First Drive: A Day with the Infiniti QX80
Renting a car for a daylong road trip can sometimes be a hit or miss proposition, depending on what sort of vehicle you end up with. We recently planned a family trip to Estes Park, CO, and decided that renting a single 7-passenger vehicle would be preferable to driving two separate vehicles, so we drove off the rental lot in a full-size 2015 Infiniti QX80.
Our vehicle came fully loaded, with heated leather seats, a navigation system, and a bevy of other technology and safety features, as befitting a full-size luxury SUV that competes with the likes of the Cadillac Escalade, the Lincoln Navigator, the Land Rover Range Rover, the Lexus LX570, and other body-on-frame luxo barges. The QX80’s family tree branched off from the earlier Infiniti QX56, and the fully-evolved QX80 aims to compete for the buyer who wants both luxury and the ability to transport a half-dozen people in comfort.
Passengers for our outing including two adults and four children, ages 4, 9, 11, and 15. Everyone had more than enough space in their well-upholstered seats, with enough room to spare to indicate that the QX80 could convey six full-size adults in comfort.
Interior Volume = Exterior Space
All of that voluminous interior volume translates into vast exterior space, and the QX80 is definitely one large vehicle, and it drives and handles like a vehicle that feels every pound of its three ton curb weight. The QX80 soaks up rough roads with a smooth — if somewhat floaty feeling — suspension, and the superior sound-deadening efforts of Infiniti designers and engineers help keep exterior noise where it should remain: outside.
While the QX80 we drove was quiet, well-equipped, and most-definitely a contender for the full-size luxury SUV crown, the elevated ride height and somewhat overly reactive suspension made for a somewhat disconnected, floating feeling for some passengers, almost like riding a giant, wheeled, leather-covered water bed. It’s not an unpleasant sensation, but the combination of twisty, turning mountain roads, the truck-like ride height, and a sensitive stomach left the youngest member of our road trip contingent feeling a bit nauseous. Obviously there are lots of factors at play here, but luxury SUV shoppers looking for a more car-like driving experience may want to consider less truck-like alternatives like the Audi Q7 and Infiniti QX60.
A Day in the Life of the QX80
So after half a day of traveling through Colorado mountain country, what were our thoughts on the QX80 as a whole? While it’s undoubtedly a well-equipped luxury SUV, the driving dynamics may not be for everyone. The QX80 also had a somewhat polarizing exterior design, with our traveling party serving up mixed reviews on this front: Some felt the QX80 looked the part among its peers in the segment, but others felt that the excessive chrome and exterior design elements bordered on being gaudy and excessive. While the roughly six hours we spent with the vehicle weren’t enough to deliver a full, exhaustive review, it was long enough for us to believe that the QX80 competes well with other full-size SUVs in the segment, but potential buyers looking for a bit less mass (and more driving refinement) in a full-size luxury SUV may want to shop for less-truck-like alternatives.