Years ago, I loaded the family into the first generation of Infiniti‘s mega-sized luxury SUV, then known as the QX56. We were headed for Pocono International Raceway, where the annual International Motor Press Association Test Days event was taking place. More importantly for the kids, the final destination was the newly opened Great Wolf Lodge.
We loaded that bad boy full of the assorted flotsam that accompanies a family of five on a week long road trip, no doubt adding to the truck’s overall weight substantially. Normally, I wouldn’t consider extra load to be much of an issue with a vehicle with an already sizable heft but I realized a weak point in the vehicles chassis as soon as we encountered the Appalachian mountains. Naturally, the climb was of no concern, but what goes up, must come down and we first discovered how woefully under-braked the truck was when slowing for an exit ramp on a long and steep downhill with a 75 mph speed limit. The pedal faded so badly that I almost overshot the ramp and nearly made a mess of the leather seats.
So what does a tale about a 10 year old predecessor have to do with a modern vehicle? Nothing really, except that we recently spent a week with a 2017 Infiniti QX80 and made a point of putting it to work. To write a review saying that the QX80 is huge, gorgeous and luxurious would be an insult to readers’ intelligence. One does not need to be told these things, one just needs to open their eyes. Some QX80 buyers however will actually want to make use of the big truck’s utility aspect, so we thought we would see how it likes to work.
As beautiful as the exterior shape is, Infiniti has elevated the interior of the QX80 to a true world class contender. Quilted leather abounds, with real wood and metal accents for good measure. It goes without saying that the seating is comfortable and just about every modern convenience one can think of is built in.
Fold down all the seats and one is presented with a gargantuan cargo area. One might even compare it to the mighty Hercules cargo plane except for one nagging issue: The seats do not fold flat. In fact, they are tilted upwards like a ramp. So much so that cargo needs to be loaded into the flat rear area first to prevent smooth bottomed items loaded into the front from sliding aft when loading. Even still, when loaded carefully the QX80 swallows a prodigious amount of stuff.
Remembering that the QX80 is a proper truck, it is no surprise that there isn’t even a tiny bit of sag in the suspension when the cargo area is heavily loaded with cases of pop, water, full coolers and other stuff needed for BBQ events.
Hidden behind the rear bumper fascia is a seriously heavy duty looking trailer hitch, which is easily revealed with the twist of two plastic trim buttons. Utility hidden by beauty. Our small BBQ event trailer was dwarfed by the luxo-truck, which towed the kitchen on wheels without complaint. Again, the added tongue weight on top of the full cargo area elicits no droop of the rear suspension.
Thinking back to my opening bit about the QX56, it is important to note that the QX80 did not exhibit a single sign that we were putting it to work, even when fully loaded, with a loaded trailer attached. It just soldiered on, keeping its occupants comfortable and the driver confident.
At a tick under ninety five grand for the Canadian market, the QX80 isn’t for everybody. If the only off-roading you will ever do however is making a spring visit to the gravel parking lot at the Muskoka Store, then the big Infiniti makes for a more stylish alternative to say, a Range Rover. The QX80 offers more interior space and arguably more comfortable appointments than the British SUV, at a fraction of the price.
Winter’s first blast of the 2016/2017 season came on the very same day that we were scheduled to drive two thirds of the way across the Greater Toronto Area to join the good folks at Nissan Canada for an early VIP screening of the new Star Wars franchise flick Rogue One. We left our driveway with a couple of hours to spare, figuring that this would leave us sufficient time to deal with the slowdowns caused by the pre-Christmas storm.
“Cool, it looks like we are making the jump to light speed in the Millenium Falcon”, I exclaimed to my oh so tolerant missus as we accelerated onto the highway, as the QX60’s gorgeous LED headlights lit up the rapidly falling snow. You see, Mrs. Grant is not a particular fan of the Star Wars films and would have been happier to be catching up on season 8 of Dexter in front of a roaring fire.
Our test vehicle had been shod with a set of Toyo Observe GSi5 Winter tires, descended from the Toyos that we used to rely on during Winter rallies more than twenty years ago, so I had high hopes that the overall package would be competent in the white stuff. What I didn’t expect was for the package to conquer Old Man Winter like a Yeti scaling Mount Everest.
Maybe ten kilometers into our drive, four lanes wide became three and traffic slowed to a reasonable 60 km/h, so I eased the Infiniti over into the right lane, which was no longer being used. The transition between hard pack snow to deep ruts and then just deep snow were barely noticeable behind the wheel, as the QX60 simply went where I asked it to, with no drama whatsoever. Inside the cabin, the heated seats and steering wheel kept the humans toasty.
