MACON, Ga. -- Cruising the wide slab of I-75 as it slithers southeastwardly out of Atlanta, we're saddled in leather-lined trappings of automotive luxury for the new 2015 QX80 AWD Limited Package, a full-size sport utility vehicle in the upscale line of Infiniti.
Stretching more than 17 feet long and well over six feet wide with a roof rising some six feet off the ground, the QX80 is by far the largest vehicle in the Infiniti stable and the one that packs a land yacht's collection of high-tech mechanical hardware as well as fancy fittings of a super-luxury coach.
Reflecting Infiniti's revised model nomenclature (badges of passenger cars get an alphanumeric name beginning with the letter "Q" as wagons use the letters "QX"), the QX80 for 2015 splits into rear-wheel 2-wheel-drive (2WD) and all-wheel 4-wheel drive (4WD) editions.
To motivate such a behemoth requires massive muscle and the QX80 stocks a powerful V8.
The longitudinally-mounted plant, constructed with an aluminum block, displaces 5.6 liters and comes with DOHC (dual overhead cams), four valves in each cylinder, direct injection of fuel and the VVEL (Variable Valve Event & Lift) advanced valve control system. It musters 400 hp at 5800 rpm and massive torque rising to 413 lb-ft at 4000 rpm.
Tied to the engine is an electronically controlled automatic transmission with MSM (manual shift mode), ASC (adaptive shift control) and DRM (downshift rev matching).
When equipped with a tow rig, QX80 earns a trailer tow rating of 8500 pounds.
The optional 4WD equipment utilizes a sophisticated full-time automatic control system. It can instantly distribute the engine's torque between front or rear wheels, depending on pavement conditions and the potential of tires to slip, with as much as half the torque available at front wheels when the rear wheels slip.
A 2-speed electronic transfer case enables the driver to switch between automatic all-wheel-drive (AWD), full-time 4WD in high range or 4WD in low range for crawling over uneven terrain off pavement, but the device runs in 2WD mode with all power sent to the rear wheels for normal driving on dry roads.
Every QX80 -- whether 2WD or 4WD -- also stocks HSA (hill start assist) equipment, which prevents the wagon from rolling backward when scaling a steep slope.
Also standard to all issues are soft leather-clad seats, 3-zone automatic temperature controls, the Infiniti Intelligent Key with push-button ignition, Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges and a signature analog clock, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, 10-way power controls for the driver's seat and 8-way power on the front passenger's seat, power controls for windows and door locks and exterior mirrors, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, a Bose premium audio system with 13 speakers and AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3, the Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System, the Around View Monitor with Rear Sonar System and Moving Object Detection, plus nine cupholders and four door-pocket bottle holders.
For 2015 issues, the QX80 earns a fresh exterior design, a more crafted passenger compartment with added standard features and the new Limited Package.
The exterior design appears taut and obviously athletic in a sculptural shape, but also smooth and sleek, even sensuous. Refinements include a new shape for the upper grille and revised front fascia with new LED high/low beam headlights, LED turn signals, LED foglamps and a new bumper with flush-mounted sonar sensors.
Cabin refinements include new Wheat or Graphite color scheme for the leather seats plus Mocha Burl wood trim.
The new top-of-the-line QX80 AWD Limited Package rolls on dark chrome 22-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and features stainless steel running board caps with rubber grips and under running board lighting, darkened headlight and taillight inner lenses, dark chrome pillar covers and unique exterior hues (Imperial Black, Mocha Almond, Dakar Bronze).
In the cabin, the QX80 Limited Package brings rich semi-aniline Truffle Brown leather appointments, open-pore ash wood trim, Ultrasuede headliner and pillars, leather-covered grab handles and speaker grilles, special floor and trunk mats and center-stack silver switchgear.
Infiniti marks 2015 MSRPs for a QX80 2WD at $63,250 and $66,350 for 4WD, with the Limited Package adding $10,000.