By Lucas Cooney
Engine: 5.6L V8
Power: 400 hp, 413 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed auto
Fuel Economy: 13 MPG city/19 MPG highway/17 MPG observed
Price (US): Starts at $88,850
Three friends and I were planning a big road trip from Toronto, Ontario, to southern West Virginia to take part in a massive ATV/dirt bike rally.
Not wanting to squeeze four adult males and a ton of riding gear into my trusty Mazda5 for two 11-hour days of driving, I asked the powers that be at AutoGuide.com if they would be able to secure something bigger (and much nicer) for the trip. A short while later, I was offered an Infiniti QX80 Limited. Life is very good.
Baller Status Achieved
Walking up to the QX80 with key in hand, it was clear I was in for a new experience. While the aforementioned Mazda5 has six seats, the seven-seat QX80 makes it look like a half-scale toy. This is, by far, the largest vehicle I’ve ever been tasked with driving. Its 22-inch, 14-spoke wheels are comically large and pretty damn sexy. I stand about 6’2″ and it required some effort just to climb into the driver’s seat. I took my family for a drive and getting my daughters secured into their booster seats needed some acrobatic-like athleticism and flexibility from my much shorter wife. If I were a 6’9″ NBA power forward, I would give the QX80 a long look.
As you would expect in a vehicle approaching $90,000, the interior finishes are exceptional in the QX80 Limited. My test model featured Truffle Brown leather seats, steering wheel and trim, ash wood accents and Ultrasuede headliner.
A pile of niceties come standard, including rear captain’s chairs, eight-inch color touchscreen display with navigation, Bose Cabin Surround sound system, SiriusXM satellite radio, twin video monitors and cordless headphones for rear passengers, climate control seats, two 12-volt power outlets, and a lot of storage space in the front and rear center consoles.
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Through the windshield, you see beautifully curvy lines on the hood. That visual theme continues throughout the exterior. While the general shape is boxy, the curvy lines at a touch of sleekness to a very big vehicle.
Being new to such a massive machine, I was happy to learn about the rear backup camera with collision warning. This makes getting out of a tight parking spot much less nerve wracking. Once underway, you get a great view of the road ahead. The windshield is enormous and the seating position high, so it feels like you can see just about everything the world has to offer.
I picked everybody up early in the morning for the drive down to West Virginia. Because we were going down to a big ATV rally (you can read about it on our sister site, ATV.com), we brought a lot of luggage and riding gear. With the rear seats folded down, space was not an issue. However, if we had one more person going with us, fitting everybody’s stuff in the back might not have been possible.
The last time I borrowed a press car for a road trip to the United States, I scraped the bumper on the driver’s side when I pulled up to the customs agent. Not only did I get a nervous pit in my stomach from scratching an otherwise gorgeous luxury sedan (sorry about that, Jaguar), but it raised some suspicion at the border. Happily, there was no repeat performance this time and we entered the U.S. without incident and headed for the interstate.
When I drive on the highway for long stretches I rely heavily on cruise control, but I found the QX80’s Intelligent Cruise Control rather intrusive. It is designed to slow the vehicle down in traffic, but I found it kicked in when I was closing in on somebody in my lane for a pass. Before I’d get close enough to move into the left lane, my speed would drop and I’d fall back. Since I don’t like to stay in the left lane for long when I’m not passing, I found this frustrating. This system also reared its head in the mountains of West Virginia. When I-79 would get curvy, my speed would drop and I’d end up with a very confused car behind me. This led to lots of passing, getting passed back, and re-passing again until I gave up and stopped using cruise control.
Beyond the cruise control issue, driving the QX80 on the big interstates is a delight. Power is quite good, though you need to keep a close eye on the speedo; if you aren’t careful, you can easily get up to 85 to 90 mph without even realizing it. The ride is wonderfully smooth and quiet and it’s not nearly as tough on gas as I thought; I ended up averaging about 17 mpg.
Things did get interesting when I got off the big interstate and had to take a secondary highway into rural West Virginia. The roads are wickedly twisty and they wind in switchbacks up and down the mountains. While this would be all kinds of fun in a low-slung sports car, the hefty QX80 was a handful even at a significantly reduced speed.
We arrived in Justice, West Virginia, tired and hungry, so the four of us headed over to a local restaurant for some dinner. Though we’d just arrived, the highlight of the entire trip was a conversation with the young waitress. After finding out where we were from and how we arrived, she said we were “like the girls from Crossroads.” Sadly, the youngest member of our group actually knew that was a Britney Spears road trip movie. As a form of research, we watched it on Netflix later on at our hotel. She wasn’t wrong. I like to think I was the Lucy Wagner (Spears’ character) of our group, but others may disagree.
(Above photo: Don’t judge! When a waitress says you and your friends remind her of characters is a movie, you owe it to her to watch it.)
Over the next couple days, we barely touched the QX80, as we spent most of our time tearing around in a Kawasaki Teryx4 off-road vehicle. But eventually, we loaded the Infiniti back up and headed home.
Living Like the 1%
The trip back up north was uneventful until our last fuel stop saw us wind up at a gas station in a sketchy neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Interestingly, this was the first and only time on the trip where driving a luxury SUV got us some first-class treatment. One of my friends needed to use the restroom and the attendant in the store refused and said it was for employees only. Because I was using a Canadian credit card and didn’t have a zip code, I couldn’t pay at the pump, so I went into the store to pre pay a short time later. The attendant asked if I was driving the Infiniti and when I told him yes, he just said to go ahead and I could pay later. He then followed me outside and brought my friend back inside to use the bathroom, commenting how much he liked the QX80.
Driving a luxury vehicle really does come with benefits. You just have to be in a bad neighborhood in Buffalo to get them.
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