“Jacob, what on earth makes you think I’d give you a QX80 after the horrible things you said about it?!” The Infiniti PR rep on the phone, Jenn McCarthy, was incredulous. Livid even. I could see her point.
What if I was wrong?
Just 24 hours earlier I had been riffing on the styling of the Infiniti flagship. I’d done my best impression of Steve Martin from Roxanne with lines about a car whose styling is described by the subtle as “divisive” or “polarizing”.
Jenn had made the point at that moment that the car was supposed to grab attention, and also that the interior was amazing, amenity was great and that the monstrosity [my word] was a joy to drive. I’d scoffed, but afterwards sat thinking. What if I was wrong?
Our rugby club’s first-grade team had just won the division and was playing in a final on the weekend. Carpooling was needed. And I wanted to ferry the guys in style. They’d worked hard, why not reward them? So I reached out to see if the Infiniti QX80 could win me over with its underlying qualities. After all, I wouldn’t want people to avoid me just because I have a face like a smashed crab and the doughy, misshapen form of an inbred Hobbit.
And who better would understand the importance of inner beauty over outward appearance than a club-rugby forward pack?
“Well, you said it was actually really awesome on the inside, let’s see if it can win me over!” I told her.
The Infiniti QX80 packs a serious wallop in the form of a 5.6L V8 good for 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. It revs freely to 6,000 rpm and hides the 2,671 kg of heft with effortless acceleration – I even made some breaks through gaps into traffic.
This engine surges forward. The light-feeling accelerator pedal enhances the effortless sensation of forward momentum. The engine is smooth with a subtle-yet-snarling note that oozes quiet confidence.
Mated as it is to a seven-speed automatic gearbox this engine is a workhorse, stoically going about its business without ever letting on the enormity of its task. The engine is a core part of the effortless driving experience.
It’s backed up by the electric steering. In other cars I complain about over-boosted steering that makes you feel disconnected from the road – but in this instance it’s appropriate. Even in the tight confines of a condo parking garage the steering helps take away some of the size of the car. And yet the QX80 responds well enough to steering inputs for me to avoid some of the lower-hanging pipes and cables running overhead. Thank goodness I had a sunroof to look out of!
You’ll also be surprised by the turning circle. At 12.7 m it’s not exactly small, but for a car of this size and stature I found myself shocked. As a result, parking is a breeze even without the 360-degree top-down camera, front camera, rear camera, parking assist “beeps” and the side mirrors that automatically adjust in and down to help you see the curbs. If you can’t park this rig – the spot is just too damned small. Move along.
Suspension is soft and supportive – like riding an ocean swell. Hit a corner too hard and you will experience the gentle body roll one might expect on a slowly sinking ocean cruiser, but it’s so slow, progressive and stable that it’s almost enjoyable. Scratch that: it is enjoyable. Sorry tires.
Jacob is Not the First to be Impressed by the QX80: Big Luxury Haulers Comparison
The Infiniti QX80 is about pure, unadulterated, too-many-damn-pillows-on-my-bed comfort and it achieves that goal spectacularly. There are bumps on my commute I’ve been airborne over on most motorbikes and at least picked up one wheel over in some smaller, more rigid sports cars – to the QX80 they were mere ripples that passed by silently underneath without any consequence.
There are a few cars that get me to my destination feeling more calm than I did when I left – even in heavy, heavy traffic. This is one of them and not only because it seemed to get the most attention from women of any car I’ve been in. Really, I’ve been in a Jaguar F-Type with the top down and got nothing, this thing? One girl was looking so hard she straight hit the kerb.
And I haven’t even started on the interior yet.
To say the QX80 is luxurious is a dramatic understatement. To claim it’s anything but five-star is frankly wrong. It’s quiet, serene, and more welcoming than just about any car I’ve been in – ever.
Perhaps even more so in contrast with the outside (seriously, yuck), the interior is gorgeous. Real, open-pore wood is in abundance, curved gracefully around the dashboard. The headlining is suede, or mock suede, or something. The point is, I became a ceiling stroker. So did seven burly rugby players.
The balance of colour and materials is worthy of a top-tier hotel, and the aroma of the leather lingers on you long after you exit the car. The seats are pretty much perfect. All of them. Headroom is good in the second row, and acceptable in the third – further to that cause the third row seats have a power-recline function that opens up more headroom and space for the occupants. Passenger volume is 4,319 L, cargo with the rear seats all in place is 470 L, with them down is 1,405 and with all seats flat a max of 2,694.
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The middle row is effectively a pair of lazy boys, and those seats tumble automatically with either the pull of a lever at the top of the chair, or the press of a button in the dashboard. Once tumbled forward access is wide and clear, but the high step in might make access difficult for some.
Not a single person who looked inside or got inside wasn’t in awe of the fit and finish. The sheer opulence of the interior makes the entire car more desirable. Time after time throughout the week I’d see the same process. Person sees car, says car is ugly, looks inside, sits inside, says “wow, this is NICE!” Repeat.
Yet, the QX80 is no delicate flower. With a towing capacity of 3,855 kg (8,500 lb) and a special “tow mode” setting for the transmission and AWD system you can handily haul your favourite toys to the cabin. An electric transfer case offers up 4H and 4L modes for clearing those more dramatic or unkempt cottage trails. Infiniti doesn’t have ground clearance numbers, but any moderately capable gymnast could easily limbo under it.
The QX80 out-Americas the Americans. It’s bigger, more brash and more opulent than many of its competitors – though not quite as big as the GMC Yukon. It’s almost like the designers wanted to satirize the giant American SUV. The problem with satire though, is that if it’s too subtle people think you’re for real. I can only imagine the look on the young designers face when the bosses picked his or her joke design over the real one….
If you think I’m being too harsh on the exterior of the QX80 let me draw your attention to the fake porthole vents on the quarter panel. See what I mean?
At least the wheels are tasteful. Where others might go with gaudy bright chrome to blind you, the gold-hued brushed aluminum 22-inch rims fitted here are elegant and gorgeous. It’s a splash of good taste on the outside that hints at the execution within.
Those enormous wheels are another of the examples of excess inherent in this class of vehicle, which seemed to somehow become less offensive and more charming as the week went on. Coddled into the deeply comfortable driver’s seat, I couldn’t even bring myself to be upset with the fuel economy reading. Rated at 16.9 L/100 km city and 11.9 highway, I spent the first four days of rush-hour commuting up over 20! Only a few longer stretches to the country got me down under 15. And yet I was more bemused than anything else. I might even have used “LOL” as a word.
It takes a lot to transform an opinion of mine so dramatically. In a few short days I went from “Oh God, No. Why? #Nope” to “Heh, this thing is ridiculous and funny” and finally on to “Hey, who wants to come for a drive in the QX80 – this thing is awesome!”
And it is. Comfort-wise, there are few that will match it. Interior quality and design is likewise top notch. The drivetrain is refined and powerful, like a large boat engine throbbing away just under the water level.
The Infiniti QX80 is effortless to drive and immensely capable. If you’re anything like me you might not get it at first. But once you do, you’ll never look back.
4 years/100,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 7 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/100,000 km roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2015 Infiniti QX80 Limited|
|Price as Tested||$94,895|