New SUV is due later this year
The Infiniti QX80 Monograph concept that debuted at the New York auto show previews a new look for the next generation of the large SUV which will go into production by the end of the year.
But the 2018 QX80 will drive pretty much the same because Infiniti is keeping the current architecture and powertrain, said Roland Krueger, Nissan senior vice president and president of the Infiniti Motor Company.
That means the same underpinnings that date back to 2011 will carry over, as well as the 5.6-liter V-8 engine that produces 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.
“It will be the same powertrain,” Krueger told Motor Trend in an interview. He has also hinted at a smaller powertrain on occasion, however, so we are not ruling out the addition of another powertrain option as well, perhaps a turbocharged V-6.
The platform, used by the Nissan Patrol, is body-on-frame and capable of towing 8,500 pounds (3,855 kg) with a self-leveling rear suspension to help with that load. In addition to the multilink independent rear suspension, there is an optional body motion control system. The 2017 Nissan Armada also switched to the Patrol platform—it previously shared its bones with the Nissan Titan pickup.
Automakers usually use a new generation of a vehicle to change the underpinnings to improve driving dynamics or make other structural changes, but large SUVs tend to have longer life cycles than smaller crossovers which are in a much more competitive segment.
Krueger said change was not necessary for the new QX80. “It is a very successful car and very successful architecture and it fits right into the market. When you look at powertrain, capacity for seven seats, it fits right in.”
General Motors has added sportier versions and 10-speed transmissions to its full-size SUV line. The Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban add RST or Rally Street Truck special editions and Tahoe adds a performance pack with GM’s 6.2-liter V-8 generating 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.
Mercedes-Benz gave the second-generation GL-Class a facelift last year, much needed given that it has been around since 2012 and could benefit from some updates until it gets a full redo which is likely still a few years out. The biggest change is its new name: GLS.
The current QX80 received a facelift in 2014, but that will give way to a new look based on the Monograph design study. The SUV will get a new look inside and out.
The Monograph continues the evolution of the look that Infiniti has crafted under Nissan creative officer Shiro Nakamura and Infiniti design chief Alfonso Albaisa. Nakamura retired in March and Albaisa became his successor. On July 1, former BMW design chief Karim Habib will take over as Infiniti’s design chief, working with his old friend Krueger who also came from BMW. Krueger said the new design leaders will continue the work already underway to make Nissan’s luxury brand distinctive and easily identifiable.
The Monograph shows the double-arched grille will get bigger with a more elaborate mesh pattern. The overall look is more aggressive with blacked-out pillars and sharper lines for the D-pillar. The sleek look includes pop-out door handles, and the headlamps continue the “human eye” look that Infiniti has made its signature. But they taper into light bars that extend along the side of the car, to the door.
Although the Monograph design study is an exterior experiment, Krueger said the new QX80 will also have an updated and upgraded interior.
Infiniti sold almost 6,700 QX80s in the first four months of this year, a 31 percent increase from a year ago. It sold 16,772 copies in 2016, up 7 percent.
In other news, Krueger said a pure electric vehicle for Infiniti is in the works but it is too soon to provide further details. Infiniti has a number of hybrids, but has not yet tapped into the Nissan Leaf’s pure EV system for a luxury vehicle.