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Infiniti added a hybrid powertrain to its 2014 QX60 big crossover SUV as a $3,000 option. While we continue to find the QX60 SUV itself very appealing, especially for those who need space without bulky size, the hybridization seems underwhelming at best.

Best big hybrid we ever drove: 2009 Chrysler Aspen/Dodge Durango, big, truck-based SUVs from Chrysler.

But they were victims of Chrysler's Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The plant that made them was closed.

If smooth-driving, big, heavy hybrid SUVs were possible way back then, where's today's equivalent?

Nowhere we've found. General Motors' big truck-based SUVs shared the Chrysler hybrid system, but those were wildly more expensive than the Chrysler models, were tuned a bit differently and aren't available now.

Infiniti's trying, with its new-for-2014 hybrid version of the big, three-row, QX60 crossover SUV. While we continue to find the QX60 SUV itself very appealing, especially for those who need space without bulky size, the hybridization seems underwhelming at best.

The combined gasoline-electric powertrain has good-enough power, but performance seems less than implied by the numbers. The hybrid model also has annoying habits and doesn't deliver dramatic mileage increases.

MORE: Test Drive review of the Infiniti JX-35

It's easy to understand why automakers are moving to hybridization — federal mileage standards grow ever more strict, heading for a 54.5-mpg average in 2025.

That's a lab number, and it translates very roughly to a 39- or 40-mpg rating on the window sticker for combined city/highway driving.

So you get efforts to cut consumption on big models such as Ford Motor's lighter-weight, aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 that comes with smaller engines, in a combination that generally boosts mpg. Or the Chrysler Group's Ram 1500 pickups with 3-liter diesel.

And diesels in all of Audi's SUVs. And now, hybrids across the line for Infiniti's crossover SUVs, including the QX60.

We generally find diesels more palatable than hybrids, especially in bigger, heavier vehicles. But not all automakers believe Americans will buy diesels, or want to pay diesel's historically higher fuel prices.

Nationwide fuel-price averages published daily by AAA show diesel around $3.84 this week, less than premium's $3.88 or so during the week, and more than regular's $3.51. Luxury brands such as Infiniti usually specify premium for their gasoline models, so diesel's actually cheaper at the moment.

In the case of the QX60 hybrid, the hybrid's $3,000 more than the gasoline version, and in our test its fuel economy wasn't a dramatic improvement. Better, yes; a no-brainer choice, no.

The QX hybrid is also less fun to drive, and the supercharged gasoline engine keeps running for a few moments after you shut off the ignition — like those worn-out junkers we used to drive with carboned-up engines that had so many hot spots in the combustion chambers that they kept sputtering after you turned them off.

Infiniti says the engine is tuned to stop at precisely the right spot in its rotation to start instantly next time, so it keeps spinning a moment after the ignition's off.

The QX (launched in 2012 as a 2013 under the name JX35) has plenty of brag points. Way roomy. Second row slides enough even with kid seat attached to access the third row easily. Styling's just distinctive enough. Size is enough trimmer than, say, full-size GM crossovers to feel more maneuverable.

Infiniti fielded a gas-electric hybrid version of its 2012 M37 sedan that didn't seem to improve mileage enough to justify its $6,000 premium, ether. It did, however, run as if chased by rabid dogs, so you could have your fun and save at least a bit on fuel, too.

QX60 SUV hybrid lacks that zoomy appeal. It feels a bit weak using the Eco driving mode, better in Normal, best in Sport, but the more you dial up the fun factor by choosing Sport, the more your mileage suffers. In Sport, the transmission shifts among specific gear ratios to ape the action of a conventional automatic.

We left it in Eco most of the time in the suburbs, soft-pedaling the throttle, and couldn't get up to 19 mpg. In a heavier mix of city driving, where hybrids do their best, using Normal, it came up shy of 21 mpg.

The 2013 gasoline model we tested hit 16 mpg in far more vigorous suburban driving that we used on the 2014 hybrid. We'd wager the gas model could have hit 17 or even 18 mpg in the 'burbs had we driven it as gently as we did the hybrid.

The other nagging issue is price. While the starting point for the QX60 hybrid isn't so bad by lux-SUV standards — $46,095 for front-drive, $47,495 for all-wheel drive — the price sticker accelerates faster than the vehicle.

Our AWD tester was $60,780.

Automakers typically load media testers with features, so the gee-whiz factor gets noted in write-ups. But even allowing for that, we still felt a bit like we'd been ambushed by parent company Nissan's tendency to price low, option high and make buyers select lavish packages to get a few options they want.

Everybody does that, but Nissan/Infiniti seem a bit more aggressive about it.

We appreciate why car companies are being forced into hybridization. And we think the Infiniti QX60 is a strong contender among big crossover SUVs. But the QX and hybridization aren't a natural pairing, in our view.

