With an office in central Manhattan, it’s not every day we get to drive cars in the environment for which they were built. There aren’t exactly freeways where we can let the engine loose, or winding turns where we can sample the precise handling.
So I was psyched to be able to drive Infiniti’s 2015 QX60 all-wheel drive SUV on the snow-covered roads of the Colorado Rockies during a recent ski trip.
Even better, I was with four friends who were lugging tons of baggage and ski gear, so I got to see how the car would weather our heavy usage.
Bottom line — functionally, the QX60 was a great ride for a ski vacation. It had a ton of space, and was easy to reconfigure to fit skis, suitcases, and people. It also handled well on the snowy, mountainous roads that led to and from the ski resorts, and had several features that made it great for a driver exploring new terrain.
But in the end, the QX60 was just too pretty for this sort of trip. After five days of nonstop use, the sleek exterior was covered in dirt, and the interior didn’t look much better. My friends felt guilty for trekking mud onto the carpets and leaving their wet winter gear on the leather seats.
“If I lived out here and were a more serious skier, I’d have to get a more rugged car,” said one. “I feel like a soccer mum.”
Big car, small feel
With three rows of seats and more than 16 feet in length, the QX60 is a small bus. But we all agreed it felt more like a spacious sedan than a giant SUV.
That might have been because the back-row passengers actually had some room to move their knees, and didn’t feel too cramped during short trips to town (though they would have on a longer journey). Plus, it was easy for them to get in and out, since the second row moved forward and folded up at the push of a button.
With all three rows up, however, the trunk was barely big enough to fit even a few bags of groceries. So the QX60 worked best as a long-haul vehicle for five passengers, or a short-haul vehicle for seven. And when packed with luggage, it barely held four adults.
One perk that helped the car feel more spacious than it was: the roof was basically one gigantic skylight. In addition to the glass roof over the front row, there was a double skylight over the back two-thirds of the vehicle that let in a ton of light.
All-wheel drive is a must in the mountains, where the weather can (and did) change drastically and snow accumulates quickly. And when the vehicle slipped a little on the ice, I was glad the car was equipped with what Infiniti calls “intelligent” all-wheel drive, a system that adapts automatically to send power to the wheels that need the greatest grip in icy conditions.
I was also a fan of the car’s blind-spot warning system, which lit up near the side-view mirrors every time another vehicle entered one of my blind spots. I hadn’t seen it before, and it was a neat safety feature to have on curvy roads.
One complaint was that the QX60’s headlights were simply too dim, especially on unlit mountain roads after dark. They were barely able to slice through the thick darkness, and even the brights didn’t sufficiently improve nighttime visibility. We reached out to Infinti to see if this was perhaps an isolated issue, as we had the lights set on auto most of the time.
Too much infotainment
Living in New York City, it’s been years since I time behind the wheel of a car. The last vehicle I owned had a cassette player, and couldn’t even play CDs. So I was a little overwhelmed by the giant infotainment system in the QX60.
As a passenger, it was nice to be able to flip through the FM and SiriusXM radio stations, and look up random trivia like our current altitude. But it was also distracting to the driver, who kept looking over at the map and music selections instead of looking straight at the road ahead.
In the end, the Infiniti QX60, which has a base price of $US43,800, was solid for a ski trip. It comfortably held five adults, a pile of suitcases, and tons of ski gear. It was also easy to climb in and out, and most importantly, felt extremely safe on unfamiliar, icy roads.
But with its sophisticated digital systems, less-than-spacious third row, and curvy design, it felt like a better fit for a parent carting kids around after school than a group of adults on a messy ski trip with long stretches of driving.
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