Engine: 5.6 L V8, 400 HP, 413 lb-ft.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy (US): 14 MPG city, 20 MPG highway, 12.7 MPG observed
Fuel economy (CDN): 16.9 L/100 km city, 11.9 L/100 km highway, 18.5 L/100 km observed
Price (US): QX80 4WD starts at $67,345 after destination charges, $79,845 as tested
Price (CDN): QX80 4WD starts at $75,645 after destination charges, $84,180 as tested
I think a new class of vehicle needs to be created.
Yes, I know, there are already too many classifications as it stands, but nothing describes the sheer size, presence, capability and fuel thirst of sport utility vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator or Infiniti QX80. I propose we call these behemoths MUVs, as in Monumental, Monstrous, Massive or my personal favorite, Mammoth Utility Vehicles.
And king amongst these prehistoric beasts, at least from a presence standpoint, is the Infiniti QX80. With looks that can simultaneously scare children and impress suburban gangsters, the QX80 is unlike anything else on the road. With subtle tweaks this year front and back; it’s flashier looking with more in-your-face personality than the pedestrian Navigator or too-suave Escalade. If The Beast from X-Men were an SUV, he’d be the QX80.
Biggest of the Big
Part of this perception is the SUV’s height. Taller than the its competitors, the QX80 features 9.2 inches of ground clearance, which is a definite off-roading plus for a vehicle equipped with a proper 4X4, two-speed transfer case. But, the Infiniti’s approach and departure angles aren’t as good as some of the competition and the ramp angle is lower than Lexus LX 570. Seriously though, how many people are going to properly off-road one of these anyway? And no, a rutted dirt road doesn’t count as off-roading.
At 208.9-inches the QX is longer than the other monster SUVs in this class with the exception of extended wheelbase models like the Navigator L and Escalade ESV. The extra length, height and raised seating position add to the feeling that you’re in a miniature big-rig when you’re driving one of these things.
Opulent or Tacky?
Inside the SUV is swathed in leather and wood trim; too much wood trim. All of the usual luxury trappings and features are found in the QX, but in their simplest form. The center stack is still full of a multitude of useful buttons, which I appreciate despite it becoming passé in the luxury vehicle market. Some buttons, like the one for the heating steering, do look decades old.
Comfort for the first two rows of passengers is superb. Second-row passengers enjoy 41 inches of legroom, which is the most in the class regardless of wheelbase length. The third row is a little more cramped with only 28.8 inches of legroom. That’s still more than the Escalade and it’s more comfortable back there than in the Cadillac anyway. Rear cargo space behind the third row also beats the Escalade offering 16.6 cubic feet, but falls short of the Navigator.
Thirsty, Powerful V8
Power still comes from a traditional V8, measuring 5.6-liters in this case with 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque on tap. Unique for this segment is a seven-speed automatic that has just recently been trumped by Cadillac’s eight-speed auto. The Infiniti’s drivetrain combination provides decent thrust and that brawny V8 sounds good under hard acceleration. Despite given up some power to the Escalade’s larger 6.2-liter V8, forward momentum feels similar between the two SUVs. And, the 5,888-lb. QX80 is rated to tow a competitive 8,500 lbs.
The one area the QX80 falls behind its competition though is in fuel economy. Despite official ratings of 14 MPG city and 20 MPG highway, the beastly Infiniti returned a pathetic 12.7 MPG in mixed driving, which is much lower than the 15.2-15.5 MPG averages we obtained from the Navigator and Escalade in similar driving conditions. To add a little insult to injury, the QX80 also recommends premium fuel.
In a surprise to no one, the QX drives like a big SUV. The steering is on the loose side compared to its competitors and all actions feel delayed and sloppy. Even with the larger 22-inch wheels installed, ride quality is quite good as the big SUV lacks the head-bobbing jittery feeling some body-on-frame vehicles suffer from. A lot of this is attributed to the double wishbone suspension installed at all four corners with the optional hydraulic body motion control system. Parking the road barge is not that difficult with the help of front, rear and surround view cameras.
Taking the QX80 out of the Stone Age is Infiniti’s Distance Control Technology (DCA). Equipped with radar based adaptive cruise control, the QX80 can do so much more. Even with adaptive cruise turned off, as long as DCA is active, autonomous braking can bring the QX to a complete stop in slow moving traffic when approaching a stationary vehicle. Primarily a safety feature, it works great in stop and go traffic to keep the Infiniti off the vehicle in front – a plus in today’s overly distract-driving society. Of course, lazy drivers may exploit this feature, as you know; actually depressing the brake pedal is hard work.
SEE ALSO: 2011 Infiniti QX56 Review
In a major metropolitan area the automatic braking can be a bit sensitive. A few times the QX80 would begin stopping itself when it detected I was approaching a car too quickly, even if I wasn’t. As well, the SUV will stop itself in a parking lot when maneuvering if the system thinks the QX is getting too close to other cars or pedestrians. A great failsafe system to keep the QX80’s bumpers scuff free and shiny, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. To escape some urban parking lots with a vehicle as big as this SUV requires getting closer in proximity to other vehicles than the computer will allow.
The final bit of autonomous driving available with QX80’s DCA is active lane keep. Like the automatic braking, the system works quite well, if not too well. As the mammoth QX wanders over to the line marker on the road, the systems enables a bit of braking to persuade the SUV back into its proper lane. My issue is the aggressiveness in which the system applies braking can be a bit unnerving if unprepared.
Starting at $67,345 after destination charges for a QX80 4WD, it’s priced on par with a Navigator 4WD and significantly cheaper than a base Escalade or LX 570. As tested at $79,845, the QX80 offers more technology for the money than any of those other three SUVs. Add in distinct styling, a spacious cabin as well as a comfortable ride and there may still be some life left in this old dog.