Infiniti and Lexus have been at loggerheads ever since they arrived in the U.S. in 1989. They were—and still are—the senior member of their parent brands, Nissan and Toyota. But from the very beginning, Infiniti and Lexus competed indirectly, in the same class but to a different kind of customer with a different kind of car. The Lexus LS400, for example, mimicked more the Mercedes-Benz, solid and quiet, while the Infiniti Q45 had a sportier, more BMW-like mien. Both chased the luxury dollar, but in different ways.
So it continues for 2014, even with full-size luxury sport utilities. This class pairs off the Infiniti QX80 (nee QX56, see name conversion) versus the LX570. The QX80 doesn’t have any particular meaning, other than that it’s than that Q is used for all Infinitis and X for crossovers and SUVs, and the 80, well, it’s the biggest number Infiniti uses.
For the Lexus, we presume that the L means large. The X is similar to that of Infiniti. The 570 represents the size of the 5.7-liter V-8. In displacement, it’s slightly bigger than the Infiniti’s 5.6-liters.
The big V-8’s are there for more than appearances or bragging rights. The Infiniti and Lexus have similar output, 400 horsepower versus 373 horses respectively, and Infiniti edging Lexus again in torque, 413 lb-ft against 403 lb-ft. Both engines are powerful, each with a traditional V-8 roar, but we’d love to have the Infiniti engine in a high performance sports car, it sounds so good.
In part the big engines are there to move the immense body-on-frame sport utes. They’re both two-and-a-half ton vehicles, and if the QX80 impresses with its size, as well it should. It’s almost a foot longer, more than two inches wider and more than two inches taller. Those are the official numbers. We didn’t measure hood height, but by design—the Infiniti’s front fenders towering over the headlights—and by the actual distance from the ground, the QX80 definitely impresses more.
Both can seat up to eight, though the Infiniti QX80 comes with middle row captain’s chairs standard with a three-place bench optional, while the Lexus LX570 has a 40/20/40 bench standard with the two individual seats as an option.
While both vehicles feature power-folding third row seats to make a flat load floor, only the Lexus powers the second row fore-and-aft to make more legroom for the third row, at some inconvenience to those in row number two. As one might expect, accommodations for both are first class up front, business class in the middle (both models heat the second row) and coach in back.
There’s a real difference in personality and relative capabilities, with the Infiniti QX80 favoring highway use while the Lexus LX570 goes all-out for off-road. While both vehicles have a low-range center differential, the Lexus not only can raise for extra ground clearance but also has a “Multi-Terrain Select” system lets the driver select the type of terrain—rock, rock & dirt, mogul, loose rock, or mud & sand –to optimize Active Traction Control. The latter is essentially an electronic-controlled crawl mode, cruise control for the deep woods. The driver can select between five speeds, roughly from one to five miles per hour, and the LX570 will maintain that speed while driving over rocks and logs and such, whether up or down hills. It makes a rather disconcerting chattering as the anti-lock braking system combines with the throttle control to maintain the constant speed chosen. Some find it to be fingernails on the chalkboard annoying, but it works.
The Infiniti QX80, however, has a different kind of adaptable suspension. The “Hydraulic Body Motion Control” system, available on both 2WD and 4WD models as part of the optional Deluxe Touring Package, suspension travel is controlled automatically “by hydraulic chambers integrated into each shock absorber. The chambers are cross-linked with piping, allowing for the transfer of hydraulic fluid, managed seamlessly by nitrogen-charged accumulators, from one side of the vehicle to the other.” The result is flatter cornering, with less lean.
The Infiniti QX80 is a more capable tow vehicle as well, rated at 8,500 lbs, compared the mere 7,000 lbs of the Lexus LX570. Not many owners will approach those maximums—though towing a horse or race car trailer might come near— but it’s good to know they’re as high as they are if they do.
Most people don’t have a need for vehicles this large. They take up a lot of room in a parking lot—the Infiniti’s around-view camera system can help there—and both a lot of premium fuel to get around. The Lexus LX570 is rated at 12/17/14 mpg for city/highway/combined, compared to the Infiniti QX80’s 14/20/16mpg respectively.
The 2014 Lexus LX570 and the 2014 Infiniti QX80 are both well equipped, though options can quickly rise above the base price. The technology the Lexus uses for its offroad ability doesn’t come cheap, the 2014 LX570 starting at $81,780, while the 2014 Infiniti QX80 is relatively inexpensive at only $64,450.