Testing Infiniti's updated full-size luxury SUV
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or if you’re Infiniti: If it ain’t broke, give it a face-lift and some minor updates and keep selling it for a few more years. That’s apparently the philosophy the automaker followed when it designed the 2018 QX80, a vehicle that could’ve used a new generation after seven model years. Are the changes good enough to keep Infiniti in the full-size luxury SUV game? We got our hands on a refreshed 2018 QX80 to find out.
When the first official photos of the new QX80 surfaced online, a few staffers (this author included) struggled to spot the changes. The SUV gets headlights and taillights inspired by the QX80 Monograph concept, but other than that, the vehicle looked the same as the Nissan Patrol–based offering that’s been on sale since 2010. That impression doesn’t change when you look over the spec sheet. The 2018 Infiniti QX80 continues to be powered by a 5.6-liter naturally aspirated V-8 making 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque and mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.
In person, though, it’s much easier to tell Infiniti’s flagship SUV has gone under the knife. The new headlights are fresh and classy and make the front end look less like Shamu. The LEDs housed inside are also impressive, emitting a white beam with an incredibly sharp cutoff pattern. The lights looked so alien radiating across my garage door that I had to double-check that they weren’t laser headlamps, which are still banned in the U.S. The QX80 also gets a redesigned front fender vent and new wheels, which contribute to its more modern exterior look.
Climb (literally) inside the cabin, and you’ll notice new leather upholstery with more quilting covering the seats. You might also notice new stitching throughout the cabin and better wood trim. Our tester came with the new saddle brown and charcoal burl interior scheme, which lends the cabin an attractive, sophisticated look. The front buckets are also supremely comfortable and are complemented by cushy armrests.
But after stepping foot in the surprisingly posh QX50, the QX80’s interior is much less impressive given its price point. The biggest ding against the QX80’s cabin is that it just looks dated. The finest leather in the world can’t make up for the QX80’s generations-behind touchscreen, which is slow to respond to inputs and has low-resolution graphics. The analog gauges and Nokia-esque in-cluster digital info screen don’t do the interior any favors, either.
Although the screens in the front portion of the cabin are old, Infiniti updated the dual headrest displays that come with the $2,450 USD Theater package. The displays increase in size to 8.0 inches and are higher-resolution, with an aspect ratio close to that of smartphones—meaning content played off your phone should look crisp and undistorted. Speaking of what you can watch on those screens, second-row occupants can view what they want independently from each other, though they’ll have to fight over who gets the single HDMI input.
Accessing the third row is easy thanks to second-row seats that tumble forward in one fluid motion with a push of a button in the center stack or a pull of the lever on the seat itself. The rearmost seats could be better, though. Knee room was just OK for me at 5-foot-7, so anyone with longer legs will probably feel cramped. And because the floor is raised, you don’t sit flat, making the seats uncomfortable for adults. If you’re only planning to put kids back there, though, it’s just fine.
The QX80’s macho 5.6-liter V-8 has always been one of its best selling points, and that continues to be the case with the refreshed model. The engine produces an aurally pleasing low rumble at idle, and it sings as you bury your foot in the throttle. The resulting acceleration won’t push you back in your seat, but it’s more than adequate for merging into traffic. You can downshift the seven-speed automatic manually by clicking the gear selector to the left, though the transmission is somewhat slow to respond.
At the track, the QX80 accelerated to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds at 94.2 mph (151.6 km/h). Given the carryover drivetrain, it’s not too surprising that those times exactly match the last pre-refresh 2015 model we tested. Compared to the rest of the class, the QX80 is only quicker than the even-older Lexus LX 570, which does 0–60 in 7.0 seconds and the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds. All other body-on-frame luxury players are quicker, with both the Cadillac Escalade and the twin-turbo V-6-powered Lincoln Navigator coming in at 5.9 seconds to 60 mph.
