By the numbers: Infiniti’s deluxe SUV stands 6 foot 3 and is wider even than that. It is also 17 feet 4 inches long—more than a Chevy Tahoe, less than a Suburban—and, with all-wheel drive, just a few bricks shy of three tons. It’s got 22-inch wheels. Climbing aboard takes a step up of nearly two feet, hence the running boards. Leg-, foot-, hip-, shoulder- and headroom are size XXL in the first two rows of seats, and I can wear my Resistol Stagecoach hat even in the third-row seats.
More numbers to come, but the most remarkable thing about the QX80 is its ballet-dancer agility. (A retired, slightly overweight ballet dancer, but still.) Today there are crossover SUVs that can outgun sports cars and still clamber over rocks, but among the few remaining heavy-duty, body-on-frame behemoths, the QX80 is not only the most luxurious, it also feels much the lightest and quickest.
Much of the big QX’s startling ability to neutralize gravity comes from its available electronic suspension. Along with twin-tube gas shocks and stabilizer bars, there are sensors that rush hydraulic fluid from one side to the other when the vehicle begins to lean into a corner, and pump it upright. And then there’s the 400-horsepower gas V-8 and the adaptive 7-speed automatic transmission and transfer case, which offer snow and tow (up to 8,500 pounds) modes and can be clicked from automatic AWD to 4 High or 4 Low 4×4 ranges.
Everything is so smooth and so power-assisted—the tailgate and even the shoulder belts have electric motors—and so responsive that just one finger on the wheel and a toe on the accelerator can make the QX80 dance. But do use both hands.
The QX80’s accommodations include power-folding rear seats, three heating/cooling zones and three sets of overhead lights. One option package has a DVD theater with two screens and wireless headsets, and a Bose stereo with 15 speakers. No fireplace or spa.
The plush cabin was designed and decorated by people with good taste and a big budget, but the QX80′s most unusual features are things we can’t see. These include (but are not limited to) cameras, lasers and radars that chime or beep to warn us about backing over the dog or running into the car ahead or the one alongside, or just drifting out of our lane. And then, if we ignore the warnings, they step in to help. Lane Departure Prevention and Blind Spot Warning apply the brakes on one side to tug us back into line. Intelligent Brake Assist reduces speed and can even stop the truck before a front-end collision. BCI, Backup Collision Intervention, will do the same if the driver reverses without paying attention.
If you’re a cellphone-addled driver, these things could save your life (or, even better, mine). Myself, I am a fan of Infiniti’s adaptive cruise control, which eases off the throttle when there’s traffic ahead and smoothly speeds up again when the bottleneck clears.
Naturally, all this luxury, heft, power and baby-sitting comes at a price—several prices. The QX80 AWD starts at nearly $66,000; RWD-only costs about $3,000 less. The Technology Package, which includes the safety nannies mentioned above, adds $3,250. The Deluxe Touring Package is $4,650. All in, the sticker can top $80,000. Then there’s the carbon cost, not to mention the price paid at the pump for just 14 to 20 MPG.
Despite its name, the QX80 isn’t a new vehicle; this is the QX56, which has been Infiniti’s top-dollar hauler since 2004. For 2014, Infiniti re-badged its entire lineup, replacing the various M, G, F, J and E designations with the letter Q. (In honor of Nissan’s very first Infiniti, the 1990 Q45.) Thus the smaller EX, JX and FX sport-utes are now the QX50, QX60 and QX70, and so this one had to become the QX80—although it still has the 5.6-liter engine from which came the original QX56 name.
Got all that? If not, the main thing to remember is that the QX80 does about everything very well, especially for its size.