The Infiniti QX4 Navigation System manufactured by Xanavi
by Phil Sherrod

About a month ago, I got my first opportunity to look at the GPS navigation
system offered on 2001 Infiniti QX4 sport utility vehicles.  However, at
that time the dealer had not received the CD with the navigation data for
Nashville, TN, so I had to content myself with examining the unit in the
car, studying its setup menus and carefully reading the instruction manual.

The dealer called me last week to let me know that they had received the CD
with the Nashville data, and he invited me to drop by for a test drive
today.  I have just completed that drive, and I want to share my experience.

The navigation system lived up to my expectations: It is a very well
designed system that is aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, useful and

Before beginning the drive, I spent about 15 minutes in the car at the
dealer's lot getting familiar with the system setup and operation. When you
first power it on, it displays a legal disclaimer apparently written by some
lawyer who was afraid someone might follow the guidance into a ditch.  You
must press "OK" to advance to the main navigation screen and options.

The QX4 navigation system has a color touch screen so you can rapidly select
options and enter alphabetical letters by touching the screen rather than
having to use a joystick to scroll a cursor around through menus and
graphical keyboards. This is a major advantage that the QX4 system has over
its competitors.  The screen is larger than those in most other cars and is
positioned fairly high on the instrument panel. You can manually dim the
display for night driving.

There are many setup options available (it has a scroll bar), but once you
set them they are retained for future trips, so you don't have to mess with
setup every time.  For example, you can chose fastest route or shortest
route, avoid expressways, avoid toll roads and avoid ferries. I selected the
fastest route and allowed all modes of travel (we don't have many toll roads
in the South, thank God).  You can also choose whether the map display has
North at the top or whether it should rotate to show your current direction
at the top. Another screen shows information about the number and location
of GPS satellites that are available for navigation. In addition, it
provides your latitude, longitude and altitude.  The latitude/longitude
information could be useful if you broke down or got stuck in a snowdrift
somewhere and were calling for assistance.

After I finished going through the setup options, I pressed the "Dest"
button located next to the screen to call up the destination selection
screen. There are quite a few ways to specify your destination: street
address, address book, street intersections and point of interest -- gas
station, ATM, Infiniti dealers, hospitals, universities, bowling allies, ice
skating rinks (I kid you not), and many other categories.  If your location
can't be found by any other means, you can use the "Map" option and identify
your destination by positioning a cross hair to a location on the map; I
believe this is the only time that you have to use a joystick to make a

I used the street address destination option and entered the address of my
office, which is about 12 miles away from the dealer's location.  I was able
to enter the address quickly by pressing keys on a graphical keyboard shown
on the touch screen.  After entering the address, the computer took about 8
seconds to calculate a route.  We pulled out of the dealer's lot, and the
navigation system told us to enter the interstate ramp to head north to

The navigation system provides both visual and audible guidance.  The
audible guidance is essential for safe use of the system while driving on
busy roads.  The audible guidance is provided by a pleasing and clear
synthesized female voice.  I have heard many other synthesized computer
"voices", and I would rate this as one of the best.  It is very easy to
understand and does not have the pieced-together sound that I've heard from
some other systems. (It doesn't have a Japanese accent either.)  I turned
the radio up loud to see what would happen when the navigation system tried
to provide guidance over the music. (Would the electronic woman start
screaming at me?)  I was pleased to learn that Infiniti had considered this
situation: when it's time for guidance, the radio sound drops to a low (but
still audible) level, then about a second later the navigation message is
heard, then about a second after that the music returns to its normal
volume.  Cool.  You can set the volume for the navigation messages
independent of the radio/CD volume.  (By the way, the QX4 is very quiet when
cruising at 75-80 on an interstate.)  There is a "voice" button displayed on
the touch-screen that you can press to have the system repeat the last
message that it provided.  When cruising on the interstate, the voice button
causes it to say how far you are from your destination.  It also tells you
how far the next turn is either in miles, tenths of miles or feet depending
on how close you are.

While cruising north on I65, we passed several interchanges.  Each time, the
navigation system audibly reminded us to "Continue north on I65".  I became
a little concerned when we cruised by my usual exit without any instructions
to exit.  However, there are a number of viable routes from the interstate
to my office, so I decided to wait and see what the computer had in mind.
Shortly later, the computer advised me to get into the left lane and
continue on I65 at a point where it splits with I40. After that, we were
advised to take the next exit.  Guidance instructions are provided in plenty
of time to allow you to change lanes and get ready to exit.

I then realized the route the computer had chosen: it was a good route and
possibly even a minute faster than my usual route depending on traffic and
the timing of traffic lights; however, unbeknownst to the computer, some of
the roads between our location and my office are undergoing major
construction and are closed. One of the setup options allows you to tell the
system whether you want it to recalculate automatically the best route from
your present position even if your have deviated from the originally
calculated route.  If you don't turn on the reroute option, it will guide
you back to the original route if you get off it.  I had engaged the
automatic reroute option, so I looked forward to throwing it a curve by
turning on a side street to bypass the construction area.

