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2019 Infiniti QX80 Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like people, sport utility vehicles operate at their best when they stick to the straight and narrow. That’s especially true for big guys like the 2019 Infiniti QX80.

The reason is that full-size SUVs often are the machines of choice for families that eschew minivans but need space and towing capability for vacation jaunts. For that, the QX80 has solid qualifications. Given its size — 17.5 feet long and 6 feet 4 inches tall — it is powerful, quiet and easy to drive.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

However, it has a tendency to wander in straight-line freeway driving, requiring frequent small steering corrections to keep tracking true. That’s not much of a problem on short trips but can contribute to driver fatigue over long distances.

Though its gender has not been established, the QX80 is celebrating its quinceañerawith this model, which had its debut in 2004 as the QX56. It tops the SUV lineup at Infiniti, the luxury division of Japan’s Nissan.

Despite an age that matches a girl’s 15thbirthday in Spanish-speaking countries, the QX80 has something of the feel of a senior citizen. It uses a classic body-on-frame construction, not unlike that of all the big pickup trucks on the market. And though it is equipped with a modern suspension system and a full suite of computerized safety innovations, it has something of an old-fashioned feel.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Some clues: The parking brake is one of those step-on affairs, where you stomp on a pedal with your left foot, instead of modern electronic controls. Second-row captain’s chairs on the tested seven-passenger Limited models do not have fore-and-aft adjustments to improve third-row knee and foot space, and the seatbacks recline only a few inches.

The split third-row seats fold with the touch of button but you have to hold your finger on it until it gets where it’s going. No one-touch control here. And the seats don’t fold flat, leaving a bunny-hill incline to welcome your extra cargo.

Then there’s the matter of getting back to the third row. Though the second-row captain’s chairs on the tested Limited model flip up and out of the way, scrambling into the third-row seats should be reserved for teenagers and younger kids. Also, they should be skinny because there are three seatbelts back there.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

There’s just 17 cubic feet of space behind the third row of seats, although the QX80 can carry a payload of 1,460 lbs and it can tow a trailer of up to 8,500 lbs.

One old-fashioned component is welcome. In an era when small turbocharged four-cylinder engines are taking over even in big pickup trucks, the QX80 soldiers on with a solid, burbling V8 engine. It delivers 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque from 5.6-liters of displacement.

It makes the driving experience feel effortless. Need to change a lane quickly without neck-snapping your passengers, simply step a bit forcefully on the loud pedal and crank the steering wheel. The power surges instantly and smoothly, with no hint of dreaded turbo lag.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

The downside, of course, hits the purse or wallet. With nearly three tons of metal and other ingredients to move, the QX80 guzzled premium fuel like an elephant in a pool of spring water. City/highway/combined consumption is rated by the EPA at 13/19/15 mpg.

That likely won’t matter much to the buyers who can afford the tested Limited model. Though you can find a QX80 with a base price of $66,395, the Limited came with a $91,095 base price. With a few minor options, the bottom-line sticker came to $91,950.

No surprise, that amount of money brings a load of equipment, including the seven-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control, all-wheel drive, self-leveling rear suspension system, 22-inch aluminum alloy wheels, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, motorized steering wheel adjustments, adaptive LED lighting, Bose audio with navigation and SXM satellite radio, and adaptive cruise control.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Full safety equipment includes pre-collision intervention with pedestrian detection forward and back, lane departure prevention, blind-spot warning, active head restraints, electronic brake force distribution and pre-crash adjustable front seat belts.

Styling, of course, always lies in the eyes of the beholders. Suffice to say that the QX80 presents an imposing, almost intimidating appearance to other, smaller vehicles on the highways. It is, however, up against a host of similar three-row SUVs and even crossovers that span the utility segment from middle-class to luxury.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Infiniti QX80 Limited four-door sport utility vehicle
  • Engine: 5.6-liter V8; 400 hp, 413 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 151/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,930 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,460 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 8,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption (premium gasoline): 13/19/15 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $91,095.
  • Price as tested: $91,950.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Photos (c) Infiniti

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Driving the 2017 Mazda CX-5 imparts the distinct impression that this compact crossover SUV filched a few genes from the Mazda Miata sports car.

