2016 Infiniti QX80 road test: Big, bold, luxurious and expensive

2016 QX80 sport-utility vehicle

2016 QX80 sport-utility vehicle

It’s called the 2016 Infiniti QX80, but you might recall it better as simply the QX or maybe even the QX56.

Yes, name changes can be confusing, and I frankly am at a loss as to why so many manufacturers choose to confound us. But, no matter the moniker, we are talking about the Japanese manufacturer’s biggest, most luxurious and most expensive sport utility vehicle.

After a mild styling update and a few technological updates for the 2015 model year, the 2016 QX80 continues basically unchanged except for a few trim packages..

QX80 instrument panel

QX80 instrument panel

The top-of-the-line, all-wheel-drive Limited I spent time with is so lavishly equipped that the complete range of comfort and convince features come standard. I began to wonder if I should be looking for a kitchen sink. I didn’t find one, of course, but Infiniti could have found space for it if it so desired.

Instead, the vehicle I drove was outfitted for six or seven passengers —- a pair of comfortable, but not particularly supportive, captain’s chairs in the first and second rows and a bench seat for two teens or, perhaps, three pre-teens in the way back.

A quick few words of caution about that third row bench. It is not easy to access for adults, even with the tumble forward second-row seats. Any adults banished to third row will also find the bench seat and seatback to be hard and unyielding. It almost feels if Infiniti forgot to insert padding.

That said, every one of the passengers will be coddled with plush surroundings, an advanced climate control system, a super deluxe 15-speaker audio system, a smooth and quiet powerful engine, sound deadening to eliminate the annoyances of the outside world, an abundance of the latest safety features and a limo-like cushiony ride.

QX80 front seats

QX80 front seats

So, by now you can obviously tell that the QX80 is hardly the sensible choice for the average harried soccer mom. It is more likely the vehicle of choice for the well-heeled family of four to make that trip to the ski lodge. With its roomy second row and 7-inch color video screens in the front seatbacks, it might also be an excellent retreat for the executive to get some work done while his chauffeur handles the driving chores.

If all of this gets you thinking the QX80 is expensive, you are correct. The suggested retail price is $89,845, including the $995 delivery charge.
I should note, however, that there are less expensive QX80s than the all-inclusive Limited and it apparently is possible to negotiate a lower price for the Limited, too.

Power for this tall, 5,888-pound vehicle is supplied by a 5.6-liter V-8 engine that churns outs 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. It can propel the QX80 from a stop to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds without breaking a sweat.

QX80 second row seats

QX80 second-row seats

Fuel economy is not its strong suit. The EPA estimates consumption of premium gasoline at 13 mpg around town,19 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. I averaged 14.8 mpg, but on one 40-mile stretch of straight, level highway, with just me on board and the cruise control set at 65 mph, I saw the trip computer nudge 20 mpg.

The engine is teamed with a 7-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually using the center-console-mounted gear selector. Manual downshifts automatically match engine speed to the selected gear. In truth, the QX80 does not encourage aggressive driving so I found little use for the manual-shift function. It could come in handy, though, for holding a specific gear when trailering up to 8,500 pounds or descending a steep grade.

The all-wheel-drive system can automatically shift power from 2-wheel drive to 4-wheel drive on slippery or snow-covered roads. It also can be anchored in the 4-wheel-drive high range or, in exceptionally difficult situations, in 4-wheel-drive low range. There is also snow mode and tow mode.

QX 80 third row seating

QX 80 third-row seating

What surprised me the most about the giant QX80 was the ease in navigating crowded city streets or pulling into tight mall parking spaces. The QX80 drives smaller than it looks, in large part because of the excellent sight lines from the driver’s seat to the left and right front fenders. Assisting back-up maneuvers were the rear-view camera and an around-view monitor with moving-object detection. In addition, sensors sound a warning when any part of the vehicle gets too close to another object.

The big SUV’s driving dynamics are provided by power rack-and-pinion steering, independent suspension with double wishbones front and rear, auto-leveling rear suspension and an hydraulic body motion control system that takes the place of stabilizer bars. Big antilock, vented disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist are capable of bringing this big truck to a quick halt.

The motion control system reduces body roll in turns but this definitely does not mean that the QX80 will happily take high-speed romps on the two-lane blacktops.

QX80 cargo space with second-row seats in place

QX80 cargo space with second-row seats in place

The laws of physics simply prevent that in a tall, heavy vehicle with dark-chrome-finish 22-inch wheels and 9.2-inches of ground clearance. Instead, the QX80 is at its best swallowing miles on the interstates.

But, even then, a driver must keep his full attention on the road because the QX80’s vague steering allows it to wander off center if, for example, the pilot take eyes off the road to fiddle with the radio.

Buyers planning to do some off-roading will be glad for the traditional body-on-frame construction, but the QX80 is really more at home on road than off.

Those who plan to do a lot of hauling should note that there are 16.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row seats and 95.1cubic feet with the third row folded to the floor and the second-row captain chairs tumbled forward.

Safety features abound, including a full complement of seat belts, air bags and side curtains; traction control; stability control, forward collision warning; blind spot warning; lane departure warning; predictive forward collision warning; backup collision intervention and adaptive cruise control.

The 2016 Infiniti QX80 is not for the faint of wallet, and that is proven by sales figures that have been averaging around 1,500 vehicles per month. But, for those who want a highly stylized, exceptionally well equipped, full-size sport-utility vehicle, the QX80 might just fill the bill.