Infiniti’s range-topping QX80, a full-size SUV competitive with the likes of the Mercedes GLS series, the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade, scores a much-needed mid-cycle refresh for 2018. Though the exterior has received a solid tightening up — smoothing out some billowiness, raising the headlights to a more authoritative position — the real story is the interior, which lavishes passengers in rich colors and textures and provides a roominess for all three rows. This is key to Infiniti’s assertion that the car provides “inclusiveness” for the passengers in terms of the distribution of luxuriousness and other amenities to everyone in the car, not just the front-seaters.
The massive machine’s smart exterior design gives it a far more sophisticated and subtle presence than the previous QX80, which unfortunately was my least-favorite big hauler based on looks alone. But by bringing up those headlights, tweaking the grille and sharpening the transition to the hood, the SUV gains some much-needed panache. Road manners are also improved, with new tuning that smooths out the ride and, in particular, levels the car nicely in the turns. This comes via Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC), which generates the kind of mature and capable road-handling that all big SUVs seem to be going for this year. It’s also far less bouncy in general — another unpleasant trait that many full-sized SUVs seem to possess.
2018 Infiniti QX80
Engine: 5.6-liter V8
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
Torque: 413 lb-ft
0-60: 7.5 seconds
Weight: 5,675 lbs
Price (MSRP): 2WD: $64,750; 4WD: $67,850
The performance is pretty spry in general, too, with a 7.5-second 0-60 time courtesy of the big, heaving 5.6-liter V8 that produces 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. It jumps off the line with commendable energy and never really lets you feel like you want or need more power. Ultimately, it doesn’t feel at all like a ‘wannabe-Lexus’ — this perpetual ding against Infiniti, by the way, is still largely presumed by consumers even though the brand has always pretty much gone its own way. Instead, the QX80 is absolutely a self-confident, equally-capable contender for the eyes of the big-SUV crowd.
Exterior modifications generate a variety of noticeable impacts, from a longer look (length has actually gone unchanged — credit more precisely defined character lines for this illusion) to a stripping out of the car’s rounded curves in favor of more angular edges. The headlamps are also greatly improved: they’re higher up the fascia and more elongated and focused. The previous headlights looked horribly dated the minute they arrived, but these are fresh and modern, if not timeless.
Inside, robust quilting on the leather seats and abundant stitching give the furniture a distinctly estate-like quality, and middle-row legroom is more than generous. The whole space is also quieter, thanks to soundproofing in the QX80’s structure that better muffles road and wind noise.
Tech levels are absolutely competitive, with a full roster of driver assistance technologies that include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind spot warning and backup collision intervention that will automatically stop the car if you’re about to run something over while reversing. Five cameras and three radar units do the grunt work here when it comes to monitoring your surroundings and enabling reactions. Also, ride-quality enhancements through the HBMC system are intensely welcomed. This tech monitors body lean and roll and adjusts the suspension through hydraulic cylinders to compensate for the movement. (Read: no passengers are tossed around in back while you wrench the wheel.) The new version of this system also better responds to high-frequency vibrations, generating that glassy feel people love so much in luxury SUVs.
Who It’s For:
To the brand’s credit, the QX80 has consistently drawn in the youngest customers among large-SUV enthusiasts, with a median age of 46 against the segment’s median of 54. That places it squarely within range of families mostly with older kids, even though societal trends see the average age of young’uns dropping steadily as grown-ups wait longer to spawn.
Also, the marketing material bills the car as a model of “inclusive luxury” that “goes beyond the category’s elitist, isolating obsession with ‘me above all.'” While that language seems to imply some sort of socially aware equality-mongering — as though the QX80’s luxuriousness could somehow benefit all mankind — it actually just means that the middle row is as nice as the front. So it’s for people who want their passengers to feel as pampered as they are up there in business class.
Watch Out For:
The QX80 includes a Smart Rear View Mirror — essentially a digital mirror with an LCD screen that projects an unobstructed view out of the rear of the car. (Cadillac got here first with similar tech in its CTS sedan.) The system is terrific when there are passengers or cargo in the car or when the rear glass is covered in ice, but in general, its image quality doesn’t quite match the Cadillac system. So it’s good in a pinch, but you’ll likely find that the conventional mirror — which you can flip to at any time — generates actually a better view. For instance, you identify makes and models of cars a quarter-mile behind you in the normal mirror, but can barely even see another vehicle at that distance in the digital version. So while it’s worth having, it’s not really worth deploying 100 percent of the time. Also, the fuel consumption numbers aren’t terrific: 16 combined for the two-wheel-drive model and 15 for the four-wheel-drive. Those are basically on par with competitors, though the Navigator has an edge here by a mile or two.
The QX80 sits in the same segment as the Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes GLS and Lexus LX. It offers the lowest entry price among all of them, but with competitive features and equally sharp styling. Realistically, its vibe is closest to the Navigator and the LX, but they all have their own gestalts — so pick your poison.
Honestly, you can probably skip the rear-seat entertainment system, as good as it may be with its increased eight-inch screens, newly bumped resolution and multiple input options. Since pretty much all children now have their own iPads with their favorite content readily accessible, the rear screens are superfluous.