|By: Jeffrey Zygmont|
Infiniti – as the luxury-vehicle brand of Nissan – rounds the corners and smooths the edges of its big QX80 sport-utility vehicle, which helps set it apart from its very close cousin, the Nissan Armada. Both are essentially the same super-sized wagon. And both have the same problem du jour. Now that gasoline prices have jumped so high, their hard-working 400-horsepower V8 engines consume too much gas. Aggravating that problem for the QX80 is Infinti’s recommendation that you run the heavy hauler on premium gasoline. At a national average of $4.80 per gallon as I pen this report, you pay $125 for a full tank of 26 gallons. One year ago, that fill-up with premium petrol ran about $90 – at least you got change back from your C-note.
I’ve seen this before. When gasoline prices shot above $4 per gallon in 2008, car dealers became suddenly stuck with a glut of large SUVs and pickup trucks. New models weren’t selling, and stocks of used guzzlers swelled too, as owners unloaded them. Remember the economic contraction of that year that is often called the Great Recession? It is widely blamed on the bursting of a house-price bubble. But I’ve read analyses by some savvy and free-thinking economists who blame the recession on inflated gasoline prices as much as on housing-market turmoil. We Americans enjoy mobility (as all people do, though we Americans, a prosperous people, are more able to move about in personal transporters than other people . . . or at least we used to be), and when expensive gasoline prevents us from scurrying around as much, our entire economy suffers.
The problem in 2008 became a distant memory. Gas prices sank considerably and pickup trucks and SUVs became favored vehicles once more. But here we go again. And this time, from my reading of current political diktats, I don’t see gasoline prices dropping anytime soon. That’s bad, because a lot of people are going to find that they can’t travel around as freely anymore.
But for drivers who shop in the luxury market and therefore have money enough to remain insulated from through-the-roof fuel prices, the Infiniti QX80 is a good choice for that maximum-capacity car in the garage. Its seven- to eight-passenger cabin handles as many people as any family motorist is likely to transport. And it handles them comfortably and with pampering ease. The QX80 is a sedate and smooth-riding luxury SUV. Significantly, it is optimized for towing, with full-frame underbody construction (pickup truck style), and towing equipment that includes a self-leveling suspension and towing hardware installed in the back (hitch receiver and electrical plug for trailer lights). The QX80 can pull a maximum of 8,500 pounds – plenty for a trailer-load of family recreation machines like boats, jet skis, snowmobiles and ATVs.
I’ve read some reviewers rap the QX80 for seeming too much like the mass-market Nissan Armada to justify the Q’s luxury-car price. (My test model is a top-of-the-line Sensory trim level with four-wheel drive, with a bottom line of $87,985.) But that’s a common complaint when manufacturers sell variations of a single vehicle through multiple brands. Often I have to look for badges to distinguish a Chevy Suburban from a GMC Yukon from a Cadillac Escalade. At least with the QX80, Infiniti rounds corners and gives the model an appropriately softened and sophisticated appearance to set it apart.