In Greek mythology, the Titans were the “elder gods” who ruled over a golden age until, led by Zeus, the younger deities overthrew them. In the evolution of the SUV, body on frame-based beasts ruled the roost during the era of cheap gas and lax EPA regulations. In the modern age, tight CAFE standards and other market factors have led to the preeminence of unibody crossovers. Two of the last remaining Titans of the SUV pantheon here battle it out for legacy, if not dominance.
Both these behemoths are based on tough-as-nails, Third World-rated underpinnings. In the Lexus’ case, it has always been built on the venerable Land Cruiser chassis; Nissan only leveraged its big bruiser Nissan Patrol hardware to create the second-generation QX56 in 2011—which was renamed QX80 this year. As I experienced during incredibly demanding four wheeling adventures, either will conquer anything you could throw at them off the beaten path.
On road their differences become much more apparent. The Infiniti is a clear winner when it comes to driving dynamics, with much better chassis control, brake modulation and steering precision. In contrast, the Lexus is thoroughly old school, wallowing about in the corners (despite two-stage shocks) and diving onto its nose when asked to stop.
Both are really fast, thanks to big, thirsty V8s; the QX80’s is a direct-injection 5.6-liter pumping out 400 horses and 413lb-ft of torque. Channeled through a superb 7-speed auto (whose rev-matched downshifts make mountain driving a pleasure) it’ll take this 5850 pound machine to 60mph in 6.1 seconds, and return mid-teens fuel economy in mixed use. The 300-pound portlier LX570 is about a half second behind, which is negligible. Its 5.7-liter quad-cam V8 sounds equally sweet, and cranks 383hp and 403lb-ft of twist. The fuel economy—or lack thereof—I observed while it was in my care was about 2mpg worse than the Infinitis, likely due to its greater mass and 6-speed auto.
Outside both are best described as intimidating; huge chromed grills dominate the frontal visage; the Infiniti’s fluid forms stand in contrast to the Lexus’ blockier shapes. These design themes continue inside, where buttery leather and polished wood dominate. Each is loaded with labor saving tech: the LX will lower itself when you come to a stop to ease ingress/egress; the QX has a slick suite of cameras to making parking easier. Perhaps the most important difference between the two is in seating: the Lexus’ third row is comprised of two jump seats that fold onto the SUV’s sides, where they take up valuable cargo room. In contrast, the Infiniti’s (much more comfortable) back seats power fold—slowly—to create a flat load floor. Each proffers the high up, “command” style seating that so defined early SUVs and has been sacrificed in many crossovers on the alter of aerodynamics.
Despite the many areas where the QX80 pulls ahead (including price, as it is about $10,000 less) many will go with the Lexus, based on its incredible reputation for stone-ax reliability and quarter million mile-longevity. The LX570 is also likely to hold onto a higher percentage of its initially higher sticker, at least until people figure out just how good the Infiniti is. So pleasing is it that I have to wonder what real benefit the new pantheon brings; while luxuriating in its power, size and inviting cabin, I must conclude that a life lived under the reign of the remaining elder gods would be remembered as part of a golden age.
2012 Infiniti QX80: 14/20; 16mpg combined
2014 Lexus LX570: 12/17; 14mpg combined
Price as tested:
2012 Infiniti QX80: $79,095
2014 Lexus LX570: $89,555
Here is what the manufacturers have to say: