When it comes to big 3-row luxury SUVs, Infiniti is not a name that commonly comes up. Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover are the kings of this roost, but Infiniti wants to charge in with more space, interesting exterior design and better pricing to see if they can steal some sales. I spent a week with the QX80 and ran it through its paces on road and off to try and see if it really has what it takes to be a worthy competitor to the big players. Read on to find out my thoughts.

Watch our video review of the 2015 Infiniti QX80

Let’s start with the look of this thing. Infiniti has built its design language on smooth organic shapes and graceful lines that are a stark contrast to the usually staid and square look of the Germans. On their cars, like the Q50S, this looks amazing. Sadly, when that design language is applied to a large square box of an SUV like the QX80 it looks far less attractive. The nose of the QX80 is flat and blunted, but it still has an odd curvature towards the fenders that makes the whole machine look a bit like a frog that kicked in the face. Move away from the front, and things start to get a little nicer. The sides of the QX80 are fairly flat, but subtle curves in the door skin make light bounce nicely, and it looks more interesting than you would expect. Of course, the profile view is the best way to see those huge 22-inch alloys. They look amazing with their dark finish on this brown paint.

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Move to the rear, and the curved style starts to make some sense. The shape of the rear spoiler and bumper look nice, and I really enjoy the swoopy taillights and the way they wrap around the car slightly. It makes for a much more cohesive look.

My favorite design touch of the QX80 has to be its restraint. Yes, it’s a giant machine with 22-inch wheels, but for the most part, the amount of chrome used is much more subtle than other cars in this class. It gives the QX80 a more upscale, classic feel that I really enjoy.

To really experience what the QX80 has to offer, you need to move into the cabin. I have always enjoyed the interior of Infiniti cars, but the design and detail inside the QX80 is amazing. My car has an optional interior color package called Truffle Brown, and the color of that leather is to die for. It looks amazing in the car, and the actual texture of the leather is some of the best in the class. It feels very thick and sturdy, but the surface is soft and supple.

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On the details front, Inifiniti used a matte finish, open pore wood for the interior trim. This means you can actually feel the grain in the wood, and there is a lot of graining in that wood to see and feel. The color of the wood finish is also very interesting. It’s a lot like a Tabacco Burst finish you may see on an electric guitar. It’s a soft orangy-brown in the middle, and it fades to a much darker brown at the edges. It looks extremely attractive and upscale. Other details include things like the wave-design stitching that is found in the seats and the armrests.

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As far as equipment goes, there is very little to leave you wanting inside the QX80. The front seats are heated and cooled, with more power adjustments than I know what to do with, and of course you have navigation, multi-zone climate control, satellite navigation and cellphone integration with an app suite for using certain smartphone applications.

Rear seat passengers get heaters and their own climate control, but they miss out on the seat ventilation. To make up for it, they do get a pair of LCD monitors and a pair of wireless headphones so that they can be entertained on long journeys. The third row is lacking any real fancy amenities, and space back there is a bit cramped for adults, but it is still luxurious. The seats are still leather, there are dedicated third row vents for the climate control, and the side armrests are leather as well.

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For cargo, just fold down that third row, and there is an acre of space for you to load up. The load floor is a bit high though, so it can be hard to get things into the rear. I you need even more space, the second row will also stow, giving you more room than a small cargo van.

From behind the wheel, the QX80 is exactly as you would expect. It is a smooth, powerful and relaxing. Under the hood is a 5.6-liter V8 that makes 400 horsepower, and it gives the QX80 a fair bit of grunt. Its far from the fastest or most powerful SUV in the class, but it has plenty of hustle to get out of its own way. The transmission is Infiniti’s seven-speed, and it does a superb job of hiding in the background like it should. Shifts are quick and judder free, and you mostly forget there are gears at all. Until you stand on the throttle at least. At that point, the car will hesitate for just a second as it swaps a few gears down, an then you will roar towards the horizon with a nice V8 growl behind you.

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Keeping the truck pointed shiny-side up is a fancy suspension system that auto adjusts itself, and a 4WD system. The 4WD can be shifted on the fly, and it mostly does a good job of getting traction to the proper wheels. I didn’t have enough time to take it into anything crazy, but just bombing around the back fields of my farm, it behaved as expected and gave me no surprises or worries.

Fuel economy is a bit of an issue, as you may expect. With a truck this size, powered by a 400 hp V8 and with 4WD, there is little you can do to save fuel. Still, EPA ratings sit at 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway with 16 mpg combined. I was closer to that 16 number after my week of testing was over. I did try to be gentle with it on some highway cruising and saw the high side of 18, but I didn’t get near that 20 mpg claim.

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So it’s a bit ugly outside, incredible beautiful and well equipped inside, and its alright to drive. So far a pretty good case, but it gets better. The real secret to the QX80 lies in the price tag. Our tester, with all of its options and fancy technology and equipment, rings up with an MSRP of $89,845 after destination. That may seem like a lot, but a similarly equipped Mercedes GL550 will cost you another $10k. A Range Rover, as much as $20k more. That is not chump change, and it gives the QX80 a huge bargaining chip in the showroom. I may think the Range Rover looks better, but it doesn’t look 20-grand better.

Overall I enjoyed my time with the QX80. I loved its soft ride, gorgeous interior and powerful V8. I don’t like how large it is when I have to drive through compact city streets, but out in the country where I live, it’s a great machine. The 4WD is good enough to keep you out of most trouble, and the fuel economy is no worse than a full-size pickup truck. I couldn’t spend $90k on an SUV, but if I was in the market for a three-row that was full of leather and wood, I would have a hard time choosing a Mercedes or a Land Rover over this thing.

Gallery: 2015 Infiniti QX80 Review

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