DETROIT – Like a batter coming out of a slump, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s Infiniti luxury division has been swinging for the fence as of late.
Standard features are generous on Infiniti QX56.

And in the case of the G35 sedan and coupe and FX35/FX45 cross/utility vehicles, Infiniti has at least a few homeruns under its belt.

Its newest product, the QX56 fullsize luxury SUV, just now is approaching the batter’s box, so it’s too early to wave it around the bases.

The QX56 goes on sale in spring and will be Infiniti’s first U.S.-produced model, springing from Nissan’s new fullsize truck plant in Canton, MS.

The vehicle shares its underpinnings with the Nissan Pathfinder Armada, as well as its engine, a 5.6L DOHC Endurance V-8. In the QX56, it produces 315 hp and 390 lb.-ft. (528 Nm) of torque.

Standard features are generous, including 7-spoke, 18-in. alloy wheels, dark macore or blonde apaya real-wood interior trim, a DVD-based navigation system, Bose premium 10-speaker audio system and side curtain airbags for side-impact and rollover protection for occupants in all three rows.

The standard independent rear suspension with load leveling sets it apart from the Pathfinder Armada, which has a solid rear axle and leaf springs.

Options for the QX56 include intelligent cruise control, all-wheel drive and DVD family-entertainment system with two wireless headphones for back-seat occupants.

The mission of the QX56 is to deliver luxury on a “grand scale,” and this sizable SUV doesn’t disappoint. It seats eight with a second-row bench – seven with second-row captain’s chairs.

But at initial glance, the styling is awkward and bulky – a swing and a miss instead of a homerun. Infiniti calls the body design “sophisticated,” but the QX56 lacks proportion, with its bulbous cabin melded to a square, rear cargo area.

The grille, which Infiniti describes as a “waterfall,” also suffers from awkward styling, with its boxy 1980s-like headlamps, excessive chrome and massive fog lamps.

The Lincoln Navigator, which some said was garish when it was new five years ago, now looks timid and downright attractive when compared with the QX56.

Infiniti executives are doing their best to put a positive spin on the styling. “It drives smaller than it looks,” says Mark Igo, Infiniti’s vice president and general manager.

Pricing is not final, but Igo says a well-equipped AWD QX56 should sell for about $50,000. Annual sales are pegged at about 15,000 units.

Also for 2004, Infiniti brings to the U.S. an AWD version of the G35 sedan, with a base price of $31,900. The AWD system has active torque-distribution management with an electro-magnetic clutch for smooth starts and better traction and maneuverability in snow, without compromising performance, Infiniti says.