Infiniti QX80 — Big luxury at its best

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Even though its last complete makeover occurred four years ago, the large Infiniti QX80 luxury sport utility vehicle has many attributes that continue to please buyers in the market for large, comfortable people movers that can haul a lot of cargo and tow big toys. Look no further than the 2015 J.D. Powers APEAL Awards — a ranking of what owners find most appealing — for proof. The QX80 was ranked the top Large Premium SUV among a field of "big" stars.

We also found it "most appealing" as we piled in with another couple to visit various attractions and events. As we racked up the miles we carried on a running conversation enjoying the ride and  using the QX80 like a mobile living room sipping colas, coffee and water in a notably quiet, cool, and extremely comfortable leather-clad atmosphere.

Adding to the ambience of luxury was Infiniti's optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control suspension that soaked up road imperfections like a sponge soaking up a lunchtime spill. And the QX80's big V-8 motivated the luxury rig with ease no matter the demands, whether merging into fast-moving traffic or passing a pesky slowpoke on a two-lane.

The large and audacious 400-horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque matched up well to the demands of a heavyweight hauler that has a tow rating of 8,500 pounds. The power is luxury smooth and strong measured by a 0-to-60 time of 6.5 seconds and a quarter mile time of 15.1 seconds @ 94 mph. But be advised the 5.6-liter engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission guzzles premium gas to the tune of 14 mpg city, 20 highway and 16 combined.

We found the accommodations roomy with ample stretch out room in the first two rows — including plush second-row captain's chairs — and more than adequate head room. The seats proved comfortable for long-distance travel, and finding a just-right driving position was no problem with the eight-way power seat and power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. And there are plenty of pockets, bins and cupholders to make storing stuff fairly easy. But climbing in can be a chore even with the running board, especially with the 22-inch wheel package.

The rear-most seats, as is the case with most SUVs of this size, offer tight quarters for adults, but are very livable for younger folks. Infiniti has come up with an optional feature that makes gaining access to the third row easier. It’s a remote second-row seat folding control that allows the driver or front passenger to remotely fold the second-row seats without leaving their seat. It’s an irreplaceable convenience for parents picking the kids up from school.

The QX80, which measures 208 inches in length, has a useable 16.6 cubic feet of storage behind the third-row seats. This can be expanded to 95.1 cubic feet with all seats folded. By comparison, the Cadillac Escalade has 108.9 cubic feet and the Lexus LX 570 has 83 cubic feet and the Lincoln Navigator has 103.3 cubic feet.

This is a good time for the Infiniti and other big sport utility vehicles with sales soaring. The QX80 has been a recipient of this resurgence with 7,326 sales through the first six months of 2015, a 17.8 percent increase over 2014. People in the market for big luxury are apparently not deterred by the Infiniti's base price of $64,425. And figure that few QX80s will go out the door at that number. Most will carry at least a few options moving the price upward. For instance, our well-endowed all-wheel drive test vehicle carried a bottom line of $89,945.

The Infiniti can be outfitted with a myriad of optional safety equipment. You might even argue that the QX can be over-equipped. All the usual safety features are standard including a large number of airbags, traction and stability control and antilock brakes. Optional features are mind-boggling and include lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, forward collision warning, distance control assist, intelligent brake assist, and blind spot warning.

To get the full range of available safety it necessitates purchase of the $2,100 Driver's Assistance Package and the $5,500 Deluxe Technology Package. One of the newest features is called Blind Spot Intervention which actively assists the driver back toward the travel lane if he begins to move over into the path of another vehicle.

If you are in the market for a big, plush all-wheel drive vehicle and you want a somewhat different experience than that offered by such competitors as Cadillac, Lincoln or Lexus, you might consider an Infiniti. Bottom line, the QX80 is indeed a very attractive feature-loaded vehicle.

Base price: $64,425; as driven, $89,845
Engine: 5.6-liter V-8
Horsepower: 400 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 413 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 121.1 inches
Length: 208.9 inches
Curb weight: 5,888 pounds
Turning circle: 41.6 feet
Towing capacity: 8,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 16.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 95.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 26 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 20 highway, 14 city, 16 combined
0-60: 6.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570, Lincoln Navigator

The Good
• Powerful V-8 engine
• Quiet, luxurious cabin
• Large towing capacity

The Bad
• Meager fuel economy

The Ugly
• Options many and expensive