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With more than 9 inches of ground clearance and a genuine low-range differential, off-roading is in the QX80’s portfolio. (Infiniti)

What we’re driving: 2020 Infiniti QX80

A V8 is the real luxury from Infiniti’s big three-row SUV.

Body-on-frame luxury SUVs are a curious thing. It’s difficult to imagine a customer in the market for an SUV that approaches a six-figure price also desiring  the burly characteristics that come with actual off-road ability. Sure, there might be a few monied soccer parents who are convinced the 2020 Infiniti QX80 is necessary to  ford the six inches of water in the half-frozen creek to their getaway cabin. But I think those who buy truck-based luxury SUVs are pretty much buying size – and badge, of course.

Then comes the awakening. Like many of its ilk, the QX80 is big on the outside but not terribly roomy inside. There’s plenty of room for the front occupants and certainly in the second-row captain’s chairs, but its third row is the usual cruel joke and now you’re looking at a very large vehicle that’s spacious – for four. Any more people and you’re somehow squeezing into a 3-ton vehicle that has a 10-foot (3048-mm) wheelbase. Whaaat?

Seek to drop the rear seat to at least utilize the cargo space and there’s a 15-second wait for the power seatback recline to do its thing. Then you’re faced with a monstrous liftover to muscle in your gear.

The QX80 has a big 5.6-L V8, though, which these days is something of a luxury. It’s got 400 hp and 413 lb-ft (560 Nm) and lets you know it with a loutish roar at every startup; in a close-quartered garage, it borders on obnoxious. Urgent acceleration elicits the same intake boom, and only average acceleration results, although the QX80 breezily holds 90-mph interstate cruises that come with precious little wind or road noise in the brilliantly isolated cabin.

The steering’s in the “zero-feel” spectrum, but if there’s actual need for off-road capability, this big Infiniti brings 9.2 inches (234 mm) of real ground clearance, nice body control from independent wishbones at each corner and a hydraulic damping system on the Limited trim and even a transfer case. But is any of that used by buyers in this segment? It seems such inefficient excess.

2020 Infiniti QX80 Limited

Base price:     $91,450
As tested:       $93,795
Highs:             Genuine V8 power; quiet cruising; serious ground clearance
Lows:              Poor packaging; outsized intake roar; price
Takeaway:      A nice V8 and superficial luxuries can’t camouflage the age

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