EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 30, 2013

Infiniti QX80 stands out from the herd

Motor Mouth
Jefrey Zygmont

---- — You could think of the 2014 Infiniti QX80 as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but the wolf part isn’t right. A wolf is big, brave, powerful and kind-of bad. Wrapping one in a sheepskin is just a coverup. The wolf doesn’t really have any of the plush, gentle and manageable qualities of a sheep.

The Infiniti QX80 is big, brave and powerful, and you can push it to be kind-of bad. But the vehicle’s plush, gentle and pampering character is also deeply ingrained and real. Maybe it’s better to think of the luxury SUV as a sheep on steroids. Or, better yet , think of the QX80 as a sheep superhero. Its compliant and comfortable nature penetrates deep to its core. But also down deep in that core is more power and ability than you’ll ever find in any mere mortal sheep.

“It has such a beautiful ride that you don’t’ realize you’re driving a big vehicle. It’s powerful, it’s smooth, it’s loaded with technology, but it’s easy to drive,” stated Brian Heney, executive manager of Kelly Infiniti, Danvers.

The Infiniti QX80 is a full-size sport-utility vehicle that provides all the abundant qualities a large, multi-use hauler must have. It seats seven people, with a no-cost option for eight-passenger seating. Its big V8 engine produces 400 horsepower. It can tow up to 8,500 pounds. In its basic form, the QX80 uses rear-wheel drive, but Merrimack Valley drivers go for the all-wheel-drive version at Kelly Infiniti.

As a luxury SUV with a list price above $60,000, the QX80 also lathers on the pampering comforts. It comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel (with heated second-row seats as an option), 10-way power driver’s seat and eight-way power front-passenger’s seat, three-zone climate control, navigation, 13-speaker Bose audio system – and those are just some of the features you can see and touch.

In addition, the big Infiniti overflows with the most advanced technology you can get in an automobile. With some features packaged into the standard model and some added with the optional, $3,250 Technology Package, the QX80 provides back-up collision warning and back-up collision intervention, which automatically applies the brakes to help prevent a crash. Blind-spot warning with blind-spot intervention, along with lane-departure warning and land-departure intervention, help nudge a moving QX80 back into its lane if the driver lets it drift. Distance-control assist, intelligent cruise control and intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning all work similarly, monitoring the roadway ahead of the SUV, alerting the driver to danger and cutting the throttle and applying the brake when necessary.

Next to those abilities, the model’s around-view monitor with moving-object detection can almost seem commonplace. It’s not. The system, a standard feature in all versions, uses four wide-angle cameras to give a bird’s-eye view of the QX, helping drivers park in tight situations. With front and rear sonar sensors, it warns when a moving object – like a pedestrian or another car – is crossing the Infiniti’s path.

“It has so much technology in it that it’s really on the cutting edge,” said Heney. “But it can also do all the same things that another large SUV can do. You can tow a boat. You can put all your kids’ hockey gear inside. You can put skis on the roof.”

But as an all-out luxury hauler, the QX80 also provides a quality that a lot of other models don’t match, Heney said: prestige.

“When you drive it, you feel like you’re arrived. When you pull up in it, people notice you. It makes you feel good. It makes you stand a little taller,” said Heney.

To illustrate the model’s cachet and allure, he noted that the actor Kevin James purchased a QX80 from Kelly Infiniti when he was in the area recently filming the movie “Grown Ups 2.”

In addition to his management role at Kelly Infiniti, Heney is also director of operations for the Kelly Automotive Group. Along with Kelly Infiniti, the North Shore and Merrimack Valley dealership family includes Kelly Fiat of Peabody, Kelly Jeep Chrysler of Lynnfield, Kelly Honda of Lynn, Kelly Maserati of Danvers, Kelly Volkswagen of Danvers, and Kelly Nissan dealers in Beverly, Lynnfield and Woburn.

Because of the generous seating and high hauling capacity of the QX80, families are its primary buyers, he explained. They include people trading up to the luxury class from other large, three-row sport-utilities like the Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition and GMC Yukon Denali. Kelly Infiniti also sells the model to luxury-class drivers moving to the QX from other brands.

“We see businessmen who were driving the Cadillac Escalade or the Lincoln Navigator buying the QX80. We’re taking them over,” said Heney.

The 2014 QX80 was called the QX56 in prior model years. The new designation is part of a nomenclature change at Infiniti. The luxury car brand – a division of the Japan-based car maker Nissan – is now attaching the “QX” label to all of its sport-utility vehicles. Passenger cars has a “Q” designation. Also affected by the change is the 2014 QX50, a five-passenger crossover SUV that previously was called the Infiniti EX.

For this year’s QX80, the name change doesn’t affect the model’s underlying character. It’s still as plush, pampering and mild-mannered as a sheep, but with power and far-out abilities that make it a sheep superhero.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2014 Infiniti QX80 Vehicle type: 4-door, 7- and 8-passenger, rear- and all-wheel-drive full-size SUV Price range: $62,345 to $65,445 (plus options) Warranty: 4 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 6 years/70,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; years/unlimited miles roadside assistance Engine: 5.6-liter V8 Power: 400 horsepower at 5,800 rpm; 413 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm Transmission: 7-speed automatic Fuel economy: 14 mpg city; 20 mpg highway Wheelbase: 121 inches Length: 208 inches Width: 80 inches Height: 76 inches Weight: 5,595 pounds Fuel capacity: 26.0 gallons Turning circle: 41.6 feet