1999 INFINITI QX4 Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D 4WD

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Expert Reviews ( 1 )

Ray Thursby

A few years ago, Infiniti faced a genuine challenge. The luxury sport-utility market was experiencing solid growth, and thus was ripe for an entry from Nissan's upscale division. But economic realities dictated the use of an existing vehicle, the successful Nissan Pathfinder, as a base. This dilemma wasn't confined solely to Infiniti, of course, as Lincoln, Lexus, and others were bound by the same constraints when preparing the Navigators, LX470s and the like.

Infiniti's timing couldn't have been better. When introduced in 1996, the Infiniti QX4 was based on an all-new Pathfinder, one of the better buys in a slightly lower price class. A crisp exterior shape, rattle-free unit-body construction and a host of design and engineering virtues could be kept intact, requiring only the addition of features Infiniti buyers would expect.

And that's what happened. While the QX4 does exude something of a best-of-Pathfinder air -- and there's nothing at all wrong with that -- significant differences more than qualify the QX4 for head-to-head competition with its rivals in the $35,000-$40,000 class. Walkaround
With effort it is possible for designers to make two similar vehicles assume different personalities. The QX4's silhouette is clean and attractive, with careful detailing in the rear door handles, which are cleverly concealed in the C-pillars. Strong horizontal lines visually lengthen the body, while large fender flares provide a broad-shouldered toughness. You'll have to look carefully to differentiate QX4 from Pathfinder in side view.

That's not the case when viewed from the front. Large air intakes, headlamp clusters and bumper-mounted fog and driving lights are unique to the QX4. Whether the blocky but efficient nose seems just right or slightly over-the-top is a matter of individual taste. It grew on us during the test period and definitely gave the Infiniti its own identity. Less was done by the stylists in back, but the careful breaking up of flat surfaces with trim in contrasting colors looks good.

Shopping for a QX4 is easy. A single model is offered with a long list of standard features. Automatic transmission, leather upholstery, wood trim accents, automatic-controlled air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/cassette 6-speaker sound system, power assists for windows, mirrors, door locks and front seats (the driver's seat has eight adjustments), a built-in HomeLink transmitter for gates and garage doors, remote keyless entry and much more are included with the standard model. Three package variations add a power glass sunroof alone or sunroof plus heated seats, a 6-disc CD changer placed under the front passenger's seat and rear window wind deflector, or all of those amenities plus a limited-slip rear differential.

Our test QX4 was fully equipped. Considering the modest $1900 gap between least- and most-expensive versions, we recommend opting for the comfort and convenience. We also recommend the optional limited-slip rear differential for improved traction over slick surfaces. Interior
Wood trim and leather upholstery are two of the primary perceptual marks of a luxury vehicle interior. They dominate the first view inside the QX4. Tastefully applied, they are complimentary elements of a well-designed space. Dashboard and door panels are attractively shaped from top-grade materials and are elegantly trimmed. As intended, the QX4 interior would look right at home in a Q45 luxury sedan.

Getting in or out requires a long step up or down, but once inside you'll find all the right pieces in all the right places. The speedometer, tachometer, water temperature and fuel level gauges are large. Big buttons are used for the necessary functions. Sensible rotary dials operate the climate control system. The radio buttons are a little fussy, and the electric mirror switches are hidden from view by the wheel. Overall, Infiniti's designers have done their work well.

A quiet, comfortable cabin is one of the QX4's greatest assets. The seats are as accommodating as they appear to be. Plush pile carpeting is underfoot and the QX4 seems even quieter than the Pathfinder. An excellent heating/ventilation/air conditioning system keeps interior temperatures at the desired level. This pleasant environment is complemented with generous cargo space.

On the debit side, taller occupants may find a little less headroom than they'd like, and adults sitting in the rear seats will wish for more head- and legroom. Also, the side step rail is too narrow for big feet, and tall drivers will find it in the way when getting in or out. Driving Impressions
On the highway, the QX4 delivers a remarkably smooth ride. The stiff body structure allowed engineers to retune the springs and shock absorbers for better ride quality. Changes in road surface, freeway expansion strips and other irregularities are hardly noticed. In this regard, the QX4 meets standards set by more expensive SUVs. Road noise and vibrations are well suppressed. At cruising speed, a hum from the all-season tires is the most obtrusive sound.

In the case of the QX4, the soft ride does not come with mushy handling. In hard cornering, the body leans a fair amount, but overall the QX4 handles well. Speed-sensitive power steering strikes a nice balance between precision and low effort.

The QX4 performs well even when packed with a full load of passengers and cargo. The engine is responsive and quiet. Subjectively, it performs better than the power-to-weight ratio suggests. Fuel economy is about normal by class standards; our test average was 17 mpg. All QX4s are rated to pull a 5000-pound trailer. Braking was good in all driving conditions; ABS is standard.

As a break from everyday city and highway driving, we drove into the California desert where a pleasant surprise awaited. Unlike the Pathfinder on which it is based, the QX4 has a full-time four-wheel drive system. Called All-Mode 4WD by Infiniti, the system is designed around an electronically controlled mechanical clutch for the center differential. It apportions torque to front and rear wheels automatically based on inputs from driveshaft speed, throttle position and engine speed sensors. Up to 50 percent of the power can be directed to the front wheels if the rear wheels are slipping.

The QX4's all-wheel-drive system works extremely well. Traction was plentiful even in deep sand, and the constant changes in power apportionment as one wheel or another began to spin were completely unobtrusive. As a last resort, a shift to the low range of the QX4's transfer case provides low-speed urge to crawl out of extra-tough spots.

While not quite as capable as the Land Rover Discovery or Mercedes-Benz M-Class for intense off-road use, the Infiniti QX4 is capable of doing much more than most owners will ever ask of it. Infiniti's All-Mode 4WD system is a better choice for mixed conditions than the Pathfinder's more traditional four-wheel-drive system. That makes the QX4 the more sure-footed vehicle when snow, ice or rain are on the menu. Summary
The Infiniti QX4 can be rated on two distinct levels. One obvious comparison is with the Nissan Pathfinder. We found the QX4's higher price fully justified by the four-wheel drive system's sophistication, the longer-running warranty and the interior's luxury trim. Quality is not an issue, as both vehicles rate top marks in that area.

The QX4 also scores well against a horde of SUVs in the $35,000 and up range. The QX4 may be bested by one or two rivals in acceleration performance or serious off-road capability, but as an all-around package the Infiniti sport-utility is hard to beat. QX4 owners will not likely lose too many drag races and they'll just as likely be able to go anywhere they want.

Model as tested
Basic Warranty
4 years/60,000 miles
Assembled in
Kyushu, Japan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Sunroof Preferred Package ($1,250), which includes sunroof, 6-disc CD changer and rear window wind deflector, Premium Sport Package ($700), which includes heated front seats, heavy duty battery and limited-slip differential

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
3.3-liter sohc V6
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
ABS, automatic climate control, power windows, seats, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, tilt steering column, split/folding rear seat, rear washer/wiper, AM/FM/CD stereo, tinted glass, remote keyless entry/security system, outside temperature display, compass

Engine & Transmission
3.3-liter sohc V6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
168 @ 4800
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Live axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

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