Given its tall profile and practical family orientation, you don’t expect much in the way of pinpoint handling. True, other compact crossovers do a decent job of hustling around curves, as long as you don’t push too hard. But none do it with quite as much composure.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-19Sure, it’s not an MX-5 Miata two-seater. Nor will it impress owners with low-slung sports sedans, powerful engines, tight suspension systems and loose principles. But this redesigned offering from one of the world’s more innovative automakers incorporates a nearly anonymous system that surreptitiously enhances the steering.

Basically, what it does is subtly back off the throttle — not so you’d notice it — to produce an ever-so-slight weight shift toward the front wheels. The effect is to tighten the steering response to make it more precise in cornering. Mazda calls it G-Vectoring Control. (Technology nerds can look it up).

2017-Mazda-CX-5-3-1You don’t notice the specifics of this engineering. It is part of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, which takes a holistic approach to every facet of vehicle design, right down to designing components that are as little as a few ounces lighter to contribute to overall weight reduction.

Likely most casual observers will not immediately identify the 2017 CX-5 from its predecessor. It carries over a family resemblance but adds styling fillips to the grille and headlights as well as sensuous haunches masquerading as rear fenders.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-5Inside, the engineering elves have installed additional sound deadening materials to muffle unwelcome exterior noises. They also tuned the suspension system to soak up the common bumps and grinds on U.S. roads and highways that have been allowed to fester because of ideological penny-pinching politicians. At least the engineers are doing their best to save motorists’ spines, molars and kidneys.

Aside from the excellent ride, handling and ambience, the CX-5 is no slouch on the performance charts — given its crossover orientation. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 187 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, most of it usable and delivering 23/29/26 mpg fuel consumption on the EPA’s city/highway/combined test cycle.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-11The power gets to the pavement through a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. However, there are no shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel, as has become increasingly common.

On the CX-5, you must manually shift with the actual shift lever down on the console, which for some purists is way preferable to fingering paddles. There also are two modes: normal Drive and Sport. The latter holds the transmission to higher engine revolutions before shifting — something the driver obviously can do himself with the shifter. The manual-shift mode can be used in either the Sport or normal setting.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-12Front-wheel drive comes standard on the CX-5 and is perfectly acceptable for any owner who doesn’t live in chronically crappy weather conditions, of which there are many — and increasing — around the continental United States. If all-wheel drive is preferable, it’s a $1,300 option

There are three CX-5 trim levels: Sport, which has a starting price of $24,985, including the destination charge; Touring, at $26,855; and the tested Grand Touring at $30,335. (Manufacturers like to present their top-line vehicles to testers and critics; only rarely do you get to drive a base model). With options, the tested CX-5 had a bottom-line sticker price of $33,465.

The Grand Touring model, which accounts for about half of CX-5 sales, is lavishly equipped with a power tailgate, leather upholstery, features and trim that would be characteristic of a luxury crossover. However, it does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-4There’s a head-up display that not only shows the vehicle’s speed but also the speed limit and other functions, including lane departure alert and adaptive cruise control. The display reflects off the windshield, not the small reflective panel used on other Mazda models that rises up out of the dash.

It should be noted that compact crossover SUVs, which are the hottest selling vehicles on the market, are being infected with price creep. Where not long ago you could buy one nicely equipped for under $30,000, they now are more expensive and, in some cases, even popular priced models are approaching $40,000, moving them into luxury territory populated by crossovers from Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Lincoln, Audi and Lexus.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-33Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:5-liter four-cylinder, 187 hp, 185 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 104/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,700 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/29/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,635.
  • Price as tested: $34,380.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) Mazda.

