Infiniti's largest entry is really something that needs to be experienced.
If you’re shopping for a luxury sedan, it’s almost impossible to avoid the big German manufacturers. Similarly, if you happen to be shopping for a full-size luxury SUV, you’d be foolish not to consider the American brands, right? Maybe not. The 2015 Infiniti QX80 Limited is aimed squarely at the likes of the Cadillac Escalade, Yukon Denali and Lincoln Navigator in an effort to capture some of the very lucrative market these American players have owned for years. It’s an interesting market as well; from business executives, to rappers, soccer moms and limo drivers, the demographic is pretty diverse. What they all have in common though is that they expect the utmost of luxury, comfort, space and style; so when I was offered a week with the QX80 Limited, I was eager to see if it would meet these expectations.
Firstly, let’s put this SUV into perspective. In Canada, pricing for a base QX80 starts at $75,000, and the new luxurious Limited trim like my tester is a steep $92,000! That sounds like a lot of money, and it absolutely is, but the pricing is right in line with competitors like the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX, Audi Q7 and others. The big question here is whether the Infiniti is good enough to justify its company.
The first potential hiccup in the answer to that question is the QX80’s exterior design. Undoubtedly, it’s the most polarizing look of the bunch, but the QX80’s tall bulbous shape and liberal use of chrome accents earned its fair share of negative comments during my week with it. Personally, I agree that the styling is a little strange, though I don’t find it any worse than a Lexus LX, or even a Navigator for that matter. Finished in Imperial Black- a color exclusive to the Limited trim level- and sitting on very tastefully executed dark bronze 22” rims, the QX80 definitely carries an aura of exclusivity and uniqueness that makes me want to forgive its slightly goofy proportions.
A tactic I developed to deal with people who would register their dislike of the QX80’s exterior appearance is simply opening the door for them. Catching a glimpse of the stunning interior promptly shifts the attention inside the SUV to a space that could be fit for royalty. The Truffle brown leather in my tester is as soft and smooth as a newborn’s bottom, and the Open Pore Ash Wood accenting used everywhere inside the QX80 gives a warm rich feeling of quality and class. The fitment and finish of every detail is extremely well done; from the suede headliner to the quilted stitching, everything flows and fits just right.
Passengers in the second row have a ridiculous amount of space to sprawl out in reclining and heated captain’s chairs and watch the dual entertainment screens built into the headrests of the front seats – a screen location way better than the current trend of blocking rearward vision by hanging them from the ceiling. The luxurious accommodations in the second row give way to third row head and legroom, which adequate for most adults. However, cargo space with the third row seats upright suffers dramatically. Yes, the QX80 Limited can carry 7 passengers in luxurious comfort, but their stuff will have to stay at home. Luckily for me, I had no use for the back row during my week with the SUV, so down it went with the push of a button, revealing a very tall and spacious cargo area.
When seated up front and behind the sound insulated glass of the QX80, it’s impossible to not be comfortable. The seats are perfect, the controls are well placed and the triple zone climate control outputs perfectly metered fresh air through the Plasmacluster™ air purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter. To make the experience all the more comfortable the QX80 features Infiniti’s new Hydraulic Body Motion Control system. The system monitors your driving and various road forces and distributes pressure to the suspension to minimize body lean while corning, making for the smoothest possible ride while rolling along at speed. All of these factors culminate to deliver one of the smoothest, quietest rides I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
Looking well beyond the QX80’s polarizing looks and luxurious cabin, it’s actually a full body on frame design borrowed from the Nissan Patrol. This truck-like design allows the QX80’s 400 horsepower 5.6L 32-valve V8 and 7-speed automatic to deliver on their full capabilities. The QX80 boasts a 8500lbs towing capacity, which will easily handle the recreational demands of most families. The once very popular body on frame construction is becoming a rarity these days due to its added weight, but personally I appreciate the more rugged and capable design – it’s one of the reasons I’ve always favored some of the full-sized SUVs in this segment over others.
While the QX80 Limited is a great SUV to ride in, it falls shy of some of its biggest competitors in the feeling it provides from behind the wheel. Where GM and Ford have mastered the art of making a huge, heavy vehicle feel half its size from the driver’s seat, the QX80 doesn’t quite match up. The slow steering ratio, numb steering feel, high seating position, acceleration that slowly builds and total isolation from the road make driving the QX80 feel closer to piloting a cruise ship.
What the QX80 does offer to help with handling its size is a slew of technological aids to make you a better parker and a safer driver. Not only does the QX80’s camera system offer a 360 birds eye view, front bumper camera and the traditional rear view camera, it also has the ability to detect moving objects around the vehicle. A predictive forward collision warning system monitors traffic and objects ahead and alerts you of potential dangers; if you don’t react in time to avoid a collision, it will automatically apply the brakes to reduce the impact of the collision. Of course, more common driving aids such as blind spot monitoring, lane departure avoidance and adaptive cruise control are all standard on the QX80 Limited.
Aside from the uninspiring driving dynamics, another sacrifice you’ll need to make for the QX80 Limited’s luxury is at the pumps. I averaged 15L/100kms through my week of mixed rush hour commuting, and after a summer of driving four different full-sized pickup trucks, this stood out as my worst mileage of the season. It’s also worth noting that the 5.6L V8 comes with a recommendation for premium fuel, only adding to the sting at the pumps – though not that many buyers in this particular segment are going to lose much sleep over it.
After spending a week with the QX80 Limited, I’ve come to realize that the beauty of this SUV lies well beneath its skin. Infiniti‘s largest entry is really something that needs to be experienced from the inside out. Beyond its comfortable cabin, it is capable, well-built and loaded with the latest entertainment and safety technologies. If you’re more concerned about treating your passengers to luxury than you are about overall efficiency, the QX80 Limited is a very unique and potentially compelling option.