by Michael Butler
Big luxury SUVs have become more of a status symbol than traditional choices such as large sedans and two-door sports cars, which is a crying shame especially as this phenomenon looks like it's going to be with us for quite some time to come. We totally get the idea of a practical yet luxurious vehicle that can do almost anything; it's not limited by ride height or trunk space, and with all that interior room, you can do things that smaller cars can't. But as we've experienced in the latest Infiniti QX80, the driving experience has disconnected the driver from the driving, which is something we can't forgive. We do like the QX80's powerful V8, which produces 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque, despite its lousy drinking habit, and the bold exterior styling makes an impact. The interior isn't as great as its more accomplished contemporaries, but the Infiniti is cleverly priced between big shots like the Escalade and more basic offerings such as the Nissan Armada. The QX80 is a jack of all trades, but is that enough to convince buyers?
The 2020 QX80 receives several welcomed tech upgrades, and a few previously optional features become standard as well. The upgraded infotainment system now features two displays, stacked on top of each other as with the rest of the Infiniti lineup. The top screen is now eight inches big, while the bottom measures seven inches, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are now both standard. Infiniti has also improved the navigation system with 3D maps, street view imagery, and Destinations by Google. Active driver assistance features now standard across the range include lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, automatic rear braking, rear cross-traffic alert, and high beam assist.
The designers of the QX80 have gone with what could be described as a "bold approach" when it comes to the exterior styling of the Qx80. We think it looks pretty cool and gives the QX80 some serious presence on the road. Standard features included across the range are automatic on/off LED headlights with high beam assist and integrated led front fog lights, a power-sliding moonroof with one-touch auto-open and close, a power rear liftgate, as well as rear privacy glass. Smaller details on the exterior include remote power-opening of windows using an Infiniti intelligent key system, auto-dimming, power-folding and heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, as well as rain-sensing windshield wipers and an integrated class four tow hitch and seven-pin wiring harness. Limited models add headlight washers and stainless steel running boards in place of the Luxe's body-colored items.
There are no two ways about it; the QX80 is a lumbering mass that will dwarf most ordinary cars. Even competitors such as the Cadillac Escalade and the Nissan Armada look smaller when parked next to the QX80. The QX80 measures 210.2 inches in overall length and is 79.9 inches wide with the side mirrors in. With the roof rails included, the QX80 measures 75.8 inches in height. This ponderous beast rolls on a 121.1-inch wheelbase and track width is 67.5 and 67.9 inches, front to rear. Step-in height in the front is 22.4 inches, and 22.8 inches in the back. Luxe trim cars weigh in with a curb weight of 5,676 pounds, and the Limited car will creep closer to the 6,000-pound mark at 5,921 lbs.
The bold styling of the QX80 lends itself to darker colors, but Infiniti offers its big SUV in a range of nine colors (depending on trim level), some of which are available at a cost of $595. Your basic hues are covered with Black Obsidian, Mineral Black (an extra cost option), Moonstone White, and Liquid Platinum Silver. Extra cost colors include exotics such as Champagne Quartz, Coulis Red, and Anthracite Gray. Some will want to accentuate the massive size of the QX80 with lighter colors, while others might want to slim its figure down with darker shades. If we were the ones doing the buying, we'd go with the mean-looking Anthracite Gray, which is unfortunately only available on Limited models.
The fact that the QX80 has a big V8 lurking beneath the hood goes completely unnoticed on startup; press the start button, and all you get is a slight grumble that settles into an eco-car-like idle but press down on the accelerator, and it will start moving at a pleasingly rapid rate. It should be worth reminding that the QX80 weighs close to 6,000 pounds, so getting this SUV to move with any zest whatsoever is not an easy task. Thankfully, Infiniti has paired their large SUV with enough power to feel sprightly in town, 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque to be exact, and will bulldoze its way through highway traffic without much hassle. Performance feels on par with the Nissan Armada, which shares its engine, although in a slightly detuned state, and the zero to 60 mph sprint is completed in a manufacturer claimed 7.1 seconds. Not bad for such a barge.
Both Luxe and Limited trim cars are powered by the same 5.6-liter 32-valve V8 engine which features aluminum-alloy heads, dry film-coated pistons, as well as direct fuel injection and continuously variable valve timing. This setup produces 400 hp and a strong 413 lb-ft of torque. Max torque is available at 4,000 rpm, but in reality, it feels as if there are mountains of torque available everywhere in the rev range. Power is sent to either the rear or all four wheels via an electronically-controlled seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control, which senses individual driving styles and adapts accordingly. The manual shift mode offers rev-matching on downshifts. Other powertrain features include snow and towing modes, which change up the throttle response and transmission shift points accordingly. Luxe models send power to the rear and get a two-wheel active brake limited-slip differential. Limited models are fitted with an Infiniti All-mode 4WD system with a computer-controlled transfer case.
