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(Peter Cheney for The Globe and Mail)
(Peter Cheney for The Globe and Mail)

Speed Date: Infiniti QX56

Driver's Logbook: Super-sized SUV the anti-muscle car Add to ...

A few thousand years from now, archeologists may dig up an Infiniti QX56 and use it to draw some conclusions about North American culture circa 2010. For example: We must have been a cerebral people, with highly developed engineering skills yet severely limited muscularity, since the QX56 is filled with dozens of little motors that eliminate virtually all physical effort.

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The archeologists would note the powered tailgate, the steering wheel that lifts up on its own, and the banks of switches that cause all three rows of passenger seats to magically fold without the expenditure of human power. If the people of 2010 had arms, they must have been vestigial at best.

The archeologists would also conclude that we lived in a golden age of cheap energy. Why else would a civilization buy a 6000-pound vehicle that burned more than 20 litres of fossil fuel every 100 kilometres?

Many test vehicles past through my garage without notice, blurring together into a forgettable automotive stream. But a few stand out, and the QX56 was definitely one of them, if only for its sheer, dumbfounding size.

I'm six feet tall, but the QX56 still loomed above me, and I was glad there was a step to help me get aboard. I imagined myself as an Indian mahout, climbing up onto the neck of an elephant for a day's work in the jungle. The QX56's size defines it, in the same way that Shaquille O'Neal's does. On the highway, it boomed along like a low-flying jumbo jet. Putting the QX56 in my garage was like docking a warship at a local marina.

My wife and I rode like emperors, insulated from the outside world by the QX 56's silent ride and intimidating presence. Lesser vehicles scattered before us, and we were at eye level with city buses. Then I noticed the gas gauge, which was dropping through its arc like a dying bird. According to the trip computer, we were burning 22.6 litres per 100 kilometres. I checked the QX 56's option list to see if an aerial refuelling receptacle was available (it wasn't.) The QX 56 was a social litmus test. With its 22-inch wheels and Panzer-tank mass, it drew admiring glances from hockey parents and club-district types, but I got a nasty look from a woman in a Volvo wagon with a Green Party bumper sticker. My son liked lounging in the back when we brought him home from university, but even he thought the QX56 was too big.

Like most high-end Asian vehicles, the QX56 is beautifully engineered and meticulously built. The interior appointments are lovely. The doors shut with bank-vault authority, and the Bluetooth communication system worked faultlessly.

If I was a Utah polygamist with three wives, four kids and a trailer to haul, the QX56 might make some sense. But the age of the three-ton vehicle can't last much longer. I need something that does more with less. So do we all.

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