Large luxury and not so luxurious, sport utility vehicles can cost from $50,000 to $100,000.
Familiar nameplates are Lexus LX, Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover Range Rovers, GMC Yukon XL, Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition.
Less known is the Infiniti QX80 large luxury SUV with an unmatched combination of power, strength and luxury style.
The $66,350 AWD model costs $3,100 more than the rear-wheel-drive model but they share the same engine and amenities.
For 2015, the QX80 receives updated exterior styling and a number of interior refinements. In addition, a new QX80 Limited joins the lineup with unique exterior highlights, ultra-luxury cabin and state-of-the-art entertainment and safety technology. These include such items as Infiniti's Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), lane departure warning and lane departure prevention, distance control assist, and intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning.
Three new exterior colors are offered for this model year, including Hermosa Blue, Graphite Shadow and Majestic White.
Capable of transporting up to eight adults and their belongings with spacious elegance, both the QX80 rear-wheel and QX80 all-wheel drive models come equipped with a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V-8 with Infiniti's VVEL (Variable Valve Event & Lift) technology and Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG). The engine is connected to a fuel-saving seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, and because road conditions are unpredictable, the QX80 automatically adjusts for better traction, which empowers the driver with a greater sense of command in all seasons.
With the standard Class IV hitch, this SUV can tow an 8,500-pound trailer. The AWD QX80 is armed with a computer controlled transfer case offering settings in automatic, four-high and four-low.
During a week of testing, off-roading through a field of six-inch snow was a breeze with no need to use the torque settings offered by the transfer case. In fact, the ride through the snow was barely noticed, almost like riding on a paved and clean highway.
Standard are 275 tires mounted on aluminum-alloy, six-spoke 20-inch wheels. Optional are 14-spoke, darkened chrome 22 inchers that are in a $2,400 package. Ventilated disc brakes measure 13.78 inches front and rear. This is a big vehicle requiring wide tires as well as sizeable wheels and brakes. The brakes have been tested bringing this heavy beast to a stop from 60 miles per hour in less than 124 feet. This is outstanding for a vehicle that weighs 5,878 pounds.
Premium fuel is recommended for the 26 gallon fuel tank and this is wise as the tested QX80 averaged 15.3 miles per gallon with one person aboard during the week of test driving. The drives were equally mixed between interstate, suburban and city travel. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the vehicle at 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. It can race from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which is a remarkable feat, but this is a competent, agile and athletic sport utility.
The QX80 is not designed for fuel economy but for comfort. Thrown in is a great degree of safety as this huge machine dwarfs most passenger vehicles on the highway. This feeling of safety extends from the driver's seat to the six other leather-covered seats in this three-row, seven-seat SUV. If opting for 22-inch tires and wheels, seating space in the third row will be compromised. Also, the ride can be less smooth with the larger tires and wheels.
The tested QX80 had a complete package of passive and active safety systems including a 360-degree parking camera, lane departure and blind spot intervention systems and smart cruise control.
Typical of the luxuries on this vehicle are lighting under rubber-capped stainless steel side steps, leather seats with contrasting silver stitching, ash wood accents, suede headliner and matte finishes, and thick carpets serving all three rows. The steering wheel automatically swings up and out of the way when the driver's door is opened.
Little in the line of luxury is taken for granted, which means along with multiple power appointments such as (express) windows, front heated and cooled seats, door locks, smart start, foldable and heated exterior mirrors, there is a power tilt and telescoping heated steering wheel plus a power open and close liftgate. Redundant audio controls mounted on the steering wheel are lighted. The third row of seats are raised or lowered by pushbutton controls inside the cargo area.
Although large, the QX80 turns a tight circle, handles nicely around curves and maintains great balance on rough roads and railroad crossings. The vehicle rides like a car with an automatic air suspension system, which means a minimum of pitch when stopping or lean when turning. A mechanical center differential and a center limited slip differential help explain why travel through relatively deep snow should be of little concern.
On the practical side, besides the off-roading capability, the QX80 has overhead roof rails and crossbars, and a second and third row that fold for storage purposes. Behind the upright third row, there are 16.6 cubic feet of storage space. When the third row down is down, storage expands to 49.6 cubic feet behind the second row. When both rows are folded flat, storage is 95.1 cubic feet. Cupholders and power outlets abound.
The heated first-row seats cater to occupants with power adjustments and available cooling climate. Second-row passengers relax in class-leading legroom and captain's chairs with optional heating, or an available bench seat. For third-row passengers, comfort is found in the shaped contours of the seats that power-recline.
A Bose sound system with 13 speakers and two subwoofers services AM-FM-SiriusXM satellite radio with real-time weather and traffic, CD/DVD with MP3 playback, radio data system, audio streaming via Bluetooth, 9.3 gigabyte music box hard drive, voice recognition, 8-inch color screen, USB port for iPod or other compatible devices, and auxiliary audio and video input jacks.
A $2,400 optional 'theater' package includes, besides heated rear outboard seats, a rear seat entertainment system including dual seven-inch color monitors in the backs of front seat headrests.
Several years ago the QX56 became the QX and the five Infiniti luxury cross-overs (sport utilities) use that moniker today including the QX50, QX60, QX60 Hybrid, QX70 (formerly the FX) and QX80.
Audi's Q7 and BMW's X6 are more mid-sized than full-sized SUVs and, as such, are not in the same large V8-type of SUVs such as the QX80.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz G-Class with the V8 engine is in a large SUV class of its own due to price. It is priced from $115,000 to $137,000. For the money, the QX80 offers more in terms of comfort and technology.
Infiniti's 2015 QX80 is equipped with the company's emergency and information system known as Infiniti Connection. It is similar to the system popularized by General Motors known as OnStar.
The system has automatic collision and alarm notification, emergency call, enhanced roadside assistance, stolen vehicle service, remote door lock and unlock service, maintenance alert and information on where to find restaurants, points of interest, fuel stations and hotels.
Infiniti Connection will inform on drive zone, speed alert, and other legal road information.
From the vehicle, an occupant can press the headset button on the navigation screen to get directions or to speak to an Infiniti "personal assistant."
In case of an emergency, press the SOS button.
The connection app can be downloaded from the Google Play or Apple App Store.
For information, visit InfinitiUSA.com/intouch/connection
. FAST FACTS
all-wheel-drive model of 2015 Infiniti QX80Type:
full-size, three-row, seven-passenger sport utility vehiclePrice:
Engine: 5.6-liter, double overhead cam, 32-valve, 400-horsepower V8Transmission:
seven-speed shiftable automaticWeight:
75.8 inches with roof railsStep-in height:
22.4 inchesLeg room:
39.6 inches first row, 41 inches second row, 28.8 inches third rowCargo:
16.6 cubic feet all rows up, 49.6 with third row down, 95.1 with second and third rows loweredFuel tank:
41.6 feetTires (275), wheels (alloy):
ventilated discs, 13.78 inches front and rearWarranty:
four years or 60,000 miles, roadside assistance, six years or 70,000 miles powertrainAssembly: