It’s big, luxurious, and built for multi-tasking. Infiniti’s QX80, derived from a hearty truck-like, body-on-frame architecture, employs enough towing muscle for transporting recreational toys and oodles of inside comfort for hosting celebrations on wheels.
If planning ahead, a posse of QX80s, with standard moon roof, make ideal transports when carting triumphant Blackhawk players during next summer’s 2016 championship parade through downtown Chicago. After another bruising season of forechecks and wayward elbows, QX80 provides opulent seating for up to eight plus room enough for Lord Stanley’s hardware tucked neatly behind third row seats.
The first-generation of Infiniti’s largest sport utility vehicle debuted in the 2004 model year to battle posh and profitable Cadillac Escalades, Lincoln Navigators and Lexus LX 570s. While high on SUV performance, Gen One came up short on creature comfort amenities. All this changed in 2011 with the second generation gaining much welcomed interior panache.
Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury division, renamed all vehicles within its product line in the 2014 model year, plucking the letter “Q” as a uniting force. All Infiniti vehicles now begin with “Q.” Whether intentional or a happy accident, it’s a great tip-of-the-hat gesture to Blackhawk’s feisty Coach Q, aka Joel Quenneville. Prior to 2014, Infiniti used a hodge podge of alpha-numeric identifiers including FX37, G37, M56, etc.
Infiniti’s new naming nomenclature brings some continuity. Sedans and coupes start with the Q prefix followed by a numerical factor of 10; the larger the suffix, the bigger the sedan or coupe. The flagship Q70 full-size sedan evolved from the 2013 M56. All five-door crossovers and sport utility vehicles now begin with ‘QX’ followed by a divisible by 10 suffix increasing as vehicle size grows.
Fortunately for this week’s tester, the prefix portion remains unwavering. The 2013 Infiniti QX56 full-size SUV gave way to the Infiniti QX80.
Infiniti is hardly alone in the head-scratching alpha-numeric and vowel-less naming conspiracy prevalent throughout the auto industry, both Imports and domestics pleading guilty. Lincoln Motor Company employees MK prefixes on most models after long associations with sturdy names like Zephyr and Town Car. Acura, the luxury arm of Honda, once sold Legends and Integras until TL and ILS names took hold. Germany’s upscale Audi division marketed A8s and A4s for years.
Although large in stature, QX80’s on-road manners are very civilized thanks to Infiniti’s hydraulic body motion control, reducing body lean when cornering and providing a smooth experience along straightaways. Engine-speed-sensitive power steering allows this 5,800-pound bruiser to pirouette with ease and while breaking away at highway speeds, mimics the silence of a penalty box. It’s the family-and-friends choice when compared the versatile, single-seat Zamboni.
Available in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, QX80 carries up to eight riders (with no-charge optional second-row three-person bench seat) with a large 16.6 cubic feet of cargo room behind the standard third row.
The sole engine is a naturally aspirated 5.6-liter V-8 cranking out 400 horsepower teamed with a smooth-as-silk seven-speed automatic transmission; with a segment impressive maximum towing capacity up to 8,500 pounds. The fuel tank holds a hefty 26 gallons of recommended premium unleaded fuel. Heavy truck-based SUVs never deliver player-of-the-game fuel numbers and QX80 fits that bill. If the $88,000 price tag isn’t an issue neither should the 13 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway. Cadillac Escalade’s 6.2-liter V-8 offers cylinder deactivation (quieting four cylinders at cruising speeds) helping lift highway mpg to 21.
New for 2015, the QX80 ‘Limited’ (our tester this week), spearheads the most opulent offering QX56 or QX80 ever offered. The QX80 Limited, all-wheel-drive and seven-passenger seating standard, comes loaded with everything in the locker room at $89,845 with $995 destination charge and Infiniti’s theater and deluxe technology packages. Starting price for a conventional rear drive QX80: $63,250; add $3,100 for available all-wheel drive.
One notable trademark unchanged since Infiniti’s 1989 birth is the company’s eye-catching logo. Two approaching lines surrounded by a circular outline; a spot-on visual representation of ‘Infiniti.” The logo makes a statement upfront as the center piece of a large, new for 2015 rectangular honeycomb grille. Low-slung headlight housing with light emitting diode (LED) framing automatically switches between high and low beams. Also added in 2015, LED style (smaller, dot-like) three-blink turn signals.
Along each side’s lower levels reside long, narrow static running boards, providing a welcome assist up to the interior. A few full-sizes SUVs (Ford’s Expedition, Cadillac Escalade) offer optional electronically retracting boards moving up and out of the way after entering; a nice touch although Infiniti’s QX80 Limited includes under board lighting and rubber grip strips.
The rear power-operated hatch, hinged atop, opens up as one unit (glass window stays put) with ginormous headroom clearance Third-row power-operated seat backs, with a 60/40 split, individually recline down (and up) with an assist from two right-panel switches. Both front side fenders include three small port windows behind Limited’s large and standard 22-inch dark finish wheels encompassed by circular fender wells.
Inside, truffle brown leather appointments and white stitching adorn the doors, dash and huge center arm rest. Unique to Limited interiors: natural tone ash wood like materials on the dash and doors, flanking the user-friendly, eight-inch multi-function center touch screen.
Blind spot amber illuminations, built into the ‘A’ pillar’s lower front corner, illuminate when vehicles travel through or remain over time at the sides. This location is easier for peripheral vision to spot than in the side view mirrors, where many other rivals locate the lights. Ceiling and pillars include dark, suede-like materials. Driver’s sit high, with a commanding view of the road ahead.
Directly behind the seven-speed automatic transmission shifter in four-wheel drive editions resides a large chrome dial for electronically selecting four-wheel automatic, four-wheel high and, if off-roading, four-wheel low. Also selectable via this same dial are ‘snow’ and ‘tow’ modes providing greater assurance during icing or vacationing times.
Two large analog circles (tachometer, speedometer) highlight the flat instrument panel each flanked at the lower outboard edge with smaller gauges. White backlighting eases quick nighttime glances. A digital information message window resides between large center gauges with category headings selected via a dashboard push button. Centering the dashboard layout; a classic, oval analog clock with 12 dashes representing hours.
Our seven-passenger’s second row included a jumbo-sized planted-and-sturdy center console with dual cup holders and deep storage capabilities. Both front-seat backrests include built-in viewing screens allowing second-row riders to enjoy DVD’s of past playoff performances.
When accessing row three, both second-row chair designs have backrests manually folding down onto cushions via a side lever, wherein the entire unit then flips forward, creating a usable aisle to the three-seat third row. While head and leg room in front rows remain plentiful, the third row is best left for three pre-teen fans or two adults measuring less than six feet.
Sales of QX80 during the 2014 calendar year totaled 12,935, down about 1.5 percent from the previous 12-month cycle. Of Infiniti’s four crossover/SUV’s, QX80 rated second in sales behind the QX60 mid-size crossover.
2015 Infiniti QX SUV
Price as tested: $89,845
Engine: 5.6-liter V-8 engine
Fuel estimates: 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway
Length: 208.9 inches
Wheelbase: 121.1 inches
Height: 75.8 inches
Curb weight: 5,888 pounds
Powertrain warranty: 6 year/70,000 miles
Assembly: Kyusha, Japan