In fact, we see the vehicle as more evidence that it must be very hard to make a good, big hybrid, and that Chrysler was in a magic zone when it created the old Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen hybrids.

What? New-to-the-lineup, gasoline-electric hybrid version of the big, seven-passenger crossover SUV that was known as JX35 when introduced in 2012 as a 2013 model. Available with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).

When? On sale since October 2013. Essentially unchanged 2015s expected at dealers October 2014.

Where? Built at Smyrna, Tenn.

How much? FWD starts at $46,095 including $995 shipping. AWD starts at $47,495; each is $3,000 more than gasoline version. Loaded AWD test vehicle was $60,780.

What makes it go? 2.5-liter, supercharged four-cylinder gasoline engine rated 230 horsepower and 243 pounds-feet of torque mated to electric motor rated 20 hp, 29 lbs.-ft. of torque. Combined rating: 250 hp, 243 lbs.-ft. Mated to CVT (continuously variable-ratio automatic transmission).

CVT has four driving modes: Normal, fuel-saving Eco, wheel-spin-minimizing Snow, and Sport, which emulates the gear-to-gear shifting of a conventional automatic. Transmission can be manually shifted among computer-assigned gear ratios using the gear lever.

How big? Slightly longer, narrower than Ford Explorer; few inches shorter, couple inches narrower than full-size General Motors crossovers such as Buick Enclave, a likely rival.

Weighs 4,323 lbs. (FWD) or 4,462 lbs. (AWD).

Seats seven in two-three-two configuration.

How thirsty? FWD rated 26 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, 26 in combined city/highway driving. AWD: 25/28/26.

AWD test vehicle registered 18.8 mpg (5.32 gallons per 100 miles) in mix of city, suburban driving, mostly in Eco fuel-saving setting, seldom using hard throttle. Adding significant city miles, where hybrids are most efficient, raised it to 20.6 mpg (4.85 gal./100 mi.) using Normal mode.

For comparison, 2013 gasoline version tested April 2012 registered 16 mpg (6.25 gal./100 mi.) in frisky suburban driving.

Premium recommend but not required. Tank holds 19.5 gal.

Overall: Real-world mpg boost doesn't outweigh fussy powertrain, higher price.

Space:

MPG:

Power:
 

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Well, premium is not recommended (at least not in my manual) and while I've never gotten the stated mileage, theirs is very low (and I drive in the normal mode, not eco). I wonder what their course is. Hmm... overall, however, I think they got it right.

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The part about the premium at the end is in comparison to the V6 model. The hybrid recommends regular in the manual, the V6 recommends premium in its manual. In another post elsewhere I posted links to and quotes from the different manuals showing it.

I do agree with you bsnguy and what they say about the hybrid. I do get better mpg than a V6 model but I very much dislike the extreme mild hybrid system they went with and the hesitation from a stop when gas is given. I've adjusted for it but the hybrid could have been so much better if they didn't 'cheap out' on its implementation. Unfortunately I wanted every option/gadget and had to get the hybrid because of how they chose to option out the two different vehicles (V6 vs hybrid).
 

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The part about the premium at the end is in comparison to the V6 model. The hybrid recommends regular in the manual, the V6 recommends premium in its manual.
The way it's written they are listing the features of the hybrid, then compare the mpg to the v6, then list more features. That's how it reads to me. At best, confusing, so I ding them for that :)

I do find that with over 4k miles, now, things are a bit better. I can get 25 mpg on the highway when it's cool (72 or so) with the a/c on. I've even seen the thing go to EV mode at 55 mph for a short time going down hill. It's a stage best, especially compared to my wife's Lexus ct200h.



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The way it's written they are listing the features of the hybrid, then compare the mpg to the v6, then list more features. That's how it reads to me. At best, confusing, so I ding them for that :)

I do find that with over 4k miles, now, things are a bit better. I can get 25 mpg on the highway when it's cool (72 or so) with the a/c on. I've even seen the thing go to EV mode at 55 mph for a short time going down hill. It's a stage best, especially compared to my wife's Lexus ct200h.



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Drive it with the climate system off, you'll be amazed how often it drives in EV mode.
 

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This is a reminder also of why i tend to stay away from tech that hasn't been worked through enough or doesn't have history behind it.
 

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Rooster, I have tried all sorts of things to get a handle on the"logic" this car users. I can tell you, I am not impressed at how much this car goes into ev mode. Even with everything off, if I pull up to a red light, the engine will turn on after a short while. I do not let go of the brake or anything. It also will not turn it back off if you let off the brake, then come to a complete stop, again (like when inching up into space made by the vehicle in front moving). Just weird.

Even my friend's gas-only BMW is smarter than this. And it can do it with the AC on!

Not complaining as much as questioning the logic of this thing, and the engineers that programmed it.

I think it could do several mpg better in typical city driving if they would address this logic, or lack thereof.
 
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