I’m pretty sure you never knew that there was such a thing as the ‘Most Loved Vehicle’ Awards.
They’re put together by the number-crunching researchers at San Diego-based Strategic Vision, who last year quizzed 44,000 vehicle owners to create their first Customer Love Index, or CLI.
OK, it’s a bit of a self-publicity grab. With 28 award categories, from most-loved mini car (Fiat 500), to most-loved minivan (Kia Sedona), pretty much every auto maker feels the love and gets a gong.
But there were some pretty interesting findings with the survey.
Big surprise #1 was that the vehicle most-loved by its owners wasn’t a Corvette, or a Mustang Convertible, or even a Suburu which runs a massive ‘Love Your Subaru’ campaign. No, it was Porsche’s new Macan luxury crossover.
Huge surprise #2 was that the most-loved full-size luxury SUV wasn’t a Range Rover, or a Cadillac Escalade, or a funky-faced Lexus LX 570. It was – drum roll please – the Infiniti QX80.
The reason for my interest in this is that I’ve just shared a week with the latest QX80 Limited, taking it on a bijou road trip from Florida up to North Carolina. After a one-shot, 11-hour stint behind the wheel, I could see the reasons why so many owners love this gargantuan land yacht.
It’s not exactly the newest luxury sport-ute to roll on four wheels. It started life as the Infiniti QX56 way back in 2004 when it was a gussied-up version of Nissan’s Armada 4×4. It got a big refresh in 2011 when its greasy bits were switched to Nissan’s Patrol sport-ute.
Then in 2014, when Infiniti decided to confuse everyone by re-numbering it’s entire line-up, the QX56 became the QX80, got minor front and rear styling changes, and new super-high-premium package called the Limited.
Everything about this QX is humongous, visually and dimension-wise. It stretches 209 inches nose to tail and stands a parking-garage-scraping 80 inches off the ground. Tipping the scales at close to six tons, there are Peterbilts lighter then this.
And there’s no ignoring that vast honeycomb grille, doors that look like they may have come off a barn, its towering 22-inch alloy wheels and a hood that’s big enough to land a chopper.
But size matters when you want to transport six or seven adults in hedonistic, stretch-out comfort.
All three rows offers no shortage of legroom and headroom, and as I found out moving a bunch of stuff up to North Carolina, if you fold down the middle and rear seats, the QX is as commodious as a Mayflower moving truck.
Check the box for the $10,000 Limited Package and you get a cabin slathered in Truffle Brown semi-analine quilted leather, exquisite open-pore matte ash wood trim, lots of sexy brushed nickel knobs and buttons, and an ultrasuede headliner. It’s truly gorgeous.
And despite the QX’s XXL sizing, it drives like a dream. Under that massive hood is a pretty massive 5.6-liter V8 cranking out 400 horseys and 413 lb-ft of torque.
Connected to one of the sweetest-shifting, most-responsive seven-speed automatics in the business, this big Infiniti feels plenty-lively with strong off-the-line sprinting and muscley mid-range thrust.
The optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control system is worth the $5,500 investment – it’s part of a Deluxe Tech package – for the way it helps tame body roll on tight curves, and delivers a quite-amazing magic carpet ride.
But what impressed me the most was the QX’s electronic steering which provides terrific accuracy and precision, while being nicely-weighted and actually having plenty of feel.
QX80 prices kick off at $63,250 for the base rear-drive model with our loaded-to-the-roof, all-wheel drive Limited topping out at $88,850.
I’d certainly agree with the folks at Strategic Vision; there’s a whole lot to love about this very full-size Infiniti.