On the Road Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited Road Trip

With a big road trip planned, what better way to convey four adults, their gear and their planned purchases for 700 miles than a spacious SUV? A delivered Infiniti QX80 fit the bill nicely and off we headed to southern Massachusetts.

The QX80 was redesigned in 2011 yet continues to sell well. While some components show some age, or the lack of components shows the design’s age, the truck performs well, rides well and coddles passengers with first-class flair. The QX80 still looks relative with a bold, brash front fascia, while there is a hint of the confident FX-genes still evident in this truck from the sportier, early crossovers that Infiniti built and shook up the luxury market with. Anyone who ever spent any time in an FX45 knows what I am referring to.

We depart Ellsworth late on a Friday afternoon, heading for hotel accommodations in Woburn — one of few sleeping options on this date due to unknown celebrations and events along the I-95 corridor. We make a dinner stop in Portsmouth, a bustling waterfront downtown that is alive with activity on this cool June evening. The QX has no trouble navigating the narrow streets and we park within 200 feet of our restaurant, using the Infiniti’s excellent 360-degree camera system to squeeze between two luxury sedans.

Our destination(s) are twofold. Primary is Saturday’s Factory Five Open House in Wareham, Mass., just before Cape Cod. Factory Five is one of the country’s largest kit-car component manufacturers, building the body-parts, chassis pieces, and the electronics that enable you to assemble your own car with the engine, transmission and tires/wheels that you provide. Factory Five is primarily known for their licensed Mark IV Cobra designs, as well as their GTM exotic car replica bodies, ’33 Ford Hot-Rod knock-offs and new 818 coupes that use Subaru components.

Owner Dave Smith is one extremely energetic entrepreneur. He bounces around the open house like a 5-year-old hooked up to a candy dispenser. He leads hundreds of folks on a tour of his solar-powered factory, where modern CNC machines cut aluminum parts in consistent precision. Computer-guided fiberglass construction is also illustrated, while the chassis welding is Dave’s favorite stop on the long walking tour. He clearly has a passion for what his people do (42 employees) and the quality is beyond reproach.

Outside, over 100 Cobra replicas are lined up in the parking lot, coming from Maine, Vermont, and even Ohio. Some are beautiful; a couple are still original rough, while several are SEMA-show quality, hand-built beauties that are driven on the street. In 20 years, Factory Five has sent to customers over 12,000 kits. There is a huge following nationally for Dave’s products, and several builders still race their Cobra cars.

A couple of nice samples are for sale. But coaxing the wives into sharing a Daytona Blue Cobra between families doesn’t strike the same enthusiasm as Nat and I have for the project. Maybe it is the lack of side windows, or a top, as these purpose-built roadsters just ooze thunderous power, speed and power-sliding track maneuvers. I guess if we buy one we would not be able to claim the company’s slogan, “Built not Bought”.

With the mercury now rising and the sun wasting those nasty clouds from earlier in the morning, destination number two looms ahead as we pile back into the Infiniti after a quick snack. Tailgating is just one of the pursuits surely enjoyed by owners as this seven-eight-passenger wagon affords numerous opportunities for family outings. With the third row seats power-folded forward, we have a large flat deck for our traveling gear and what next proves to be fortuitous — a shopping trip to the IKEA store.

Just north of Brockton off Route 24, the IKEA retail outlet is like nothing we have ever seen. The building is flat-out huge, the size of three or four Walmarts. It is a four-story structure, with all of the parking on the ground floor. The lot is packed.

Inside, there are wall maps, walking maps, and guide maps on the floor to guide you on your traveling safari through this housewares extravaganza. Add in the sounds of six different languages in culturally diverse greater Boston, and we are on immediate sensory overload. In addition, we have not even entered the warehouse section, with aisles hundreds of feet long, stocked, and stacked, with pallets of Swedish/European consumerables.

Almost four hours later, we exit with shopping carts of stuff, brains full of plans for home remodels, and mention of another return trip to “spend more time exploring”. Nat has already asked me how many days have we been here, so the prospect of returning dims our enthusiasm for this shopping mega-store.

Now the Infiniti’s vast interior reveals another advantage — the space for traveling gear and purchased items. The second row bucket seats swallow occupants with the same degree of comfort as the fronts, with rear heaters and climate controls too, as well as dual-screen entertainment. Posh comes to mind.

Plowing through northbound I-93 traffic, we head for home. The QX is a smooth road warrior. It is quiet and the chassis — aided by automatic load-leveling and Body Sway control — adroitly moves through traffic. While not a svelte handler, the QX tips the scales to three tons, the truck is composed and civilized in the urban sprawl environment that owners live in. Steering is responsive if not fast, and the brakes worked very well when slower traffic demanded immediate attention.

Hustling along in this environment, our fuel economy dipped to 15 mpg — exactly what the EPA projects (13/19/15 mpg). At a more consistent highway pace, 75 mph, and combined with some suburban coastal Maine travel, the big QX returned a high of 19.9 mpg during its lengthy visit. Premium fuel is recommended to maximize the 5.6-liter V-8’s 400 hp.

With sales up so far this year, a third generation QX80 must be on the drawing board, another big SUV derived from the remodeled Titan pickup platform that forms this truck’s foundation. Maybe Infiniti will offer a version of the Titan’s new Cummings diesel, tuned for efficiency more than maximum tow power. The current QX can pull 8,500 pounds; it seems doubtful that buyers need more trailer pull than that.

Gripes are few and reflect what could be construed as the growing maturity of this design. Portals for plug-ins are few, the lane-departure warning system beeps incessantly on narrow two-lanes until deactivated, and the high rear load height will be imposing for some smaller stature drivers. The lighted running boards, LED strips underneath, add some nocturnal assistance while the forward LED lights make dark interstate travel much less stressful when Bambi is on her death walk.

A two-wheel drive QX starts at $62,700. Add the full-time AWD/4WD setup and the sticker moves to $64,245. Our sample Limited stretched the sticker to $89,845 with a plethora of features. A seven-speed automatic is standard.

The QX is large, stretching 208 inches stem to stern while riding on a 121-inch wheelbase. Riding on optional 22-inch wheels, ground clearance swells to well over nine inches, yet the running boards make entry and exit graceful.

Fast, smooth, quiet, the QX80 remains the Asian Escalade.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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