A test of largeness

When you look at the largest SUVs on the market you tend to drool and wonder what a ride in one of these big bruisers would be like. Here in the US, we love many things to be big and then even bigger because bigger is better, right? Even if you don’t feel bigger is necessarily better, it’s hard to argue with the need for some additional elbow room when you are on a long trip in a vehicle, or heading off road to enjoy some remote scenery. In this case size does matter, but which full size SUV is the right one for the job?

This comparison took some luxury players and let them have at it to see who would come out the winner. This leaves out some of our favorite large SUVs, simply because they are not luxury, but does offer a look at the Cadillac Escalade Platinum, Infiniti QX80 Limited, Land Rover Range Rover HSE, Lexus LX 570, Lincoln Navigator and Mercedes-Benz GL450. All of these awesome rides come in around the $90,000 range except the Navigator which showcases a price of $74,635 making it the discount shop of the group.

Why does it matter how these vehicles perform? Basically it’s shocking to know how many shoppers actually compare these brands to each other and these products across the lines. What is equally interesting is the face that even though this category is only responsible for a little over 100,000 units sold each year, accounting for only eleven percent of the overall sales, the profits from these monstrosities account for a full fifty percent of the total profits for their brands each year. Long story short, the larger price tag means a larger profit and big ticket items can give you more bang for your buck with one sale than a fleet of cheaper vehicles.

Taking the ride feeling over handling for these big beasts offers a look that gives us some clear leaders in the category. Keeping in mind three of these big guys are body on frame designs with the GL being a unibody build. The long wheelbases and shear girth of these SUVs make them ride pretty well. The only one of the group that offers a bit of harsh ride is the Navigator that truly does feel more like a truck than a large luxury SUV.

The overall favorite in the ride feeling was split between the rest of the pack with each offering their own version of a great ride. The Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover offerings both came in sporting air suspensions, making a smooth and enjoyable ride. The Infiniti model offered a tuned suspension that took care of business easily without a lot of muss and fuss. the Caddy shows up with the magnetorheological shocks that give a great ride feeling but also feel as if they are made more for sport than luxury. Even though the other suspensions are pretty cool, the one on the Lexus is maybe the most interesting as a hydraulic suspension that is a reminder from the Citroens from the past. The ride feel is described as more like a Mercedes than Lexus, quite a compliment actually since Lexus is typically farther down the luxury food chain from Mercedes.

As for the handling part of the equation, these big beasts are not sport cars and three weigh in at more than three tons with the Escalade pushing it at 5,870 pounds, the GL showing up at 5,565 pounds and the Range Rover being the lightest at 5,348 pounds. With that being said, five of these SUV ran a figure eight track in a nearly 27 second range with the GL showing up at 27.3 seconds and the QX80 being the slowest at 28.3 seconds. This was by no means slow considering a Mazda6 requires 27.3 seconds for the loop and the Kia Optima comes in around 28.3 seconds for the same run. This shows us that these bruisers are not slow, but are not the swiftest vehicles either, but give a respectable performance when faced with turns, giving a great handling test and results.

Testing the power and performance of these big guys gives us a wide range of numbers to look at, so please bear with me, this is an important part of the consideration, but even I can sometimes yawn talking engines. The Range Rover, the lightest of the group, offers the lowest horsepower at 340 from the supercharged 3.0-liter V6. Even with this low number, the time to sixty mph was 6.3 seconds for this amazing SUV. The QX80 also did the run in 6.3 seconds, the Lincoln and Mercedes both reached the finish line in only 6.2 seconds with the slowest of the bunch being the Lexus at 7.0 seconds and the swiftest was the Escalade at 5.9 seconds.

On the other end of this test, the braking, the Escalade came in the rear at 133 feet from 60 mph with the Infiniti offer the distance of 123 feet and the winner in this category, the rest fell somewhere in between these two. Overall, the three most likable engines were the Escalade with its 6.2-liter V8 although the rumblings are easily heard in the cabin, making it the noisiest in the cabin, the Lincoln with its 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin turbo V6 and the 5.6-liter V8 of the Infiniti and its 400 horsepower which makes it feel great and accelerate well.

The GL450 wasn’t bad with the 3.0-liter twin turbo V6, and feels more like a V8, but wasn’t in the top three and the Range Rover would have done better to include the top engine which is a 5.0-liter supercharged V8, leaving something to be desired by this top of the line namesake. Mercedes may have done better had the comparison included the GL63 that comes in with 550 horsepower or the GL550 with 429 which would have been plenty more, but the price of any of these higher end vehicles would have left the mark of $90,000 way behind.

