LAURIE: This week, we test-drove—or is it test-drived…?
JOHN: It’s “Test Drove”, dear. I can see where this one is headed already!
LAURIE: We drove the 2015 Infiniti QX80 Limited AWD SUV. The first few things that come to mind is that the color was Mocha Almond—really, metallic brown; it got 13 miles to the gallon city and 19 highway, like a truck; and the one we drove, fully loaded, was a tad shy of $90,000. Johnny, did you know you could buy a condo in Pinehurst for that kind of cash? It begs the question, who would buy a 400-hp, 5.6 liter V8 SUV on testosterone that bleeds gas?
JOHN: People with money who want style and have a need buy this kind of vehicle, dearie. Since I sold my ‘dot.com’ business for millions, I need one to take you and the kids to the mall, feeling well heeled, and on top of the world. With THREE rows of seating and still space in the back, TV screens on the back of the seats, Internet connection, and 120V outlet, I am ready for trips or work or whatever. At least that’s how I would dream this.
LAURIE: Maybe I came out of the gate a bit too cynical. First, let me say that this is an exquisitely appointed car. The truffle brown leather seats were so gorgeous they could be living room sofas. The “open pore matte finish ash wood” trim was, I thought, plastic until I read the description: the raised grain was deceptive and the matte finish, unusual. Wood trim is almost always a high-gloss finish. And there was a plentitude of chrome exterior trim that made this SUV stand out in a crowd. In fact, we attended several large events this week. Johnny, didn’t we, and many people, seek us out to comment on this vehicle? And how impressive it was.
JOHN: I am not a brown color car lover, but at least it wasn’t gray. I did like the metallic look to it, and it was a hit with my clay shooting friends. We were riding in comfort and style. Leather Air conditioned seats and heated seats, heated steering wheel, automatic windshield wipers, automatic high beams, great sound system, easy blue tooth hook up, all made this a joy of a vehicle to drive. Oh, you mentioned all wheel drive. You could also ‘choose’ four wheel drive high and low range if you desired. Also, the third row seats go down electronically, and come up the same, so I lowered them for our field excursion to give us room in the back for gear. It was great. Even with the two rows of full sized seats, we had enough room for a small army in the back. Can you say – “Big and roomy”? Ow!
LAURIE: Well, despite my grumblings, I was impressed. There is not one bell or whistle lacking on the Infiniti QX80—“Intelligent Key” entry system, Bose® 13-speaker premium audio which streams Bluetooth ®, USB port, television screens for the second row seat, spectacular moonroof—which begs the question, how is a moonroof different from a sunroof, darling?
JOHN: Didn’t I just mention a lot of these features? Ow! I thought so. Moon roofs are for night watching dear. (Gotta tell her something. Ow!) The moon roof was actually smaller than a sunroof and tilted up as well as sliding back, depending on your preference. We had a lot of cold weather this past week, so I didn’t really get a chance to use the moon roof, but I did use the heated seats and heated steering wheel. Nothing like a warm tush and hands on your way to work.
LAURIE: And tri-zone automatic temperature control system.
JOHN: Again, this is a good thing if you are a generally warm, or cold, person, and your spouse is the opposite. Some of that can be controlled by partially or fully closing the vents for the warm or cool air, but individual controls is a very nice feature and great for the people in the back and the back back, which we did use when we took 6 full sized adults to a local political meeting here in Pinehurst recently.
LAURIE: I was considering taking this car on a long road trip but decided I would not. Driving the Infiniti QX80 SUV is like riding a thoroughbred. You’ve got to know how to control it, and you have to be ready to react to, and judge, obstacles that might befall you while on the road. Maneuvering a vehicle this size in crazy city stop-and-go traffic would have made a nervous wreck of me. I guess I could say the same thing about a Ford Expedition or a Chevy Suburban—but I can’t. And the reason is, this SUV really has a pumped up body, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of SUVs.
JOHN: Your maneuvering this vehicle made a nervous wreck out of me, dear. Ow! And I certainly was against your going on a several day long haul without me. Since I don’t like long trips, your not going was a great thing. The vehicle had a really good lane departure warning system and when Laurie drove the vehicle we got a lot of ‘beep beep’ moments. Maybe the roads are a little narrow and the car is big and wide, but I’m sure the readers get the picture. Ow!
