When living in the UAE, it’s easy to forget that climates can change on an hourly basis, traversing from chilly mornings to baking hot sun by midday.
That was the case on the US's West Coast, where the global drive programme for the new Infiniti QX60 SUV took place. A chilly, misty morning spent hugging the shoreline at Goat Rock beach, two hours north of San Francisco, turned into sunscreen material at Petaluma a few hours later, before an overnight stop in the Napa Valley.
We were in for a long day of driving, taking in gravel roads, country lanes and highways, stopping at vineyards and olive farms to stretch the legs. That all sounds great if you’re cruising in a convertible or a luxurious GT coupe, but what about in a family wagon for six?
In most cases, the aim is to reach your destination as soon as possible, but with Infiniti's immensely likeable QX60, it was more about finding new roads to explore even as the sun was dropping behind the Mayacamas Mountains and dinner beckoned. The changeable conditions had zero impact on comfort, thanks to the climate-controlled seats, or the driving experience of a nicely weighted, luxury cruiser.
As Infiniti’s most popular model with more than 400,000 total units sold, a new QX60 needed to hit a lot of markers in terms of current buyer expectations.
For example, in a post-Covid world, more of us work flexible hours and from home. We’re mixing more family time in work hours, which can mean doing the school run on your way to a meeting and not forgetting the groceries (or the children) on the return journey.
Versatility is the buzzword for many buyers who need something that won’t embarrass the boss en route to an important lunch but also hides wet swim gear from the morning’s beach dip – and this is where the QX60 has found its niche.
As premium family transport, it offers luxury by way of second-row captain’s chairs for the flagship Autograph model, giving the middle row a limousine-like environment, yet also includes a 54-litre waterproof, underfloor storage box behind the third row for muddy shoes, wet towels or sandy camping gear.
Up to four latch anchor points offer flexible seating arrangements for children including a third-row tether on the driver’s side and, for models with the bench-seat middle row, the second row tips forward without needing to remove the child restraint from its tethers. When combined with a wide-opening rear door, it means full-sized adults can easily access the third row.
The horizontal dash fascia has been replaced with a more conventional vertical console that houses a 12.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay. It does, however, still need a USB connection for Android phones. A 12.3-inch digital high-resolution display sits in front of the driver with a third, 10.8-inch heads-up unit, which can now be viewed while wearing polarised sunglasses, which reflects vital information off the windscreen.
The 2021 QX60 may be new in looks and interior trim, but its 275bhp, 366Nm, 3.5-litre, V6 engine is carried over from the previous generation, albeit with revised valve timing and a new, nine-speed automatic transmission in place of the old CVT box.
The new auto transmission is the biggest improvement from a driving perspective, offering more initial torque from standstill with up to 60 per cent more in first gear. The taller gearing means the engine also cruises at a lower RPM, keeping vibrations and engine noise lower than the outgoing model.
Double piston shock absorbers with thicker front and rear stabiliser bars help with the comfort and handling when hitting highway speeds. These increase front roll stiffness by 28 per cent and rear roll stiffness by 14 per cent to flatten it through corners, yet not to the kidney-belt levels of some European models.
Along a few gravel roads that snaked up steeper hills, you could feel the new direct coupling all-wheel-drive system engage the instant it detected wheel slip. The previous system worked on sensing front wheel slip before engaging all-wheel-drive, which costs valuable milliseconds on gravel, snow or sand. This model cuts the engagement time from 0.3 seconds to virtually nil using Infiniti’s Active Brake Limited Slip system, which brakes each wheel and redirects torque to those with the most grip.
While it’s essentially based on the outgoing QX60, sitting on the robust Nissan Pathfinder platform, the 2021 upgrade includes a wholesale raft of changes not just in terms of add-ons, but also in its intrinsic construction. It uses a higher strength steel in its production while virtually every visible component is exclusive to the new model.
It stands out from its competitors by not offering a hybrid drivetrain option, which is becoming almost expected in this segment now, but it ticks so many boxes that you cannot ignore the QX60 for those seeking luxury family transport.
UAE deliveries will begin early next year and the order books are already open, despite there being no word yet on local pricing. In the US it starts at $46,850 which pits it against the Lexus RX, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, so think mid-Dh200,000s and you’re in the right company.
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Transmission: 9-speed auto
Price: Dh250,000 (estimated start price)