The system didn't reprimand me for deviating from the route, but immediately
suggested that I turn right at the next corner, which would normally have
been the best choice given where we were.  However, that road was also under
construction, so we proceeded on.  The computer advised me to turn right at
the next corner, which was possible, and I complied. Because of the detour,
we then had to go away from my office for a short distance on a one-way
street. I was pleased to see that the computer knew that it was a one-way
street and did not ask me to turn onto the street going the wrong way
(potential errors in the database like this are probably why they show the
disclaimer when you turn it on).

After a few more correct turns, we were cruising down the street to my
office.  The navigation voice confidently announced that we had arrived at
our destination when we still had about 300 feet to go.  I don't know if the
premature announcement was to give us time to find a parking place, or
whether its database of street addresses may be off by 300 feet, or whether
there were GPS inaccuracies.  In any case, I successfully found my office.

The navigation display has two modes: "Birdview" and planar.  The planar
view is just like looking a flat map: streets are shown with the planned
route and your current location.  This is the only type of view available on
other car navigation systems.  As far as I know, the "Birdview" system is
unique to Infiniti (and Xanavi, a company partially owned by Nissan that
makes the system).  The Birdview display is shown from a perspective
position located several hundred feet above and behind the car (i.e., like a
bird or angel flying behind you).  You see the road and routes extending
into the distance and you see the car on the route in the foreground.
Because of the natural perspective effect, roads close to your position are
larger and have more detail. For an example image, go to or  Their example shows major
buildings as three-dimensional objects extending up from the ground.  I didn
't notice this as we were driving into Nashville, but it may have been
there.  The Birdview display is very useful because it lets you see where
you are and what lies ahead in the distance.  I used it consistently while
cruising on the interstate.

When you approach an intersection, the navigation display switches
automatically from Birdview to a zoomed-in planar map showing details about
the intersection and your route through it.  To avoid trying to make the
synthesized voice pronounce all the local street names, it simply instructs
you to turn left or right at the next street.  The name of the street that
it wants you to turn onto is displayed at the top of the map.  It does know
how to say "Interstate 65 north".

At present, the navigation databases only have detailed street information
for a relatively small number of major cities.  For example, in Tennessee,
Nashville and Knoxville have been mapped, but Memphis and Chattanooga have
not.  Satellite towns outside the Nashville city limits also have not been
mapped yet.  For these unmapped areas, only interstates and major roads are
shown on the map, and you cannot use the street address selection to set a

Since the dealer is located in a satellite town south of Nashville
(Franklin, TN), we were not able to use a street address to set our return
destination.  Instead, we used the Map option with the cross hair to
identify our destination on the map.  I noticed that a small flag with the
letter "S" (start?) on it was shown at our starting point, so I centered the
cross hair on it.  (NOTE:  All of the expensive navigation systems have
limitations on map coverage.  Make SURE any such system you buy has
map coverage in your areas of interest.)

When we were a few miles south of the Nashville boundary, I tried to throw
the navigation system a curve by telling it that we needed to detour around
a mile of interstate.  You do this by touching the screen, selecting
 "Detour" from a popup menu, then selecting 1, 5, 10 or 20 miles for the
length of your route that you must detour around.  After thinking about it
for about 10 seconds, the computer announced that it was unable to find a
feasible detour.  I believe this happened because we were outside the
detailed Nashville street area, and it did not know about side streets that
it could have used for the detour.  The rest of the trip back was
uneventful, but it did not tell us to exit from the interstate -- presumably
because it did not have the detailed street information to know how to get
from the interstate to the point we marked on the map.  It did announce that
we had arrived at our destination just as we turned into the dealer's lot.

I have only a couple of complaints: First, I would like the map display to
appear automatically when you turn on the ignition without having to
acknowledge their legal disclaimer every time. Second, the navigation map
and the climate control system share the right portion of the touch screen.
The climate control information (inside/outside temperature, vents
activated, automatic/manual mode, etc.) is shown whenever you adjust the
climate control settings, causing the map to shrink into the left half of
the screen.  However, when switching between the Birdview and planar
displays when going through intersections, the screen sometimes reverted to
showing the climate control information even though I had not adjusted the
climate.  It's easy to expand the map to full screen by touching it, but I
would prefer to never see the climate control information unless I made some
adjustments to it. Third, the areas where detailed street maps are available
are very limited.  If I spend $40k for a car with a $2k navigation option,
it would be nice if it could at least navigate through Memphis and guide me
home to the suburbs.  However, I should point out that the mapping data for
all current car systems seems to come from one company, Navtech
(, so all brands of navigation systems have the same
database limitations.  Navtech says they are working hard to extend the

I enjoyed the test drive and plan to order a navigation system on my QX4
when I decide that I'm ready to spend $40k.  I have looked at navigation
systems on Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Alpine (aftermarket).  I believe the
Infiniti system is state of the art: the touch panel and Birdview display
are important advantages over its competitors. The color display is large
and positioned high on the instrument panel making it easy to glance at
while driving.  The audible guidance is clear and easy to follow.  The
routing appears to do a good job as long as you are in an area for which
detailed street information is available.  The automatic reroute system is
extremely valuable and works well and effortlessly. I found the system to be
very user friendly and easy to operate.

Questions?  Comment?
send email to:  Phil Sherrod