But for a vehicle weighing more than 6,000 pounds (2,721 kg), the QX80 stops surprisingly well. The 2018 model came to a halt from 60 mph in 122 feet, 1 foot shorter than the 2015 model. To put that in perspective, the new Navigator needed 132 feet to slow down from the same speed, and the Escalade needed 133. Our SUV also came equipped with the $2,900 USD Driver Assistance package, which adds a suite of active safety features. These include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning and intervention, lane departure warning and lane keeping, adaptive cruise control with a full speed range, reverse auto braking, and Distance Control Assist, which works kind of like adaptive cruise by maintaining a safe distance from the car in front. All features seemed to work well, but those that apply the brakes automatically didn’t do so as smoothly as other Infinitis I’ve driven.
No SUV of this size should be expected to handle like a sports car, but you also don’t want too much slop when you take a turn. With the surprisingly athletic Navigator still fresh in my memory, the QX80 felt much less happy in the corners. You’ll feel all three tons of the QX80’s curb weight when you take a curvy freeway on-ramp with any amount of urgency, as body roll is significant. The QX80 posted a time of 28.1 seconds in our figure-eight test, slower than the Escalade (27.4 seconds), Navigator (27.8 seconds), and LX 570 (27.9 seconds). But the lap time doesn’t tell the full story. I’ll let road test editor Chris Walton explain.
“Pitch and roll were expected and abundant,” he said. “What I wasn’t expecting was for the brake pedal to be firm at first stomp then go soft and nearly to the floor in the braking zone—and not every time, which is disconcerting. The steering is feather light but didn’t require a lot of adjustment on the skidpad. Traction control and electronic stability control cannot be fully defeated. If I got into ESC at all, the QX80 understeered severely, causing massive intervention, taking the throttle away and also bucking and pitching even more. Essentially, this drives as big as it looks and doesn’t like to do anything in a hurry.”
Granted, few owners will ever take the QX80 to its handling limits as we did. For those content with not driving their luxury SUV like a crazy person, the refreshed QX80 offers a comfortable and quiet ride, even with the optional 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires that our tester came with. Infiniti added more sound insulation for 2018, including more material in the dash to dampen engine noise and sound deadening in the cargo area floor to help keep out road noise.
Parking the QX80 is made easier by a standard 360-degree camera system. Infiniti says the new QX80 can be had with up to five cameras, and one of them points at a blind spot that’s particularly bad in large vehicles: the passenger-side front wheel. This view lets you get close to a curb or check clearance between your vehicle and an object below your line of sight. You can easily toggle camera views via a button in the center stack. If you need even more visibility, Nissan’s Intelligent Rearview Mirror has trickled up to Infiniti, starting with the QX80. The in-mirror display is part of the $5,700 USD Deluxe Technology package and shows a video feed from a camera at the top of the rear glass to give you a wide-angle view that’s unobstructed by pillars.
Our 2018 Infiniti QX80 4WD stickered at $85,160 USD, which is just about fully loaded for now (a pricier QX80 Limited Edition arrives this summer). That comes in well under the $100,315 USD as-tested price for the comparably equipped 2018 Lincoln Navigator I recently reviewed. The QX80 also starts at less than all of its body-on-frame competitors, at $65,745 USD for a rear-drive model and $68,845 USD for four-wheel drive. Those prices represent increases of just $900 USD from the pre-refresh 2017 model, meaning you get a sharper look, an improved interior, and more available tech for less than a grand more.
Although it’s the least expensive option in the luxury SUV category, the QX80 doesn’t feel like it. The Infiniti isn’t up to the same level as the overachieving Navigator, but I wouldn’t expect that from a product that costs $15,000 USD less. If you want the best luxury SUV on the market and are willing to pay top dollar for it, get the Navigator. But if you want a premium sport ute experience and can look past a few outdated features, the QX80 is a good value.
|2018 Infiniti QX80 (4WD)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$85,160|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||5.6L/400-hp/413-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||6,024 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||208.9 x 79.9 x 75.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.9 sec @ 94.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||122 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.74 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.1 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||13/19/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||259/177 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.28 lb/mile|