Soon, traffic came to a standstill and four lanes became five, as patience waned and motorists tried everything to somehow escape the traffic. With 45 minutes remaining until curtain time, we had covered about a third of the distance to the theatre and there was no way we were going to make it to showtime. A decision was made and we exited the highway in search of dinner.
Avoiding traffic clogged main streets for a while, we chose twisty side roads, which had been untouched by snow removal machinery. As any self respecting Canadian boy should, I switched off the stability control and began to explore the limits of traction. Simply for research sake of course, so that I knew what my vehicle would do if presented with an emergency situation!
Normally, I am not a big fan of CVT transmissions, but the unit in the QX60 flawlessly transmits the 3.5l V-6’s 295 horsepower to the all wheel drive system flawlessly and adds to the cocoon effect we were feeling in the Infiniti’s cabin. While looking sleek and sporty, the seven passenger QX60 is still quite a large vehicle, but the powertrain offers just the right level of oomph for a bit of Winter play. When asked, the all wheel drive system sends just enough power to the rear wheels to allow for long, gentle and easily controlled drifts.
We found a pub North of the city and sat down to enjoy a meal before heading home. By the time we had finished dinner and headed out onto some rural highways, there were next to no vehicles on the road. As our speeds rose to the dry norm, the QX60 was simply unfazed by the road conditions. The Toyos offer an unbelievable level of grip, the limits of which are gentle and easily taken in stride by the Infiniti’s stability control system. We ventured onto a new section of toll highway with long, sweeping ramps and found that even at elevated speeds, the QX60 was equally as stable as it was at lower speeds.
One of the challenges that Nissan has faced in the past decade or so on the passenger car side of the market is overlap between models which leaves consumers somewhat confused. Maxima was a mainstay in the Nissan fleet for years, until the G35 was introduced. Suddenly, the company had two very cool, competitively priced sporty sedans. As the G has evolved into the Q, Maxima remains somewhat in limbo, which is a shame, as it is a great car. What does this have to do with the QX60? The reality is that the QX is a gussied up Pathfinder. While the Pathy model line begins at just over 32 grand here in Canada, the QX60 starts at close to 48K. Our review unit rang in at more than $63,000, not including the Winter rubber.
Quite frankly, the QX60 feels worth every penny. The interior fit and finish, comfort and performance easily equal or better anything from more expensive luxury brands, like say Land Rover. I can’t help but wondering however, if it is worth so much more than its Nissan sibling. We’ll be driving a Pathfinder in a couple of weeks to answer that question.
With the proliferation of all wheel drive systems and advanced active driver aids, good Winter driving performance is not uncommon in today’s family utility vehicles. The way in which the QX60 conquers Winter is different than most though, as it is completely unfazed by changing conditions. In a market full of talented players, the QX60 is simply the most confident family hauler I have ever driven in adverse conditions. In a time when driving safely is more important than ever before, that confidence alone is worth the price of admission.
With all of the social media hype surrounding short video postings, I have decided to start using Instagram videos to create daily car review video bites for my gig over at Wheels.ca. I am a week in and I kinda like the medium. I hope you like it too.
First up is the 2013 Lincoln MKZ. There has been a lot of chatter in the media debating whether Lincoln has lost the plot when it comes to styling and the future of the brand. Most of those who are panning the style are old guys who don’t like change.
There was a time when the thought of a youthful 40 something year old driving a Lincoln would have been laughable to many. The brand just wasn’t as hip as, say BMW. It’s not that they were necessarily bad cars, they were missing out on the cool factor. Ok, some of them were pretty bad. With the new Ford of the past couple of years came a new Lincoln too, a brand that is decidedly more cool.
For a family long weekend road trip recently, we needed something with enough space to carry all 5 of us along with all of our assorted flotsam and a gigantic cargo box full of dance costumes. No, they aren’t mine! This called for either the dreaded minivan or an SUV/CUV type vehicle. The 5 passenger 2011 Lincoln MKX seemed like it had some potential for the weekend. After spending some time in it, the MKX has potential for a lot more than just a weekend.
Built in Ford’s Oakville, Ontario plant, the MKX has received a thorough refresh for the 2011 model year. Originally launched as an 07 model, the MKX opened up a whole new market for the once popular brand. The slick styling, world class fit and finish, utility and performance brought customers who would traditionally be looking at import brands into the showroom. The MKX, along with some of its siblings was bringing the cool back to Lincoln.
The exterior has received a number of changes from front to back beginning with the new split-wing grille, re-arched fenders and lower rocker moldings to create a better flow to the side view. Unique 2 piece tail lamps utilize indirect LED lighting to create a dramatic effect without actually seeing the light source. The rear view has been beefed up a bit with the addition of larger oval exhaust tips as well. The brushed metal and chrome trim is just bling enough to know this is a Lincoln, but not so much that it looks tacky.