Since the 1990’s, large SUVs have dominated the automotive marketplace up until recent years. Huge proportions and thirsty power plants are giving way to crossovers and four cylinders. Consumers seem to like the idea of spending less on gas these days. But that doesn’t mean full-size SUVs aren’t still wildly popular.

Infiniti jumped on the big-boy bandwagon in 2004 with the QX56 based on the Nissan Armada. Like the Chevrolet Tahoe/Cadillac Escalade twins, the Armada and QX56 shared platforms and engineering bits, with the Infiniti getting an upscale makeover that appealed to the luxury market.

The QX56 saw a complete shift in 2011 when Infiniti traded the Armada underpinnings for those under the Nissan Patrol, the sold-everywhere-but-America full-size SUV built in Japan. The Patrol and revamped QX56 still use a body-on-frame design and employ a 5.6-liter V-8 for motivation, backed by a seven-speed automatic transmission.

The 5.6-liter isn’t a carryover from the Armada though. It’s the same direct injected 5.6-liter V-8 found in the M56 sedan and is inherently more efficient and powerful. Generating an amazing 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, the QX56 isn’t short on grunt, although it has to lug over 6,000 pounds of steel, plastic, leather, and wood around everywhere it goes. Fuel mileage in city is dismal at 14 mpg, but highway mileage is somewhat surprising at 20 mpg.

Speaking of steel, plastic, leather, and wood, the interior of the QX56 is nothing short of first class – literally. Infiniti designed the interior to mimic that of a private jet. Deep stained wood swirls throughout the massive cabin while leather wraps everything else. Small amounts of chrome bright work bring just the right amount of flair.

Our QX56 tester had almost every option box checked, and it had the buttons to prove it. The driver has use of the Technology Package that included intelligent cruise control, blind spot warning and intervention, lane departure warning and prevention, along with intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning and adaptive front headlights.

The Deluxe Touring Package adds a Bose 15-speaker surround sound system, the Hydraulic Body Motion Control system, climate-controlled front seats, headlight washers, and other amenities.

Second and third row passengers are not treated to second and third class quarters, but rather the same posh private jet-style luxury. The Theater Package includes twin seven-inch monitors residing in the front seat headrests and row-specific climate control adjustments that keep everybody happy. The second row is a great place to be. We found legroom to be outstanding, even when the front seats were slid rearward.

We also liked the electronic-tumbling function of the second row seats that gave way for third row passengers’ entry and exit. Legroom was a little tighter back there and knees were higher than we’d like, but the third row is not just for kids. Headroom is not a problem in any row.

Once outside the luxurious cabin, opinions start to differ. The large front end and side finder vents seem to catch the most negative attention, followed by the rear lift gate. It looks as if someone stuck an air hose in the tailpipe and left it overnight. Most folks we talked to either loved it or hated it. It is, though, unmistakably Infiniti. Designers did a good job of incorporating the Infiniti design language onto the QX56.

The SUV’s outward presence is no doubt large, but driving it is a different story. One turn of the surprisingly light steering wheel, and the 6,000-pound curb weight somehow feels like 3,000. The Hydraulic Body Motion Control system does an excellent job of keeping the QX planted and flat through turns that might otherwise induce listing.

The Around View Monitor system made close-quarter navigating easier with a composite aerial view of the QX appearing on the infotainment screen – along with any threatening objects within striking distance. Front and Rear sonar sensors helped with parking and backing up. It was like having a constant spotter sitting on the QX’s roof.

On the open road, the direct injected 5.6-liter V-8 really shined. Its rumble and torquiness inspired confidence and aided in making the SUV feel small. We wouldn’t hesitate to use the standard Class IV receiver hitch to trailer large objects as the QX can handle up to 8,500 pounds. When unladen, the V-8 can propel the QX from 0-60 mph in a respectable 6.7 seconds.

Our optional four-wheel-drive system wasn’t lacking buttons either. A rotary dial moved from Auto mode to 4-high and 4-low settings. Left in Auto mode, the system activated anytime a tire started slipping, sending up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels.

The QX56 proved to be a well-rounded SUV capable of anything we threw at it. The extra features give our tester a nice touch – with a price tag to match.

Base price for a 2013 QX56 is $60,750 – but add $3,100 for the Theater Package, $3,000 for the Technology Package, $4,650 for the Deluxe Touring Package, $2,450 for the 22-inch wheels (replacing the standard 20-inchers), $200 for the cargo net and first aid kit, and $990 for destination charges – and you’ve got a $78,140 bottom line.

If we were in the market for a premium six- or seven-passenger SUV that could tow the boat to the lake, then haul it up the slippery ramp without any trouble, the QX56 would certainly be on our short list.

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