Review and photos by Dan Heyman and Brendan McAleer
Lincoln Navigator vs Cadillac Escalade vs Infiniti QX80
Dinosaurs. Behemoths. Tanks. Land yachts.
Call them what you want to call them, big SUVs – the scourge of the roads for some, smooth, refined, regal rides for others – are a market segment that simply cannot be ignored. Even now, with gas prices at a premium (actually, scratch that one for the time being…) luxury manufacturers continue to persevere in this segment for fear of missing on all the well-to-do customers and car-service drivers that love these so much.
But what of modernization? With all the electric hybridification and whiz-bangery we’re seeing throughout the automotive landscape, how relevant are these? Especially considering that many luxury manufacturers are flocking to alternative powertrains for their flagship models. Models that, many would argue, are in this very segment and perhaps even represented by the three you see here.
But never mind all that, because what we’ve got here isn’t so much a comparison as an argument. We drove them all, we disagreed; we sat on the results for a while, we disagreed; and when Dan and I got together again to sort out a winner from these three gorillas in the mist, guess what?
Any conclusion, much like the fog, cloud, and rain that plagued our day, was hard to see. Still, in the end a controversial winner was decided upon, one that I’m still not completely happy about. Chuck the marbles in the middle and hover your hand over the lever: the two-ton hungry-hungry-hippo games are about to begin.
Styling and Prestige
Firstly, I think we can safely say that the Infiniti QX80 is one of the ugliest new cars on sale today. It looks like a glandular problem with a glandular problem. It looks like a beached whale. If you buy one in white and drive it down Main Street, eighteenth-century Nantucket whalers will chase after you, throwing harpoons.
By comparison, the Lincoln Navigator is far more reserved, and looks like a Ford Expedition with fancy taillights and the face of Sam the Eagle from the Muppet Show. It has the smallest wheels in the group with 20-inch blacked-out alloys, and I have to say it looks pretty good in this dark midnight blue.
There’s no subtlety to the big Caddy, but that’s not it’s purpose. The Escalade is all about swagger, even if it’s driven by more Beverly Hills moms than Big Apple rappers, and it absolutely dominated proceedings whenever we parked these three big bruisers next to each other.
If you’re shopping in this segment, then utility is important, but image is too. I’d argue that Ford has neglected Lincoln into a second-tier brand, and Infiniti isn’t quite ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Teutonic rivals like BMW and Mercedes-Benz – performance-wise maybe, but not in snob appeal. However, while Cadillac’s star doesn’t shine as brightly as it did in the days of the Brat-pack, the Escalade is the one truck that can proudly carry the tagline, “the Standard of the World.” That’s a big badge you’ve got there, Sheriff, but you’ve got the presence to back it up.