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2018 INFINITI QX80 Review

2018 INFINITI QX80 Review
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A nip and tuck for this year isn't enough to ignore the wrinkles in the aging 2018 Infiniti QX80.
Refreshed but in need of a redesign, the 2018 Infiniti QX80 lumbers into the new model year with a more attractive face, a still-lovely interior, and a charming V-8 engine. But aging technology and an old-fashioned powertrain—and while we don't base our ratings on it, vastly newer and more advanced competitors—make it a difficult SUV to recommend. 

While it looks new(ish) for this year, the QX80 continues with a 5.6-liter V-8 as its sole engine that produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a 7-speed automatic, the rear-drive variant returns an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city, 20 highway, 16 combined. Going for four-wheel drive drops each of those figures by 1 mpg.


Hydraulic Body Motion Control is new for 2018 and promises to reduce the QX80's substantial body roll in heavy cornering. It works, mostly. According to Infiniti, it reduces the lean angle during cornering by 35 percent compared to an unnamed competitor (that probably sounds like “Plexus”). In reality, the system can't defeat the laws of physics—there's still plenty of roll. That could be because Infiniti reduced damping firmness by 35 percent at each corner, in a bid to improve ride quality. That effort was more successful.

The fascia is new, with a grille and headlights that take inspiration from the QX80 Monograph Concept from last year's New York Auto Show. The result is a far more attractive vehicle from its most important angle. The profile is unchanged (aside from lower-profile portholes), but Infiniti's designers tweaked the tail, curbing the rear bumper's underbite slightly while reshaping the taillights.

The QX80's cabin shows its age with a button-heavy center console, an antiquated infotainment system, and a small, monochrome display in the instrument cluster. In terms of material quality, the QX80 is a charmer, with handsome leather and beautiful stitching. The quality of the wood trim isn't stellar, but it's good enough at $65,745 to start, including destination.

Infiniti doesn't offer the QX80 in trim levels, instead asking owners to choose between rear- or four-wheel drive and then offering a number of option packages. Active safety systems include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors as part of the $2,900 Driver Assistance Package—this package is a prerequisite for every other option package, so plan on spending it unless you want a bare-bones QX80.

A rear-seat entertainment system, Hydraulic Body Motion Control, a rearview mirror that doubles as a home for the rearview camera, cooled front seats, and a 15-speaker Bose audio system are all spend-up luxury extras.

Conclusion

The 2018 Infiniti QX80's newish exterior hides a leftover powertrain and interior tech.

Styling
Lovely leathers and a vastly improved exterior aesthetic keep the 2018 Infiniti QX80 competitive.

The 2018 Infiniti QX80's exterior is far more attractive thanks to the styling influence of the QX80 Monograph concept, while its cabin retains the beautiful leather work and stitching set it apart among competitors.

To be blunt, the old QX80 was one of the ugliest cars around, a garish mess with a bizarre underbite from its huge rear bumper. The 2018 model shrinks that rear bumper and reprofiles the tailgate with new taillights that give it a cleaner, more modern look. But the change in front is the biggest improvement.

Clean, sharper headlights and a more attractive grille make the QX80 look like an oversized QX60—no bad thing. Infiniti also addressed the ugly side grilles, attaching a more conventional setup. It's among the smallest of changes, but the new side grilles are a significant improvement over the AutoZone-spec items from last year.

One area Infiniti didn't need to improve was the cabin. The standard leather is fine, but the quilted semi-aniline hides in the pricey Deluxe Technology Package are almost worth the extra $13,850 (including prerequisite packages). Grabbing this package also upgrades the wood trim to either Charcoal or Espresso Burl. The QX80 shows its age with some of its dash plastics—they're not bad, but competitors are lining their dashboards in leather nowadays.

Performance
A pleasant powertrain and a soft suspension were fine years ago, but the 2018 QX80 is behind the market in some key areas.

The QX80's 400-hp, 5.6-liter V-8 engine with 413 lb-ft of torque isn't lethargic, but in 2018 it's not enough to deliver class-leading performance. Alongside a slick-shifting 7-speed automatic, the V-8 is merely average. The softer suspension sacrifices the QX80's already ponderous handling for an improved ride, but not enough to call it above average.

That V-8 is an old-school unit, delivering its performance in big dollops at low engine speeds, where torque is king. But getting the most out of this engine means being aggressive with the throttle. Do that, and the V-8 will rev willingly and sound good along the way. The 7-speed automatic is pleasant, engaging quickly off the line and managing the power well with right-timed shifts and a lack of hunting. The pairing blesses the QX80 with an impressive tow rating of up to 8,500 pounds.

The addition of the new Hydraulic Body Motion Control system is supposed to reduce body roll, but the reality is that this SUV still weighs 5,900 pounds (for the four-wheel-drive model we tested), stands taller than six feet, and boasts a soft suspension. There's plenty of body roll, but it's progressive and unsurprising unless chucking the QX80 into a turn at speed. Infiniti also softened the suspension at all four corners in an attempt to deliver a more comfortable ride—it worked. The QX80 manages bumps and imperfections well, despite its antiquated underpinnings.