LAURIE: Let’s talk about comfort and handling.
JOHN: I think I did, but here goes again. Comfort – I don’t think I have ridden in a more comfortable vehicle. The ride in this SUV ranked right up there with the Cadillac we had a few weeks ago and I thought that was the most wonderful ride ever. So for ‘comfort’, I give it an A+. For handling, I have to say that I thought it handled extremely well for a large vehicle. I loved the rear view camera which really gave you a view of, not just directly behind, but also to the sides. It made parking easy. The car had an excellent turning radius for diagonal and parallel parking, and the warning systems on backing up, lane departure, and forward monitoring were outstanding. Again for handling, an A+. And while I am talking about safety, I think the Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Emergency Braking is tremendous. A car was turning right on to a side street in front of me. I was gauging the speed of the turn and slowing down appropriately. As the vehicle turned the driver slowed just as I released the brake believing he was going to continue forward. The QX80 braked by itself, and even though I wasn’t close enough to the car to have come close to hitting it , I appreciated the technology that made sure I was not getting into a bad situation. Safety first. Also, I liked the Predictive Forward Collision Warning that monitors cars on the road ahead of you and adjusts your speed to make sure you don’t run over someone in front of you. It also had Blind Spot Warning that alerted you when a car was coming up on either side. Overall for Comfort, Handling, and Safety, I would definitely give this vehicle a big “A+” on my grading scale.
LAURIE: Remember the night we drove five of our friends to a candidates’ night and how much they loved the ride? It’s a credit to Infiniti that you could get two women, both over 80 years-old, into the third row seat with no fear of dislocating pelvises or vertebrae, it was that roomy. And stepping into this SUV does not require a step ladder, like some. In fact, it has a running board with lights that show you the way. I have to reiterate, the leather seats were among the most comfortable of any car we’ve test-drove…test-driven…oh, what’s the correct word, Johnny?
JOHN: Yes, I remember. I believe the 6 of us had well over 400 years of knowledge between us. I think I already talked about the seating, but I will reiterate that it was tremendous. “Driven” is the correct word dear. Yesterday we “drove”. Many times we ‘have driven’ vehicles. “We’ve” is short for “We have”, and the correct tense for this sentence would be ‘driven’ as in, “We have test driven”. Ah, the joys of 100 years of being an English teacher. Ow!
LAURIE: The car handled well but I guess I’m saying you really have to concentrate on driving. This SUV was more like driving a truck than a car or, for that matter, most SUVs. This said, the drive was surprisingly smooth. Infiniti claims the QX80 drives more like a sedan than an SUV as a result of the engineering they employed in its suspension and balance, engine design that utilizes something called DIG, Direct Injection Gasoline, with dual overhead cams and 32 valves with a valve control throttle system and hydraulic motion control that enhances response and acceleration, and most importantly, an All-Wheel-Drive monitoring system that’s allows you to manually select 4H or 4L depending upon the degree of slippery in snow-or rainy road conditions. You drove this SUV more than I did, Johnny, and in three straight days of sometimes torrential rain. What was your take?
JOHN: Loved it; could not have felt more secure. This was a great road hugging vehicle and the AWD gave me confidence in some of the monsoon downpours through which I had to drive to and from work. And yes, dearest, concentrating on driving is paramount if you want to stay accident free. Ow! I am having a tough morning with this one.
LAURIE: And talk about the lights and windshield wipers, and how they sensed when to come on and self-regulate.
JOHN: I already did. Where were you when I was telling about that? Ow! Okay, once more, great automatic light control system and a very impressive windshield wiper sensitivity system that controlled the speed of the wipers depending on the amount of rain. You could also move the lever one position and set the speed to regular or two positions for constantly fast, just like regular wipers. Little things really, but they did make a noticeable difference.
LAURIE: So, the question is, if I had $90,000 free and clear, would I spend it on this car? What’s your take first, honey?
