400, with options capable of pushing prices over 60 large. One content-packed bundle is the $4600 Premium package (everything from navigation and a heated steering wheel to Infiniti’s Around View monitor), which you first have to select if you want the even-grander $6050 Deluxe Technology package (two power sunroofs, an upgraded Bose audio system, 20-inch wheels, all of Infiniti’s big-brother sensors and warnings, and more.) The $1700 Theater package, with its rear-seat entertainment system.

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