With the Infiniti QX80, I’m inclined to take its nameplate literally.
Although the dimensions of this full-size SUV may stop short of “infinite”, there are few rides at any dealership that can look this one in the eye. For those who equate automotive enormity with the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade, add another to your list.
It is 209 inches long, 80 inches wide and its massive wheel arches house a set of optional 22-inch alloys. Facing its bulbous hood and gaping grille is somewhat intimidating.
I climbed into the brand’s largest vehicle (MSRP $73,650 plus $8,150 for Technology Package) and immediately felt the weight of responsibility. Extra caution would be required in piloting this ‘executive jet’ on our congested streets and in today’s small-car-friendly parking lots.
Okay, these aviation references may be in jest, but inside the QX80’s passenger cabin, the similarity is spot on.
Infiniti interiors are among the best in the business, and this three row, seven/eight-passenger vehicle spares little in terms of fit, finish and materials.
There’s an abundance of rich woodgrain throughout the centre console, upper dash and on the heated steering wheel. Its Stratford Burl trim doesn’t look stodgy, or worse yet like some materials that although real resemble plastic. The remainder of the front panel and doors is nicely padded and double stitched.
Audio has pushbutton presets and proper, old-school knobs for volume and tuning. These are so much easier than aiming an unsteady finger at virtual “buttons” on the touchscreen. And I like the chrome-ringed analog clock.
Wide, comfortable seats are upholstered in soft semi-analine leather, and are heated/cooled up front with 10-way/8-way power adjust for driver and front passenger. In the seven-passenger model (as tested), second-row occupants get heated captain’s chairs. Eight-passenger QX80s get a 60/40 bench with heat in the outboard positions.
These seats also tip out of the way for easy access to the third row, or with a power button up front, you can automatically flop them forward – no need to leave the driver’s seat.
The third row bench is a compromise, as in most vehicles of this type. Head and leg room are tight, and although three kids may happily ride in back, full-size adults will put up with these cramped quarters for short distances only.
Third-row seats, however, power fold to expand the 470-litre cargo capacity to 1,405. Drop the middle row and the QX80 maxes out at a cavernous 2,694 litres.
I once considered a power rear hatch and auto folding seats a frill, but have been convinced otherwise as yet another winter blast covered the vehicle with road grime. Using these power doodads, I was able to keep my hands, suit pants and black coat off the salty, slushy exterior while regularly loading and unloading gear.
As you’d expect in any vehicle topping $70K, the standard content list is long. This includes front seat memory (linked to power steering wheel and mirrors), eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, “around view” monitor with moving object detection (and front/rear sonar), power moonroof, tri-zone climate control, rear entertainment with dual headrest-mounted monitors, and a 15-speaker Bose surround sound system that really belts it out.
And on the outside are headlight washers, running boards and standard 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Technology package adds a full suite of nannies like blind spot warning and intervention, backup collision intervention (which detects objects and oncoming traffic – and applies brakes if necessary), intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention (which not only warns, but selectively uses braking to “nudge” you back into your lane), and a laser-guided safety system I hope I’ll never test.
What I’m referring to combines Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Emergency Braking and Predictive Forward Collision Warning. Jargon aside, it senses the relative speed and distance not only of the vehicle ahead, but the one in front of it. Should the system anticipate a crash, you get a warning. Fail to heed this and brakes are applied to automatically slow the vehicle and reduce the impact.
The QX80 is no lightweight, and with the 8-passenger model tipping the scales at nearly three tons, Infiniti wisely chose a burly, large-displacement engine to break gravity’s hold. This 5.6-litre V8 with direct injection delivers 400 hp and 413 lb/ft of torque, providing robust off-the-line acceleration. And its smooth-shifting, seven-speed automatic downshifts readily when you stomp the pedal.
Indeed, there’s no white knuckling it when you pull out to pass on the highway. That kind of anxiety only arises at the fuel pump when you’re filling its 98.4-litre tank.
Infiniti rates this powertrain at 16.9/11.9 litres/100 km (city/hwy). My first few days, which included mostly stop-and-go driving on slushy streets, resulted in a thirsty combined average of 22L/100km. Eventually, the roads dried and on a good highway run I achieved a more reasonable 12.5 – which isn’t far off the NRCan estimate.
This crappy weather did, however, put Infiniti’s all-mode 4WD to the test. I kept it in Auto most of the time, allowing the system to distribute torque to all wheels as conditions warranted, with up to 50 percent routed to the front on demand.
These systems – seamlessly cutting in and out when needed – are now so adept at keeping vehicles aimed correctly, it is becoming more of a challenge to get out of shape. But there are still those who rise to this challenge, with their overconfidence, heavy foot and silly belief that all season tires are “good enough” – keeping the towing companies busy.
That aside, I can see why buyers still choose vehicles like the QX80. Whether they need the space and towing ability – or not – they appreciate the sure footedness, feeling of safety and commanding road presence these behemoths provide.