JOHN: No, I wouldn’t in all honesty. It’s a great vehicle, but it isn’t a vehicle we ‘need’ and that is one of the criteria I think is incredibly important in a vehicle purchase. What you spend on anything is relative to what I think you make or what you have. A “$90,000 ” vehicle represents about 10% of your income if you make about a million dollars a year. Even over 5 years, you better be making $200 thousand a year to justify this kind of expense. Of course, if your portfolio is in the millions, this vehicle isn’t much of a bump. The gas mileage wasn’t great, but if you can afford this car, you probably aren’t going to balk over gas prices.
LAURIE: Well, I suppose if I had a ranch in Texas or in California and spent a lot of time every day driving rough-and-tumble roads, the 2015 Infiniti QX80 SUV would make my life more comfortable and most certainly take the wear-and-tear out of long miles of driving on paved or parched roads. In this scenario, this makes absolute sense. However, I don’t see this as a city or suburban car. As a sportsman’s car or a cattle rancher’s car—yes, providing you use its tow hitch to haul a trailer for gear or hay or equipment because believe me, you wouldn’t want to put anything that’s even damp or dirty into this luxurious car.
JOHN: I think if we had the mentality, and means, to own such a vehicle, we wouldn’t mind getting it dirty because we would simply pay to get it cleaned up when needed. For a rancher or a sportsman, this would be a ‘work’ vehicle, if you can imagine that, and I think you would buy it to use, not just for show.
LAURIE: And I guess I want to close by saying this is absolutely the most luxurious SUV I have ever driven. It made me feel safe, secure, and yes, wealthy—like, Rockefeller rich. But to answer my own question, no. If I had 90 grand at my disposal, I would buy two cars—a sedan that suits our daily life, like the Buick LaCrosse or Cadillac ATS and in addition, for an SUV, the Buick Enclave—yes, I am very impressed with Buick over the past several years—or a Ford Expedition. One of each together costs one luxury SUV—and at the end of the day, it does boil down to brand allegiance. Infiniti’s sedans and its hybrid sedan, the Q50 and stunning Q70; its spectacular Q60 coupe and convertibles and their practically incomparable crossovers are among the finest cars on the road and worth every penny. The QX80 we drove was top-of-the-line—the base price for that SUV is $63,250. To me, at least, when a luxury car manufacturer enters the realm of the SUV—a niche market that has for decades been dominated by Land Rover, which practically invented the beast—then I say, where is that manufacturer strongest? And I already answered my own question when I say, you can’t beat an Infiniti sedan, hybrid sedan, coupe or convertible. I’ll leave it at that.
JOHN: And I’ll leave it with you, as I already have a number of bruises from this conversation. Ow! And now I have one more. I love you, but you do drive me crazy.
LAURIE: I love you too, Johnny. And I’m crazy for you!
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John and Laurie are a married couple in their “sensational sixties” who talk about today’s hottest, newest cars—and still manage to go to bed without getting angry at one another at night.
John and Laurie Wiles have a combined driving history of ninety-five years. Laurie is one of only thirty-six journalists who are members of the prestigious New England Automotive Press Association (Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” among them.) Since 1998, Laurie has test-driven and reviewed over eight-hundred new model cars, trucks, and SUVs. John, a lifelong car enthusiast, has owned more than forty vehicles (so far.)
John and Laurie recently got the idea of combining on a weekly car review. Laurie explains. “One day, a gorgeous blue Porsche Cayman pulled in the drive. Johnny slides behind the wheel, cocks an eyebrow, and says, ‘The name’s Bond. James Bond,’ like he’s Sean Connery or something. The next week, a Chevy Camaro rolls in. Johnny gets one glimpse of that muscle car and shouts out, ‘Can you say N-A-S-C-A-R?’ Once I realized he wasn’t speaking in tongues, I realized his voice, together with mine, might be fun. After all, ‘sixty is the new forty.’”
John adds, “Men and women have very different opinions about cars and I think it’s good for people to get an understanding of what a couple think about a car, and what they like and don’t like. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have to agree on everything—you know, like the way it is in a marriage.”
Laurie, whose professional name is Laurie Bogart Morrow, is the author of a dozen books, including The Hardscrabble Chronicles (Penguin Putnam) and The Giant Book of Dog Names (Simon and Schuster. John is a retired program manager in the National Defense contracting industry and a teacher in the public school system. They live happily in Pinehurst, NC.