A little Note concerning Nissans, Infinitis

The car business can be a world of extremes.

Delivered to my door in successive weeks have been the biggest Infiniti built, the QX80 SUV, and the smallest Nissan, the Versa Note subcompact hatchback. Infiniti is the luxury division for Japanese automaker Nissan.

Pull the little Versa up beside the QX80 and it falls short by 3 ½ feet in length. The big Infiniti outweighs the Versa, 5,850 pounds to 2,500.The 2014 Versa Note is noteworthy for all it offers at a sticker price of $20,015 – navigation with traffic and weather, rearview and all-around camera, push-button start, heated front seats and AM/FM/CD/USB/SiriusXM audio with 5.8-inch color display screen.

All that, in addition to the economy the Versa delivers from its 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission.As for its well-heeled big brother, the 2014 QX80 is the former Infiniti QX56. All Infiniti models have been renumbered for ’14; the cars carry designations of Q50, Q60 and Q70, and the crossovers and SUVs are now known as QX50, QX60, QX70 and QX80.

In driving the QX80 in 6-inch deep snow on a dirt trail last week, switching from automatic all-wheel drive to full-time four-wheel high was as easy as turning a dial behind the gear-selector lever on the center console. Even in more difficult terrain, switching to four-wheel low range is just one more twist.

Breaking the snow was easy going for the Infiniti, and, a few minutes later, it handled securely on an ice-covered paved road, with barely a slip.

The QX80 is a big, tall, square-bodied vehicle, riding on 22-inch wheels with Bridgestone P275/50R22 tires. The hood stands 4 ½ feet high and the SUV itself is almost 6 ½ feet tall. With all this size, an innovative body-motion control system which distributes variable pressure to the outer or inner suspensions increases its cornering capability.

A 400-horsepower (413 lb.-ft. or torque), 5.6-liter V-8 engine is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission; in lots of cold and snow it averaged 15.9 miles per gallon. Its EPA estimate is 14/20.

High-tech options, such as Bose Cabin surround-sound with 15 speakers, intelligent cruise control, blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning, auto-leveling headlights and theater package of dual 7-inch monitors, pushed sticker price on the QX80 to $79,095.

Voice-recognition navigation with traffic and weather and restaurant guide are included, along with heated leather seats in the first two rows, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, tuscan burl wood trim, trizone automatic temperature control, power rear liftgate, rearview camera and roof-mounted side-impact curtain airbags with rollover sensor.

On two cold mornings, I opened a garage door and used the key fob for a push-button start of the QX. Both times, it took three tries before the engine fired up. There is no hesitancy in driving away, though; the V-8 and 7-speed are ready to go on start, so much improved from the more cold-blooded carburetor days of years back.

The QX80, with three rows of seating, can seat seven persons. With its body-on-frame construction, it can tow up to 8,500 pounds. The Infiniti competes with the Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GL500 and several other full-sized SUVs.

The ’14 Nissan Versa Note’s sharply raked windshield and roofline contrast the big, boxy QX. The Note is the hatchback version of the Versa sedan.On the inside, the Versa offers decent legroom front and rear, and comfortable, supportive seats. Dual gloveboxes add storage for small items. A hard-plastic finish detracts from the interior’s roominess.

A rear liftgate opens up 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats; fold those seats and that expands to 38 feet. The cargo floor can be raised or lowered 4 inches to accommodate loads.

A lack of response is noticeable at times, particularly in accessing highways, with the small engine and CVT for the front-wheel-drive Versa.

A front spoiler helps direct airflow and new this year is an active grille shutter, limiting the amount of air entering the engine compartment to reduce drag force. The shutter is generally closed at speeds above 20 miles per hour.

The Versa’s $20,000 price includes 16-inch wheels and antilock disc/drum brakes, heated sideview mirrors, power windows and locks, cruise control, variable intermittent windshield wipers, fog lights and rear spoiler.

Notes from e-mail

Bud, I’ve ridden in two vehicles with CVTs and find the drone an absolute deal-breaker if I was looking for a new vehicle. I am much more excited by the development of 7, 8 and 9-speed autos. Is there a valid case for the CVT? I note you often include the CVT in the “minuses” column. – E.L.

The continuously variable transmission, Ed, is all in the name of better fuel economy. Get used to it.