I’ve never really fully understood the SUV market. It seems to me that, most of the time, SUVs don’t really excel at anything.
They don’t function as well as minivans when it comes to people-carrying or schlepping stuff around; they aren’t usually as comfortable or accessible as a conventional sedan or hatchback; nor do they handle as well.
And although they’re ostensibly designed to go off-road, the vast majority are mediocre when it comes to plowing through the rough stuff, barging through the snow or boulder-hopping. It’s estimated that less than two per cent of all SUV owners will actually take them off-road.
I particularly don’t get the breed of high-powered SUVs coming from companies like Dodge, Jeep, Porsche, Land Rover, et al. Some of these monsters have dreadful handling, terrifying fuel consumption, sub-par braking, more power than is good for them and, usually, stratospheric price tags.
But every now and then I come across one of these behemoths I actually like.
In this case, it’s the 2021 Infiniti QX80, which is just about as agreeable a vehicle as you can find.
Available in three trim levels, the QX is full-size and powered by a 5.6-litre V8 engine that develops 400 horsepower. It’s mated to a seven-speed transmission and features an all-wheel-drive system with three settings: Auto, 4High and 4Low.
This engine has been used elsewhere in the company’s lineup (in the Titan pickup, for one) and is one of the QX80’s strongest features. It’s amazingly well-behaved, with buckets of reserve power. I’m hard-pressed to think of a more refined engine of this size and configuration. And most of the time, you can’t hear or feel it.
Give it some gas, however, and it bolts ahead like a sports car. Infiniti doesn’t provide zero-to-100-km/h times, but a few surreptitious runs indicate that it’s in the six-to-eight-second range. That’s impressive. It will also tow up to 3,855 kg (8,500 pounds).
On the other hand, prepare yourself for less than frugal fuel economy – around 17 litres/100 km in town and 12 litres/100 km/h on the highway. Ouch.
There are lots of good things to say about the interior. Nissan/Infiniti has a thing about well-co-ordinated, usable interior spaces and the QX80 is no exception. It has very cool tufted seats (heated and cooled, naturally), tasteful trim, functional and user-friendly switchgear, easy-to-understand knobs and buttons. I felt at home in this one as soon as I slid behind the wheel. And, for some reason, I thought of fashion icon Ralph Lauren when I drove the QX80 – sort of traditional and American, but thoroughly up to date.
A few other little things I liked:
Power-folding third-row seats. A pair of easy-to-get-at buttons at the back of the cargo area allows you to access a completely flat rear storage space – almost 2,700 litres (95.3 cubic feet) – and they work seamlessly.
Built-in side running boards. The QX80 is perched quite high off the ground, which facilitates easy ingress/egress. It’s not a big deal but handy nonetheless.
Excellent noise, vibration and harshness. On the highway, the QX80 is almost completely silent and, at 100 km/h, the engine is loafing along at some 1,800 rpm. This vehicle has ‘long distance cruiser’ written all over it.
I guess what’s most appealing about the QX80 is that, despite its size and heft, it behaves like a conventional sedan behind the wheel. It’s effortless to drive and doesn’t feel like the two-tonne behemoth that it is.
Shame about the fuel economy and price tag – after taxes, levies and other extras, you’ll be up to $100,000 before you know it.
2021 Infiniti QX80
Engine: 5.6 litre V8
Torque: 413-foot pounds
Base price: $79,998
Fuel economy: 17.4 litres/100 km city and 12.1 litres/100 km highway, with premium fuel
Some alternatives: Porsche Cayenne, Hyundai Genesis GV80, BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Audi RS Q8, Cadillac XT5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Lexus NX, Acura MDX
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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