The habitat of the big truck-based SUV has been decimated in most regions of the U.S., not just by a downsized economy but also by downsized housing developments, downsized parking spaces and garages.
The big SUV has its assets, particularly when hauling the family and the trailered toys to the lake, marina, mountain, desert, horse shows or a night out.
Including today’s tester, the Infiniti QX80, there aren’t many big SUVs remaining in this segment. Among them, the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator, with some share by the Lexus LX, Dodge Durango, Mercedes-Benz GL and Range Rover LWB.
The test truck was the new top-line QX80 Limited AWD with seven seats. It has a starting price of $67,345, including the $995 freight charge from Kyushu, Japan. As-tested, it was $89,845 with five factory option packages, including the $10,000 Limited package, which added such extras as open-pore matte-finish ash wood trim, Truffle brown semi-aniline leather, seat-stitch quilting, ultrasuede headliner, dark chrome exterior trim and huge 22-inch tires and alloy wheels.
As equipped, the Limited was a faux suede cave with second-row thrones and power-folding third-row seats. The luxury appointments are rich and many, fulfilling a $90,000 vehicle.
The level of luxurious refinement and precise assembly goes beyond the Cadillac Escalade, but like the Escalade, it’s still a palatial treatment to a truck with some working-class clumsiness. It’s still a truck when climbing into the back seats, whether second or third rows, even with the aroma of semi-aniline leather.
The first and second row seats are plump and full-bodied with the visually engaging quilting and piping. The open-pore wood is rich and radiant. The driver’s seat is the command center with substantial, open real estate to provide plenty of storage, connections for electronic devices and cup holders for crowd sourcing.
The exterior styling is not knife-edge lethal as the Escalade, but the Infiniti’s curves and plumpness have a cohesive design throughout, particularly the rear end. On some lux SUVs, the rear defaults to “truck” and gets slapped with an awkward tailgate design, weird taillights, tacky license plate “garnish” and a bumper.
This is a big AWD rig, weighing nearly three tons (5,888 pounds), but well powered with a 400-horsepower, direct-injection 5.6-liter V-8 with 413 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. It can pull trailers up to 8,500 pounds. The 26-gallon tank just doesn’t seem large enough for a long-distance cruiser such as this.
Acceleration can be quite brisk when maintaining your line in traffic. The seven-speed automatic rolls easily through the gears and even has rev-matching downshifts, for those bold enough to attempt. Fuel economy ratings are 14 mpg city, 20 highway and 16 mpg combined, on premium fuel.
Infiniti’s All-Mod AWD has a computer-controlled transfer case for high and low ranges and modes for snow, tow and hill-start assist.
The steering is light but precise, even with the 22-inch tires. The turning circle is about 42 feet (maybe more) but crunch issues in parking lots are mitigated by the front, rear and around-view camera system.
The optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control system (part of the $5,550 Deluxe Technology package) is a magic act in how it smooths, settles and balances the ride; a self-leveling rear suspension is standard. Braking is adequate from 13.78-inch vented four-wheel disc brakes, but I wasn’t hauling a travel trailer down a mountain grade in summer.
Also in the Deluxe Tech package are blind-spot intervention, lane-departure and prevention. The Driver’s Assistance Package, $2,100, adds Backup Collision Intervention, blind spot warning, intelligent cruise control (with full-speed range), Distance Control Assist, brake assist with Forward Emergency Braking and Predictive Forward Collision Warning.
You can take most of the country out of the SUV — and the parts that can’t be deodorized can be forgiven because it’s a truck. The full-size SUV may be happiest in wide-open spaces, but the Infiniti QX80 Limited is a posh wagon with an urban swagger.