For buyers who like their luxury on a grand scale, automakers are happy to oblige with full-size SUVs that haul like a truck and coddle like a plush cruiser. Even in this age of efficiency, boats still need to be towed, and families still want to embark on summer adventures with all the comforts of home. That's why the Mercedes-Benz GL450 and Infiniti QX80 continue to fill an important role in their respective lineups.
What does each offer to buyers looking for the ultimate SUV? Let's find out.
Where the GL450 Shines
Although the GL looks familiar enough, it was reworked from the tires up in 2013. The Mercedes is slightly bigger than before, with plenty of room for seven passengers, 93 cubic feet of cargo space, and a newly available power-folding second-row seat. Mercedes has succeeded in making the interior environment significantly more inviting. Sharp angles have been smoothed out, and warm-toned wood abounds. The expanded slate of safety and convenience technology offers all of what you would expect in flagship luxury sedan.
A twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 with 362 horsepower propels the GL from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and enables it to tow up to 7,500 pounds. All models carry the familiar 4MATIC full-time all-wheel drive system, which can be supplemented by an off-road package consisting of adaptive suspension dampers, front underbody protection, and a six-mode terrain selector.
Where the QX80 Shines
We're impressed by the sheer quantity of fine leather and wood on display throughout the cabin. It's this unadulterated richness that separates the Infiniti and its ilk from SUVs that are merely big. Underneath all the finery is a stout truck platform that can pull up to 8,500 pounds and bounce along muddy trails like a utilitarian pickup.
The QX performs just about as well as any 5,800-pound vehicle can. The 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 and seven-speed transmission take it from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, and the beefy brakes bring it back to a standstill in 123 feet. That kind of performance is competitive with car-based luxury crossovers that can't haul nearly as much or leave the pavement.
The Achilles heel of any full-size SUV is fuel economy. It's worth noting that the QX80 achieves 20 mpg on the highway, which is quite good for this class.
The Bottom Line