 

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Honda Odyssey elevates the family minivan to a lofty level of efficiency and comfort.

Minivans are the most useful vehicles you can find for mom, pop, and the kids. More than any conveyance, they accommodate people and their stuff in customized ways while delivering entertainment and car-like performance.

Though dwindling popularity has reduced choices to only a few — the Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona and the waning Dodge Grand Caravan — they endure and likely will grow somewhat, even faced with the juggernaut of crossover sport utility vehicles.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Because all have a similar configuration, minivan competitiveness distills to features both practical and desirable, as well as finer points like serenity, security and comfort. Thus, the Pacifica, for example, touts its Stow ‘n’ Go second-row seats, which fold into the floor for extra cargo space.

The 2018 Odyssey doesn’t have that. But it arguably offers something better. It is an eight-passenger vehicle with a “Magic Slide” second row that accommodates three. A small seat in the middle can hold a rear-facing child seat and moves fore-and-aft so parents up front can check on the infant.

Outboard are two captain’s chairs that also move back and forth, and flip forward for access to the third row. But remove the center seat and the outboard seats can be effortlessly moved sideways as well, kept separate or pushed together on the right, left or in the middle for even easier access to the third row.

2018 Honda Odyssey

To keep tabs on the sprouts in back, the Odyssey incorporates “CabinWatch,” an overhead camera that focuses on the second and third rows and displays the view on the multi-purpose center screen up front. “CabinTalk,” allows the parents to interrupt whatever the children are watching and listening to, much like an airline pilot stopping the entertainment for announcements. “CabinControl,” enables control of onboard apps from a smart phone.

There’s an overhead screen that serves both the second and third rows, along with wireless headphones for the second row and jacks in the third row for wired headphones.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Other minivans incorporate dual rear seat screens so passengers can independently watch different programs or movies. Honda opted for the single screen to promote more family togetherness — which individual buyers may or may not like.

The Odyssey has an array of peace-of-mind features, including the Honda Sensing safety array with automatic braking for collision mitigation. Also: 4G-LTE WiFi Hotspot, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, content streaming to the rear entertainment system from Smart TV or wireless Android devices, walk-away automatic door locking, power hands-free tailgate, motorized side doors and sunroof, wireless smart phone charging and Honda’s pioneering onboard vacuum cleaner.

Obviously, not all of this stuff is fitted to every Odyssey. Just as obviously, Honda put its best package forward, the Odyssey Elite, at the national press introduction on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was fully optioned with a suggested delivered price of a whopping $47,610, which is encroaching on luxury-car territory.

2018 Honda Odyssey

However, there are a total of five other trim levels, starting with the base LX at $30,930, including the destination charge, so customers can pick and choose to fit budgets. Others are the EX at $34,800, EX-L (with leather upholstery and other upgrades) at $38,300, EX with navigation and rear entertainment, $40,300, and Touring at $45,450.

All Odysseys come equipped with Honda’s 280-hp V6 engine, which delivers 262 lb-ft of torque and features cylinder deactivation for highway cruising, a stop-start system and an Econ mode for improved fuel economy. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/28/22 mpg.

LX and EX models get the power to the front wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Elite models have an all-new 10-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

2018 Honda Odyssey

As before, the Odyssey continues as an effortless performer with car-like handling, improved ride and fatigue-free long-distance cruising. For 2018, the experience is enhanced by a muted inside environment thanks to a host of sound-deadening materials. The main annoying sounds on a trip likely will come from the kids arguing.

Though it’s not exclusive to the Odyssey, one of the apps mimics airline screens that announce the distance and time traveled as well as what’s remaining. If the boys and girls in the Odyssey shout the traditional “Are we there yet?” just point them to the screen.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite eight-passenger minivan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 160/37 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,593 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/28/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,610.
  • Price as tested: $47,610.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Photos (c) Honda.

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