2014 Infiniti QX80 AWD review:

Massive SUV is overshadowed by its smaller sibling

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Starting at $64,450
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  • Body style SUV

Roadshow Editors' Rating

6.6 Overall
  • Performance 5
  • Features 9
  • Design 5
  • Media & Connectivity 8

The Good The level of standard and optional driver aid technologies available on the 2014 Infiniti QX80 AWD is simply staggering, forming a sort of force field of safety around the vehicle. Standard infotainment and comfort amenities are also on par with many automaker's top-tier setups. There's plenty of room for people and things with three rows of seating and 8,000 pounds of towing capacity.

The Bad Fuel economy is nothing to write home about. Blind-spot monitoring only seems to work at highway speeds.

The Bottom Line The 2014 Infiniti QX80 boasts great safety tech, but it's almost too much vehicle for daily driving. Consider instead the more efficient, slightly smaller JX35/QX60.

For the 2014 model year, the former Infiniti QX56 gets a nomenclature upgrade and is now known as the QX80. Does that mean that it's now powered by an 8.0-liter V-8 engine? No, it's just part of the automaker's new, sometimes confusing product-naming scheme that has renamed all of its sedans with the prefix "Q" and all of its SUVs and crossovers with "QX." As this former and current QX is the largest vehicle in the automaker's lineup, it gets the biggest numeric suffix: 80.

The QX80 is a massive, massive vehicle -- certainly too massive to habitate comfortably on the narrow roads and crowded streets of San Francisco. Fortunately, Infiniti has packed the QX with a number of clever features to make it easier to live with such a giant, but every time I literally climbed into its driver's seat and settled in for a drive, I couldn't help thinking that there must be a better way to move six people than this.

Engine and performance
Under the QX80's hood is a naturally aspirated, 5.6-liter V8 engine that outputs 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque through its longitudinal crankshaft. Variable valve timing and direct-injection technology help the engine to perform this task as efficiently as can be expected and help to flatten out the torque curve for responsive on-throttle performance. It's not a bad engine and is well mated to the QX80's bulk.

Torque flows next through a single-option, seven-speed automatic gearbox on its way to the electronic transfer case of the AWD system. Drivers have the choice between 4H (high) and 4L (low) all-wheel drive gear ratios, but under most conditions, the system should be left in its Auto setting, which is best suited for on-road performance and continually adjusts torque distribution between the front and rear axles as necessary.

2014 QX80 AWD

The former QX56 is still powered by a 5.6-liter V-8 engine.

Josh Miller/CNET

There are no custom terrain programs and the all-wheel-drive electronics are nowhere near as sophisticated or complex as you'll find in, for example, a Range Rover. I've got a feeling, though, that the QX80 only needs to be optimized for one terrain type anyway: tarmac.

There is a Snow mode that optimizes traction in slick and icy conditions and a hill start assistance feature that keeps the big SUV from rolling backwards after stopping on a steep incline by holding the brakes momentarily after you, the driver, release the pedal. The manual shift mode for the automatic transmission also features rev-matched, smooth downshifts, though without a Sport program or paddle shifters, you'll probably just want to leave the seven-speed in its base automatic mode.

Finally, the QX80 features a Towing mode and a Class IV tow hitch with wiring harness for a trailer -- all of which is hidden behind a cover in the rear bumper. When towing, a self-leveling rear suspension should keep the tail lifted even under load, though we were not able to test this claim. Infiniti wouldn't loan us a boat to go along with the QX80.

Though the biggest Infiniti that money can buy is not slow, it's certainly not quick, either. Now, 400 horsepower is nothing to thumb your nose at, but when you consider that the engine needs to motivate 5,878 pounds of luxury wherever it needs to go, you're looking at a power-to-weight ratio of about 14.695 pounds per pony, which is similar to that of a Toyota Venza. The vehicle gets out of its way well enough, but there's a reason that you won't hear a QX80 owner bragging about 0-to-60 times.

You'll also not hear any boasts of fuel economy. At a combined 16 mpg (14 city and 20 highway), the QX isn't embarrassingly thirsty, but I'd like to see Infiniti and Nissan offering a diesel option if they're going to continue to market a vehicle of this size -- if but for no other reason than to increase its cruising range.

Independent double-wishbone suspension components at all four corners give the big-ass SUV a planted feel and a buttery-smooth ride, which is likely exactly what prospective buyers are looking for, and the massiveness of the vehicle itself makes the chassis difficult to upset at lower speeds. Hydraulic body motion control (part of the $4,650 Deluxe Touring package) does its part to help keep the SUV flat when cornering and to control that boatlike bobbing that you typically get in these gigantic, softly sprung luxury land yachts.

Over bumps, the suspension tends to fill the cabin with a deep booming, you may not be able to feel the bumps, but you'll definitely hear them.

Cabin technology and options
However, if your QX80 is equipped with the aforementioned Deluxe Touring package, you'll be able to crank the volume of its 15-speaker Bose Audio system -- which includes not one, but two subwoofers -- to compensate. The audio quality is pretty good and, thanks to Bose's Centerpoint speaker, it sounds as though the important parts of the audio are staged ahead of the driver, while simultaneously filling the cabin with sound.

That Deluxe Touring package also adds Advanced Climate Control System, heated and cooled front seats, and boosts the quality of seating surface to semi-aniline leather (yeah, I had to Google that one, too) and the quality of the wood trim to Mocha Burl wood.

Even without the Deluxe package, you still get a 13-speaker Bose audio system and a full array of digital and analog audio sources. In the dashboard, you'll find a single-slot CD/DVD player that can process DVD-Audio discs (if you manage to find one). In the console, you'll find an analog AV input with RCA connections and a USB input for MP3 playback from portable storage devices and connectivity with iPhones and iPod devices. Bluetooth hands-free calling is also standard with A2DP stereo audio streaming when paired with compatible devices and, of course, you have terrestrial and satellite radio reception.

The also standard Infiniti HDD navigation with voice recognition hasn't changed much for this generation, but that's a good thing. I've always been a fan of this system, which gives the driver three ways to interact: touch-screen inputs, a control knob and extensive physical buttons, and voice command for hands-free calling and address input.

Additionally, drivers who pair a Bluetooth smartphone gain access to the Infiniti Connection concierge service, and SiriusXM subscribers (or those taking advantage of the free trial) gain NavTraffic and NavWeather updates.

Rear seat entertainment

The optional Theater package adds rear-seat entertainment, but you could buy 10 Apple or Android tablets for what you'll pay.

Josh Miller/CNET

Our example was also equipped with the optional Theater package, which in my opinion is sort of a $3,100 relic in the age of cheap tablets. For your money, this check box adds dual 7-inch monitors to the headrests in front of the second row that interface with the DVD player or an additional auxiliary AV input with RCA connectors. Users can listen to the audio independent of the source being played through the main infotainment system with the aid of wireless headphones and can interact with DVD menus with a wireless remote control.

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
Model2014 Infiniti QX80
TrimAWD
Powertrain5.6-liter V-8, direct injection, seven-speed automatic transmission, Infiniti All-Mode AWD w/electronic transfer case
EPA fuel economy14 city, 20 highway, 16 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy9.6 mpg
NavigationStandard HDD navigation with NavTraffic
Bluetooth phone supportStandard
Disc playerSingle-slot CD/DVD
MP3 player supportStandard analog auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming
Other digital audioSiriusXM Satellite Radio
Audio systemOptional 15-speaker Bose Surround sound system
Driver aidsStandard 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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