2014 Infiniti QX80 AWD review: Massive SUV is overshadowed by its smaller sibling

The most useful feature of the Theater package is the remote tip-up for the second row seats, which flips the second-row bucket forward at the touch of a button to allow easier ingress and egress for third row passengers.

Outstanding safety with the Technology package
The available Technology package is a must grab for QX80 drivers, though it should probably be renamed the "Safety package." The safety features added with this $3,250 check box were the most impressive part of my week with this vehicle and made this fan of compact economy cars feel significantly more comfortable behind the wheel of one of the largest vehicles to pass through the Car Tech garage this year.

QX80's adaptive headlamps
Add the Technology package to wrap the QX80 in a virtual force field of safety tech. Josh Miller/CNET

The QX's safety features can be split into two categories: Warnings and Interventions.

In the Warnings category, there's blind-spot monitoring, which flashes an LED at the base of the A-pillar when a vehicle is in the QX80's blind spot and sounds an audible alert if the driver then activates the turn signal. Lane departure warning beeps at the driver when the vehicle drifts out of its lane without signaling. Forward-collision warning sounds an audible alert to notify the driver that a collision may be imminent when approaching a lead vehicle too quickly.

My sole complaint is that the blind-spot monitoring only seems to work at highway speeds, when I could use its guidance in squeezing the long chassis into traffic at much lower speeds.

The next level is Intervention technologies, such as blind-spot intervention and lane departure prevention, which can gently pull the vehicle back into its lane when drifting or changing lanes when a vehicle is in the QX80's blind spot. Intelligent brake assist automatically starts braking the vehicle when it detects that the QX is about to rear-end another vehicle and distance control assist lifts the inattentive driver's foot off of the accelerator with haptic feedback when following another vehicle too closely. Backup collision intervention automatically applies the brakes if the driver ignores the proximity sensor's beeping (or if a person suddenly enters the path of the vehicle) to prevent collisions.

Additionally, the Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, which can maintain a safe following distance with vehicles ahead and can even bring the car to a total stop in stop-and-go traffic. Adaptive HID headlamps also automatically level to prevent dazzling other drivers and steer slightly with the front wheels to illuminate around corners.

The driver can decide which of these intervention or warning systems to use in a menu accessible via the dashboard display. These systems can then be easily activated or deactivated at the touch of a steering wheel button that looks like a force field of safety around a vehicle, which is exactly what this system at its full activation is. We joked during our testing that level of safety tech makes the Infiniti the ultimate vehicle for texting while driving -- it practically drives itself -- but for parents who fill the QX80's six seats with children and occasionally need to split their attention, having an electronic eye on the road and a virtual force-field of protection can be a very good thing.

We joke that the QX80 practically drives itself, but it doesn't. The driver still needs to be involved in the driving and still has priority to override any of the intervention systems. If you need to change lanes quickly, it's so easy to push past the lane departure prevention system's intervention that it's almost like it's not there. When the gas pedal presses back because the Distance Control Assist system has stepped in, the driver can simply maintain pedal pressure and push past it. In this way, the intervention systems are more like gentle nudges during lapses in driver attention rather than taking the driver out of the loop.

This same feature set is available and has been tested by CNET on the smaller Infiniti JX and FX crossovers -- which have been renamed the QX and QX (sigh).

Around View Camera
The standard Around View Camera comes in handy whan squeezing the big QX into tight spaces. Josh Miller/CNET

Standard convenience features
In addition to the optional tech features, the QX80 comes loaded up with a respectable array of convenience amenities. We've already mentioned the standard audio and navigation setups, but there are also power-adjustable front seats and a power liftgate that raises and lowers with the touch of a button. Keyless entry and start allows the QX to be started without removing its remote fob from a pocket or purse and remote start allows the driver to start the vehicle from afar.

Perhaps my favorite standard feature is Infiniti's Around View Monitor system, which uses four cameras located on the front and rear ends of the vehicle, as well as in the side mirrors, to stitch together a bird's-eye view of the area around the QX80 when parking or squeezing through tight spots. With its high hoodline and large footprint, this camera system (along with its rear and forward split-screen view) proved invaluable when driving the QX down the narrow alleys and cramped parking garages around CNET's offices. Front and rear sonar-based proximity detection and moving object detection helped to judge those last few inches when squeezing into a parking spot.

Even with this extra level of protection, you're probably better off giving the QX lots of room to stumble around. Suburbanites only need apply.

Pricing and summation
The QX80 starts at $61,350 for the rear-drive model and steps up to $64,450 for our AWD model.

Our tester was also equipped with a Cargo Mat, Cargo Net, First Aid Kit package for $200 and a $2,450 Tire and Wheel Package that bumped the standard 20-inch wheels up to 22-inchers wrapped in all-season tires. With destination charges, that brings us to $79,095, as tested.

You may need to haul six people in the lap of luxury while towing 8,500 pounds worth of boat, jet-skis, or whatever, but I think that most people looking at the QX80 would be better served with the smaller Infiniti JX35 , er, QX60. (Have I mentioned yet that I hate Infinti's new naming convention?)

2014 Infiniti QX80 AWD
The QX80 is a tough luxury tank, but make sure you need its towing capacity before buying too much car. Josh Miller/CNET

The QX60 still seats 6 to 7 with its three rows of seating with a bit less interior volume, though anyone larger than a small child would be miserable in either vehicle's third row for more than a short hop. The QX60 has a similar power-to-weight ratio, is more fuel efficient, has a smaller on-road footprint, and is available with the nearly the same Technology package that I've raved about while reviewing the QX80. In all-wheel-drive trim, you still get about 5,000 pounds of towing capacity (with the optional tow package) and even fully loaded up, you're saving about $20,000 by choosing the crossover over the SUV and, let's face it, you're not really taking these things off-roading anyway.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Infiniti QX80
Trim AWD
Powertrain 5.6-liter V-8, direct injection, seven-speed automatic transmission, Infiniti All-Mode AWD w/electronic transfer case
EPA fuel economy 14 city, 20 highway, 16 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy 9.6 mpg
Navigation Standard HDD navigation with NavTraffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player Single-slot CD/DVD
MP3 player support Standard analog auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming
Other digital audio SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Audio system Optional 15-speaker Bose Surround sound system
Driver aids Standard Around View Monitor, front and rear proximity alerts, Optional Technology package safety features
Base price $64,450
Price as tested $79,095

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