Should we even discuss gas mileage with this group of hulking beasts? Maybe not, but just to highlight some of the numbers, the Range rover has the best numbers for this category at 17 city/23 hwy and the LX 570 shows up at a dismal 12 city/17 hwy with all the others falling somewhere in between. When you buy one of these giants the sheer size should indicate to you the fact you are going to be paying for gas a lot more than you would if you chose a Prius.

Once inside the cabins of these SUVs they all are seriously impressive, but separating them from each other is not really a difficult task. The Escalade shows off as the best of the group overall with gorgeous leather and amazing wood trim. The brown leather with contrasting stitching is elegant and the entire interior of this vehicle shows a high degree of luxury. The only drawback to the Escalade is the CUE infotainment system, which is also a demerit for the Range Rover as well. The Range Rover is unfortunately one of the worst interiors simply because it makes a lot of noises. The door pockets creak, cupholders scrape and even the armrests make noise when used, completely unacceptable for this price range.

Falling somewhere in between, the QX80 shows up with a lovely interior with gorgeous leather and glossy wood to give a refined appearance to the vehicle. Even with nice materials, the QX80, like the Lincoln Navigators have other roots and unfortunately that shows up. This lack of individuality makes the vehicle show less passenger space than you might think it should have. A good example of this is the second row captain’s chairs that do not move forward and backward, but are in a fixed position, making it hard for taller passengers to enjoy the ride. Inside the GL450, the look is a bit dated and the infotainment screen is too small, making it feel as if it’s time for an upgrade and remodel. The Lexus shows up as the oldest vehicle in the group, with no generational changes since 2007. This big beast is one that would fit in to a lot of places, but when put up against the rest of this list, the age is showing and in serious need of a redesign.

Bringing up the distant rear is the Lincoln Navigator which shows up without the details needed to truly be a luxury brand by any definition. The overall feeling for this interior is there was more to be done, but Lincoln was obviously rushed and slapped it together. Hopefully when the new build for 2018 is unveiled, the interior will showcase what the Lincoln brand is all about because the 2015 model doesn’t quite do the job, especially when standing next to these other five stalwarts.

One part of the interior of such large vehicles is the third row. Testing this area can really separate the cream from the curds. the Cadillac and Infiniti offer the most cramped third rows; the Range Rover doesn’t have one taking it out of contention. The Lexus has a third row that works well for adults, the Lincoln offered the largest space, but the most comfortable was the one found in the Mercedes which was spacious, and offered a supple ride in the long forgotten “back-back” seats of the vehicle.

To finish the look around the interior of these vehicles, let’s give one feature that separates each one. The Mercedes-Benz GL450 has the third row vent windows that were once found in minivans, the Lincoln Navigator is the only one in this group to offer a truly flat load floor, the Infiniti QX80 has a console for the passengers in the second row to use, the Land Rover Range Rover HSE has cameras at all corners for wheel placement, the Cadillac Escalade Platinum offers standard 4G LET Wi-Fi and a refrigerator in the center console and the Lexus LX570 shows up with the most off road features of any one of the vehicles in this group.

Value can be an important factor in a vehicle of this size and cost. Many owners will probably hang onto these hulking giants for longer than they would an average car, simply because of the price, reliability and comfort they provide. For overall value, the least expensive actually costs the most. The Lincoln shows up with an upside down range after five year making it the lowest in the value category. The Range Rover and Mercedes cost more than three times what the others do when repairs are needed, translating to higher maintenance costs and higher insurance premiums. The leader for depreciation is the Lexus LX 570 which after five years still holds 57 percent of the overall value that you pay for this big off road beast.

Overall there isn’t a bad vehicle in this bunch, each offering their own version of pure luxury to be appreciated and enjoyed. Even with that said ranking them can be difficult and your selections may be different than mine, but here is how they stack up and rank out.

In the last spot, at least on this list, the Infiniti QX80 which offers a low fuel economy, cramped third row and the looks that we still haven’t quite gotten used to yet. The fifth place goes to the Lincoln Navigator with its less luxurious feel from the ride to the interior, but it does have an excellent powertrain and may be a great ride in 2018 when the new model rolls out. Fourth belongs to the Land Rover Range Rover HSE, which is a great looking vehicle, but the quality, build and everything else left something to be desired. The third place recipient is the Lexus LX 570 which is only on this mark for the age of the vehicle otherwise it may lead the pack and be the perfect on and off road luxury SUV.

The runner up for this particular comparison goes to the Mercedes-Benz GL450 which is still one of the smartest and most comfortable SUVs on the market, even if it’s starting show age in its own right. Finally, the winner for this test goes to the Cadillac Escalade Platinum with the best interior, best sounding engine quickest overall speed and great looks, the Escalade is a vehicle that makes the difference and can’t be argued with for having any glaring faults. With this list of amazing full size luxury SUVs to choose from, you can’t find one to not fall in love with, but side by side, the Escalade was the clear winner.

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