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The Daily Drivers: 2014 Infiniti QX80

Despite gas prices still being over $3 a gallon, large SUVs have been making a comeback. Among them, the Infiniti QX80, one of the most sumptuous. For 2014, Infiniti's land yacht gets a new letter-number designation — previously it was the QX56 — under the brand's "renaming" of its lineup. What ever happened to actual names?

Appearance: The QX80 looks somewhat ungainly, with its high belt line and its not-quite-seamless mix of angles and curves. It's an odd look, especially in profile. Lyra likens it to a Beluga whale — albeit one that rolls on 22-inch alloy wheels and has a large chrome-trimmed grille and low-set headlights.

Performance: Your one choice is a 5.6-liter V-8 that produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. This makes for quick acceleration — for a 5,878-pounder. The downside? An mpg of 14 city, 20 highway. The QX80 also has a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds, and there is a hidden integrated Class IV hitch and connections. The big SUV's transmission is a 7-speed electronically controlled automatic. The QX80 also has available all-mode all-wheel drive (rear-wheel drive is standard). For such a big vehicle, the QX80 handles surprisingly well, with a ride smoothed by a Hydraulic Body Motion Control system that keeps lean to a minimum. Our tester had a lot of safety features that included backup collision warning and intervention, both of which came in handy for Peter in busy parking lots in which rear visibility is limited.

Interior: The QX80 comes in seven- and eight-passenger configurations. Ours was the seven-seater with a fixed center console for the second row. The eight-seater has a bench seat for the second row. Overall, the quiet cabin is elegant, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces, polished wood trim, and some of the most comfortable and plush seats we've driven in. Other attractive details: the curvy dash, a Spirograph-like design on the driver's gauges and the polished-wood steering wheel. Lyra was not a fan, however, of the gathered leather on the door panels, which she thought looked more sloppy than sophisticated. The third row is plush and more comfortable than most. There's even some legroom, but because the seats are low to the floor, it's best suited for shorter passengers. The infotainment system has an 8-inch center touchscreen, which seems on the small side for such a big vehicle, but on the plus side, the controls are an easy-to-use mix of dials and buttons. There also is lots of storage space: up to 95.1 cubic feet with second- and third-row seats folded down. (Both rows of seats have power folding.) There's even decent space behind the third row with a shallow under-deck compartment.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Safety: The Around View camera gives you a bird's-eye view and even shows what direction you have the front wheels turned. It's a must.

Quiet: Perhaps one of the most silent interiors I've experienced in any vehicle.

Audio: The 12-speaker Bose system thrives in a quiet cabin.

Lyra Solochek

Details I: Steering wheel controls are backlit for night visibility.

Details II: 9 cup holders and 4 bottle holders

Safety features: High-end systems warn the driver and help prevent problems.

The bottom line: The Infiniti QX80 is one of the most comfortable and quiet full-size SUVs we've driven, with lots of standard and optional safety features.