2016 Infiniti QX80: Luxury and Muscle

By Frank A. Aukofer, May 7th, 2016

The formidable Infiniti QX80 sport utility vehicle is more than a muscular pickup truck without the truck trappings. It is part of a cadre of full-size SUVs with truck underpinnings. These include the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX, Chevrolet Tahoe, Lincoln Navigator, and Dodge Durango.

Manufacturer photo: Infiniti QX80 offers an unmatched combination of power, strength and luxury style -- capable of transporting up to eight adults and their belongings with spacious elegance
Manufacturer photo: Infiniti QX80 offers an unmatched combination of power, strength and luxury style -- capable of transporting up to eight adults and their belongings with spacious elegance

Some are marketed as giant luxury vehicles, though in truth you can equip a Chevy Suburban with enough designer stuff to satisfy any Escalade wannabe. That's true of the Infiniti QX80 as well: It is a fraternal twin of the Nissan Armada, also a big, three-row SUV built like a pickup with body-on-frame construction.

Despite their high prices, dismal fuel economy, and sometimes clumsy handling, these vehicles occupy a cherished place in the automotive universe for a select group, including those with more than a few bucks in the bank who have a large boat or horse trailer to tow.

The QX80 is one of those. It boasts a towing capability of 8,500 pounds along with a four-wheel-drive system that has both low and high ranges, which would indicate substantial off-road capability. It would, except for the fact that the tested Limited model came with beautiful 22-inch alloy wheels shod with low-profile performance tires more suited to chasing sports sedans around curving mountain roads.

This leads to the conclusion that the designers and marketers for Infiniti were angled more toward Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles than an off-road course in Montana. That's not unusual. There are any number of capable off-road luxury SUVs, especially from Britain's Land Rover, that likely will never sully their tires with nasty mud or rocks.

Manufacturer photo: Infiniti QX80 offers an unmatched combination of power, strength and luxury style -- capable of transporting up to eight adults and their belongings with spacious elegance

The QX80 fits the plush profile. Its interior, as expressed by the tested Limited model, is awash in soft mocha leather and wood trim that looks as if it could have been produced by hand in a colonial craftsman's shop in Williamsburg, Va. There's none of that European wood that is so massaged and polished that it looks like plastic.

It comes with third-row seats that, with the touch of a couple of switches, fold easily into the floor for extra cargo, though unaccountably they do not fold flat. Cargo will slide to the rear.

Used for seating they are reasonably accommodating, as long as the three passengers are teenagers or skinny, less-than-average-size adults. To their credit, however, the designers designed the second-row seats to easily flip forward out of the way so that even creaky older adults can climb back there.

But it's a good thing that the QX80 comes with built-in running boards because the step up to the floor from the pavement measures just about 2 feet. Without the running board, some patriarchal passengers might wave goodbye at the curb.

The QX80 also is nearly 6.5 feet tall, so it's important to survey parking garages to determine whether the roof rails will whack something overhead. That's part of the QX80's size, which we have established as formidable. It's not anything you can't get used to -- there are any number of 98-pound young humans tooling around in full-size pickup trucks like Ford F-150s, Nissan Titans, and Dodge Rams.

Manufacturer photo: Infiniti QX80 offers an unmatched combination of power, strength and luxury style -- capable of transporting up to eight adults and their belongings with spacious elegance

Of course, that's if you are of the leisurely persuasion. You don't drive vehicles like this if you are infatuated with cars like the Jaguar F-Type or BMW 4 Series. The QX80 and its cozy affinity group are more slow moving and relaxed, as they must be, given their physics. This QX80 checks in at more than three tons so it's not the sort of vehicle that you fling around curves.

strong>Still, it has its purpose: it's motivated by a powerful 400-horsepower V-8 that delivers 418 lb.-ft. of torque, which never feels challenged. Never mind the 15 mpg overall fuel economy rating. If you can afford the tested sticker of $89,845, you can handle the gasoline price.

Specifications

Base price $88,850 (as tested: $89,845)
Curb weight 6,045 lbs.
Displacement 5.6-liter
Engine type 32-valve V-8 w/DIG
Epa mileage rating 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 26 gal.
Horsepower (net) 400 at 5800 rpm
Overall length 208.9 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 413 at 4000 rpm
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7/8-passenger full-size 4WD SUV
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