Given its full-size dimensions and matching price tag, QX80 serves as the Infiniti brand’s default flagship model. It sits atop this Japanese luxury division’s portfolio, or at least its utility-vehicle range.
Large and glittery, this imposing three-row SUV offers plenty of space and technology. New for 2019 is a special Limited trim, which, among other things, features dark machined-finish 22-inch wheels on the outside and open-pore, silver-hued ash-wood trim plus satin-chrome accents inside. For the latest model year, more basic Luxe models gain standard forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection in addition to predictive forward collision warning.
With a wheelbase of 121.1 inches (3,076 mm) and an overall length of 210.2 inches (5,339 mm), the QX80 is perfectly sized to compete with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLS range as well as standard versions of the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade.
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Base price for an entry-level QX80 is about $67,000, meaning it has a slight pricing advantage over its chief rivals. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive. The range-topping Limited model tested here checked out at $91,450 including $1,295 in destination fees. The sole option inflating that figure was $355 for the available all-season package, which includes upgraded floormats and a cargo mat.
After a week in the saddle of this high-riding luxury cruiser, here are some of its most significant pros and cons.
All QX80s are powered by a 5.6-liter gasoline V8 engine. Internally referred to as VK56VD, this booming and muscular V8 is astoundingly good, so enticing in fact, it wouldn’t feel out of place in a sports car. Smooth running no matter the driving situation, it revs with shocking enthusiasm, endowing this hefty SUV with more-than-adequate acceleration. Direct fuel injection and Infiniti’s VVEL (that’s Variable Valve Event and Lift for those of you that care) variable valve-lift technology help it deliver 400 horsepower with 413 pound-feet of torque. These figures are a little off what some competitors offer, the Navigator, for instance, comes with 450 ponies and 510 lb-ft, but you should never want for power in the QX80.
Helping that engine motivate this near-6,000-pound vehicle is an astute seven-speed automatic transmission. It shifts smoothly and usually picks the right gear. For extra refinement, it also features downshift rev matching, a feature that brings up engine rpm when dropping gears to improve shift quality.
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This gearbox helps the QX80 tow up to 8,500 pounds (3,856 kg). As for fuel economy, with four-wheel drive this powertrain combo is rated at 13 miles per gallon city (17.4 L/100 km), 19 on the highway (12.2 L/100 km) and 15 mpg combined (15.1 L/100 km). Rear-drive examples are rated at 1 extra mile per gallon on each driving cycle.
The QX80 may not be the freshest vehicle on the road today, but its interior has stood the test of time quite well. There are acres of soft leather held together by untold miles of elegant stitching. The ash wood adorning this Limited model’s cabin provided a unique look; it’s a welcome departure from the carbon fiber trim used by so many automakers these days. The Ultrasuede-wrapped headliner is also wonderful.
This Infiniti’s front seats are soft and supportive, in short, supremely comfortable. The driver’s bucket adjusts in 10 directions, the front passenger’s, eight. This vehicle can seat up to eight people, seven if you opt for the available second-row captains’ chairs, which this model was equipped with.
Improving safety and reducing motorist fatigue, the QX80 can be had with a wide range of advanced driver-assistance aids. Adaptive cruise control; blind-spot monitoring; Backup Collision Intervention, which prevents the vehicle from reversing over obstacles; and lane-departure warning with lane departure prevention are all standard on Limited models, optional on the lesser Luxe trim.
One dynamic downside to the QX80 is the steering, not that anyone shopping for a luxury three-row SUV really cares about this particular element. Still, this vehicle’s tiller has a certain ropiness to it, a numbness that makes it feel old-fashioned, a bit crude. The wheel also has an unnatural heft to it that seems out character given how smooth the rest of it operates.
Another con of the QX80 is its outdated technology. Where rivals like Mercedes-Benz have introduced dazzling all-new infotainment systems, this Infiniti soldiers on with features that look like they were pulled right out of the early 2000s. For instance, there’s no digital instrument cluster. Instead, the driver is treated to half a dozen analog gauges and a tiny, gritty-looking screen nestled between the tachometer and speedometer.
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The infotainment system is also a bit challenging to use, displayed on an eight-inch screen. It’s not particularly responsive to touch inputs and the secondary array of physical buttons further confuses things. The inclusion of these controls on the top of the center stack also forces the audio and climate controls downward, making them less convenient to operate.
The QX80’s front buckets are supremely comfortable, and its second-row accommodations aren’t too bad, either, but the third row could use some work. Any adult-sized passengers are not going to be happy sitting in this SUV’s aft most seats. Legroom is a scarce commodity here and the lower cushion is so close to the floor your knees are forced up to chin level. At least the second-row seats easily tip and slide forward making it easy for kids to climb into those rear-most seats. For all-row comfort, the Lincoln Navigator handily beats this Infiniti.
And with the third row in people-hauling mode (i.e. upright) there’s surprisingly little cargo space in this exceedingly large vehicle, just 16.6 cubic feet (470 liters). Fortunately, those backrests power fold at the push of two buttons, opening significantly more space for cargo. Naturally, for all-out hauling the second row drops as well.
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