By: Brandon Randall
The full size SUV has become more and more of a niche market over the years. For big families, these swollen, oversized vehicles offer a less embarrassing alternative to the minivan. However, their high cost, combined with the lingering memory of gas prices deep in the four dollar territory have many consumers nervous. All that aside, if styling, space, luxury and technology still ping high on your radar, the full size SUV remains your best bet. And as an added bonus, it’s no minivan, so you get to keep your man-card.
For 2015, Infiniti has taken the biggest, baddest SUV in its fleet, the QX80, formerly the QX56, and updated its interior amenities, styling and technology options. All this to help it keep pace with the newly refreshed Cadillac Escalade, and completely outgun many of its other competitors.
From the outside, the changes are loud and proud. For starters, the front and rear fascia is entirely new. While these changes lend a masculine tone to the QX80, many will find the bulging proportions not to their taste. I join that group, especially finding the front-end features to be too heavy, throwing off the car’s visual balance. The side fender vents are a gaudy addition they could’ve done without as well. Otherwise, the car has an undeniably powerful, commanding presence. Riding tall, balanced on four black tires wrapped around gorgeous 22″ 14-spoke aluminum wheels. All the lights, including the fog lamps are fitted with bright LED’s. The fronts are even smart enough to automatically lower when another vehicle is approaching. An enormously useful feature when driving long stretches of highway at night.
Step inside and the big space you already expected grows like Ron Weasleys tent at the Quidditch World Cup, magically expanding to give more cubic feet than the outside proportions of the QX80 would suggest possible. Infiniti didn’t just give you the room, they filled it to the brim with all sorts of luxury goodies. This upscale cabin is leather clad and full of beautiful metallic and Mocha Burl wood trim. The seats are heated, cooled, 10-way adjustable and offer exceptional comfort and support. They are set high so you can look down through the moon roofs of the cars you glide past. Beware the imminent “king of the road” complex that’s bound to set in sooner or later.
Like the exterior, the lines within are strong, but softened by the quality of the materials used, everything begging to be touched and appreciated. The 13-speaker Premium Bose sound system provides rich, clean sound. Controls are logically arranged and the 7″ video monitors integrated into the driver and passenger headrests provide endless entertainment for the little ones. Second row seating offers enough leg room for almost any sized adult, provided they don’t have a hyperactive growth hormone. As is typical, the third row bench is best left for the kids. When occupied, cargo space will only suffice for moderate grocery shops. Don’t panic and succumb to the practicality of the minivan just yet though. The third row will fold flat, expanding your cargo room to a cavernous 95 cubic feet. Costco beware!
The QX80 is as safe a vehicle as it is grandiose. Its filled to the brim with airbags and comes equipped with blind spot intervention and lane departure warning and prevention sensors. It will also stop you from backing into something, or suddenly and forcefully apply the breaks if someone stops short in front of you. A feature I was glad for after being cut off on the highway. In addition to being safe, the QX80 is surprisingly nimble despite its size, though steering did feel a bit on the light side with minimal driver feedback.
Powering the 2015 Infiniti QX80 is a 5.6L V8 that’s good for 400hp and 413 lb ft of torque. All that power can be delivered to either the rear wheels or all four via a 7-speed automatic transmission. Don’t be fooled by the posh interior, with its full-time four-wheel drive and low drive ratios, this is a truly capable off-road machine. All that combined with a snow and tow mode with hill-start assist, and you’ll find that there are few unbeaten paths that can’t be beaten. All that low end grunt from the V8 is especially helpful when towing up to 8500 pounds or accelerating from 0-60 in only seven seconds. Sadly, the V8 also comes with a big engine thirst, only making a combined 16 mpg.
If gas prices continue in their downward trend and big families with money to spend keep on wanting better and brighter, the full size SUV will always have a place in the automotive market. With its recent changes, Nissan has ensured that now more than ever, the Infiniti QX80 is shining extra bright.
Price as tested: $77,185.00