It propelled the 2-ton-plus QX80 test SUV quickly around other vehicles in traffic and onto highway merges. It also helps give the QX80 a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds, which rivals some full-size pickup trucks.
Better yet, the QX80 feels stout and sturdy and can be fitted with an array of the latest safety features - most of them optional, such as backup collision intervention that takes rearview cameras to the next technological step. Too bad, though, that neither the QX80 nor its predecessor QX56 has federal government crash-test results to compare with other full-size SUVs.
Still, the QX80 is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports, where reliability is listed as above average.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $62,345 for a base, 2014 QX80 with rear-wheel drive and automatic transmission.
Starting retail price, including destination charge, for a base, 2014 QX80 with all-wheel drive is $65,445.
Competitors include other large, luxury SUVs that have seats for seven or eight, such as the 2014 Mercedes-Benz GL450 4Matic, which starts at $65,475 with 362-horsepower, bi-turbo V-8, automatic transmission, and four-wheel drive.
Note that while the QX80 has one power plant, the Mercedes GL offers several, including a fuel-sipping diesel six-cylinder and a high-performance, 550-horsepower V-8.
Styling on the 17.4-foot-long QX80 is polarizing. With a snoutish front end and rather flat roof line, the SUV was named one of Car and Driver magazine's 10 Ugliest Cars For Sale Today.
Infiniti engineers continue to refine the ride. For 2014, an optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control system for the suspension seeks to counteract the weight and mass swings that a big, heavy vehicle like the QX80 would have in cornering and sweeping curves. The system provided impressive improvements vis-à-vis the normal motions of a big SUV. It did not eliminate head toss and a tippy sensation now and then.
While road bumps overall were nicely managed, there was bounciness in the ride on some road surfaces and a weighty feel at the corners where the optional 22-inch wheels resided.
Views out front were excellent, and a rearview camera is standard. The optional backup collision intervention automatically stops the vehicle if an obstacle back there is detected.
But all riders in the test QX80 were impressed by the interior craftsmanship of this tall-riding SUV. The optional semi-aniline leather on the seats was soft to the touch, and softly gathered leather on the interior doors added unexpected luxury.
Premium gasoline is recommended but not required in the QX80, and the tester averaged just 12.4 m.p.g. in mostly city driving. The federal government's ratings are 14/20 m.p.g. for city/highway travel.