I’m driving the new Infiniti QX80 full-size SUV on an off-season route that takes me out of Charleston, South Carolina northeast toward the beachy enclave of Sullivan Island and I’m wondering if it comes equipped with an air horn. That thought crosses my mind for two reasons: First, even though the QX80 rises high on the road, it’s wider than it is tall so it fills the lane I’m in right up to the white lines. Secondly, the design of the new QX80 has eschewed the rounded curves of its predecessor in favor of a more angular, upright look that makes me feel like I’m looking out the windshield at the hood of a big rig. Both points are reinforced by design elements, like the thin strip of aluminum beneath the grille that emphasizes the vehicle’s width, while the grille, flanked by high headlights, sits more upright over a raised bumper to call attention to the QX80’s height.
There is no air horn, alas, but the four-wheel-drive QX80 comes equipped with lots of other notable features. Given the vehicle’s sheer size, the most important in my mind is the hydraulic body motion control that reduces roll when cornering to maintain the smooth and steady drive offered by the 400-horsepower V8 engine. This feature is part of a $5,700 deluxe technology package that includes a Bose sound system and a rearview mirror that provides a video view rearward—not something I would use all the time but useful when the rear window view is blocked by passengers, cargo or fog, and ice. Eight different driver-assist features—like a backup collision intervention system that automatically applies the brakes when it detects cross traffic or large stationary objects like trees in the vehicle’s path—are part of a separate $2,900 package. Cameras also provide a 360-degree bird’s eye view of surroundings when parking.
The QX80 is a people hauler with three rows that seats seven comfortably with access to a full range of modern entertainment options like WIFI and USB ports. The interior design reflects the exterior in that the leather seats are more angular-looking with sharper edges. Leather piping completes the contemporary look. The cabin is remarkably quiet underway thanks to improved soundproofing and attention to small details, like slightly altering the vertical angle of the radial steel belt in the tire walls so vibrations are better absorbed when traveling over rough or broken surfaces like gravel roads. The QX80 is the biggest vehicle Infiniti makes but little things often unseen make a difference.
$67,850 base price; infinitiusa.com.