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Motoring: Battle of the big SUVs


Both SUVs offer similar features, and pricing is about the same. But which one would come up on top in a battle?

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 9th, 2015

The population of the world is growing, and cities are getting more crowded. The best way to get around is perhaps to have something small and nimble.

However, everyone has different needs. If you live out of the mega city, you could justify having a large vehicle. Vehicles such as the 2015 Lincoln Navigator and the 2015 Infiniti QX80 are among the biggest luxury SUVs you can buy currently, but which is best?

It’s good to point out that while both these vehicles are new, they are not what you’d call all-new.

The 2015 Infiniti QX80 is pretty much the same as the QX56 you could buy in 2014. With the name change, however, some new technology features have been added – along with minor styling tweaks – but the drivetrain remains the same. Open the hood and you’ll still find a 5.6 l V8 motor that pumps out 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all wheels through a seven speed automatic gearbox.

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator sits on roughly the same platform as the outgoing model, and while the new model looks similar to the old one, the nose and tail section have been heavily restyled – for the better. Most of the interior hasn’t changed much. The dashboard saw some changes, but the biggest change is under the hood. Gone is the old, thirsty V8 motor, in with a smaller, lighter, yet more potent motor. For 2015, the Navigator gets a 3.5 l V6, that features two turbochargers. This motor produces 380 hp, and 460 lb-ft of torque. So, while it is a bit down on power compared to the Infiniti, it has a lot more torque. While the Navigator also has allwheel drive, you only get a sixspeed automatic gearbox.

However, the gear ratio in top gear is what matters most, and the more relaxed gear in the Lincoln meant it consumed less fuel. While I averaged 14.9 l/100 km in the Navigator, the QX80 drank 15.6 l/100 km. It’s too close a figure to base your buying decision on, so let’s look at other parameters.

You aren’t going to buy either vehicle to win drag races, but performance is still important. Both vehicles have similar get up and go, but the Navigator – thanks to its twin turbos – seemed to pull away more effortlessly. The QX80, thanks to its big V8, did sound better under acceleration, so if you prefer mechanical sounds, you’ll like this one better.

The ride quality of both vehicles is really good, as they are both designed to cover long distances with ease. By the smallest of margins, the Navigator rides a bit better and is quieter at highway speeds. The preferred heavier steering feel of the Navigator was more reassuring at highway speeds.

As for handling, the QX80 is a bit more tossable; its all-wheel drive system is more biased towards the rear wheels. That resulted in a bit of a moment out on the highway. Driving to Mississauga from London early on a Monday morning, I hit a large section of black ice. This caused the rear end of the vehicle to step out. Through corrective steering and the vehicles active allwheel drive systems help, along with its electronic stability control (ESP) system. All was under control quite quickly, but it was not the kind of experience anyone would like to repeat. The vehicle was wearing proper winter tires, but it goes to show that bad and freezing weather conditions can create issues for any vehicle, regardless of the tires it’s wearing.

The Navigator is softly sprung and has therefore more body roll compared to the QX80. However, its ESP is set for early intervention, so it takes quite a lot of provoking to get this big SUV out of shape.

Big – these both certainly are. Both can be had in seven or eight-passenger layouts – a no cost option for the Infiniti, while Lincoln charges you for the captain chairs in the second row – and both offer plenty of room. However, the QX80 is only available in one length, while the Navigator can be had in an “L” version, which gives you more luggage space.

As far as interior fit, finish and features are concerned, this QX80 has the Navigator beat. Not only the interior design is better on the QX80, the materials used to make its interior look far superior to that of the Navigator. The infotainment system is leagues ahead in the QX80 compared to the Navigator, as it is easier to control and the screen is much clearer. I also like the fact that Infiniti gives you a heated steering wheel as standard on the QX80, while it is optional on the Navigator.

Both vehicles offer great, comfortable seats, but I preferred spending time in the QX80 more.

As for the styling, to each their own. My wife preferred the look of the Navigator, while I preferred the QX80. I think both are smart SUVs and would look right at home at any venue.

Maybe price can be a deciding factor. The Navigator starts at $75,110, while the QX80 starts at $73,650. Considering the Infiniti has more standard equipment and is slightly cheaper to begin with, it is the better deal.

Honestly, I’d be happy to live with either of these vehicles on a daily basis, so if you’re in the market for a large, luxury SUV, these two should be at the top of your shopping list.
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