But compared to other models, like the new Lincoln Navigator, the QX80 simply doesn't feel as agile, solid, or planted on the road. The steering ratio is a leisurely 19.0:1, which is fine for high-speed stability, but is like piloting a blimp at lower speeds. The weighting is good, so while you'll spend a lot of time steering at least you won't be exerting much effort.

Comfort & Quality
Lovely upholstery and comfortable front and middle seats, not to mention, a quiet driving experience, elevate the 2018 Infiniti QX80's comfort rating.

Comfortable, supportive front seats with beautiful leather upholstery, a spacious second row with standard captain's chairs, and a usable third-row bench help the QX80 earn 9 out of 10 on our comfort scale.

A tall seating position, a right-sized steering wheel, and a range of adjustability make the driver's seat the best in the house. Sightlines are solid, especially once the third row is folded down, while the seat upholstery on upgraded QX80s is fantastic. That's all true of the front passenger's seat, too.

Infiniti will sell a second-row bench for a $250 premium, but like most of the other options, it requires the $2,900 Driver Assistance Package. And really, the standard captain's chairs are so good, we can't really see the point in moving from the seven-passenger layout to the eight. Those middle buckets offer enough adjustability and plenty of standard leg room at 41 inches—that's a full inch more than a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. The third row can accommodate adults, but it's better suited to children. Head room isn't too bad, but leg room is on the tight end at 28.8 inches.

Infintii has long used active noise cancellation in its products and the QX80 is no different. The Bose system eradicates unpleasant noises, while traditional sound deadening does a fine job of hiding road, suspension, and wind noise. It's easy to get lost cruising down the road in the QX80.

Cargo capacity with all three rows of seats in place is 16.6 cubic feet, which is a smidge more than Infiniti's largest sedan, the Q70.

Safety
The Infiniti QX80 has not been crash tested yet.

Federal and independent testers don’t usually run luxury SUVs into walls—they’re too expensive and sold in smaller quantities compared to other vehicles. Until those safety officials change their minds, we’ll withhold our safety score. 

Active safety systems are optional on this full-sizer, but they're neatly packaged in the Driver Assistance Package. The $2,900 option doesn't require any prerequisites, although it is a prereq for nearly every other option. That should mean that most QX80s on the road will feature adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.

Features
Prerequisite packages don't allow a lot of customization, but going from a base QX80 to a loaded one requires just $17,000. Not a bad deal in this class.

It might wear updated sheetmetal, but the 2018 Infiniti QX80 is behind the curve when it comes to features. The navigation system is a full generation behind, and while we sound snobbish saying it, this pricey luxury SUV still features a monochrome display in the instrument cluster. But its impressive roster of standard equipment and a healthy roster of option packages earn it 7 out of 10 on our features scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Prices for the 2018 QX80 start at $65,745 (including a $995 destination charge). Adding the available four-wheel-drive system adds $3,100.

Unlike newer Infiniti models, the 2018 QX80 skips trim levels. All QX80s are available with a range of option packages that build upon each other. The $2,900 Driver Assistance Package features Infiniti's full array of active safety systems and is a prerequisite for the five other option packs. It adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and active lane control.

The $2,450 Theater Package adds a pair of 8.0-inch displays in the front seatbacks. With USB and HDMI connectivity, a 120-volt power outlet, and a pair of wireless headphones, this option is a must for road-tripping families. The Theater Package also adds heated second row seats. Upgrade to flashy 22-inch alloys for $2,800, while a second-row bench is just $250.

The king of the hill is the $5,700 Deluxe Technology Package. It requires everything listed above except for the second-row bench, making its effective price $13,850. For that princely sum, customers get the awesome semi-aniline leather and upgraded wood trim, in addition to Hydraulic Body Motion Control, ventilated front seats, the rearview camera mirror, a 15-speaker Bose surround audio system, active front lighting, and chrome mirror caps.

Finally, a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot is available for $450, and requires the Driver Assistance Package and the Theater Package. On the flipside, this package makes it possible to play “Call of Duty” while driving down the freeway—it's an easy purchase.

That said, a generation-old navigation system, a button-heavy interface despite the presence of an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and old-fashioned features like a monochrome instrument cluster display and analog gauges, not to mention the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, mean the QX80 feels as old as its 2010 on-sale date would suggest.

Fuel Economy
Combined fuel economy ratings in the teens thanks to a V-8 powertrain and 7-speed automatic mean unsurprisingly poor fuel economy for the big QX80.

The 2018 Infiniti QX50 is rated at 14 mpg city, 20 highway, 16 combined in rear-wheel-drive trim, while its pump performance drops 1 mpg in each category with four-wheel drive. Those numbers are enough to earn 5 out of 10 on our fuel economy scale.

The QX80 is a big, V-8-powered luxury SUV, so its poor performance here isn't a surprise. Making matters worse is its lack of active aerodynamics—there are no grille shutters, for example—and its old 7-speed automatic transmission. Here's hoping the next QX80 retains this model's versatility but goes a bit further in fuel saving.

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