First and foremost, the QX80 has been designed to offer a cushiony and well-insulated driving experience that removes the driver and occupants from harsh outside elements such as sunshine, wind, and roadkill. The near 6,000-pound QX80 feels ultra-comfortable around town, soaking up bumps and road imperfections without complaint. Although competitors such as the GMC Yuko and Cadillac Escalade offer more direct steering, it is easy enough to control the Infiniti, even when cruising at highway speeds. The QX80's electronic steering system is so light that in town parking maneuvers can be dealt with by playing with only two fingers on the steering wheel. Limited models also get a hydraulic body motion control system, which keeps things relatively flat during fast cornering. We were not so impressed with its braking performance: drivers will have to plant their right foot deep into the footwell to get this thing to stop.
One of our major sore-points with the 2020 Infiniti QX80 is its abysmal fuel economy figures. Despite weight limitations and large capacity engines, the competition manages to offer better figures. The EPA rates the 2020 Infiniti QX80 at 14/20/16 mpg city/highway/combined for the 2WD car, while the 4WD car will return an even thirstier 13/19/15 mpg. The indulgent Cadillac Escalade will return 14//23/17 mpg in 2WD guise, and the 6.2-liter V8 GMC Yukon will do a best of 14/23/17 mpg. The QX80 comes fitted with a massive 26-gallon fuel tank, which should allow it to travel for up to 416 miles on a single fillup.
The interior of the QX80 isn't the most cutting edge or well-designed in its class, in fact, it hasn't changed much since they first introduced it back in 2011, but it gets the job done, and looks good enough to convince most, but won't hold up to European rivals. Getting in and out of the cabin is easy, thanks to the QX80's high step-in height of over 20 inches. Once inside, visibility is good all round. Standard features on both the Luxe and Limited trim include a heated ten-way power driver's seat with two-way power lumbar support, an eight-way power front-passenger seat with two-way power lumbar support, an auto-dimming inside mirror with HomeLink, as well as an Infiniti intelligent key with push-button ignition. Luxe models get a tri-zone automatic temperature control system and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Limited models add an advanced climate control system with auto recirculation and plasmacluster technology, and heated second-row seats. Active driver assistance features that are standard across the range include lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, automatic rear braking, rear cross-traffic alert, and high beam assist, and Limited models get adaptive cruise control, too.
There are massive amounts of space inside the well-appointed interior of the Infiniti QX80, and we appreciate the plump front bucket seats that offer the type of comfort and support of large Mercedes-Benz sedans of old. The QX80 comes with a standard third-row bench and captain's chairs in the second row, which can be swapped out for a bench seat if one so chooses. Headroom is measured as follows: 39.9 inches in the front. 40 inches for the second row, and 36.8 all the way in the rear. Legroom in the front is 39.6 inches, and those in the second row get a massive 41 inches, while third-row occupants make do with 28.8 inches.
The QX80 comes in a wide variety of interior materials and colors, with some only being available with certain exterior hues and interior package options. We found that the quality was not entirely up to the standards set by competitors such as the Cadillac Escalade. Luxe trim cars are offered with leather and trim combinations such as Graphite Leather and Charcoal Burl Trim, Wheat Semi-aniline leather and Charcoal Burl Trim with a gradient finish, or Stone and Graphite semi-aniline leather with Alcantara. Limited models add a few material options and standard trim inserts: you get a Graphite headliner, sun visors, sun shades and pillars, and the seats come with standard Stone and Graphite semi-aniline leather with Alcantara. The Limited also includes chrome inside door handle trim finish, and a nice touch is the Limited logo inlaid onto Matte Silver, open-pore Ash Wood trim in the center console.
With class-leading trunk and cargo space, the QX90 offers a ton of space, and if you need any more than what's on offer here, you should probably start looking at cargo vans instead. With the third-row seats in the upright position, the QX90 offers more trunk space than a Honda Accord with 16.6 cubic feet on offer. That's enough space to store a mini-fridge with enough beer inside to get all six occupants (we're excluding the driver) hammered. Fold-down the power 60/40-split fold-flat and reclining third-row seats, and that space opens up to a large 49.6 cubic feet. If you're into professional pool playing, remote-controlled airplanes, and skiing all at once, you'll be glad to hear that with all the seats behind the first row folded away; you will get 95.1 cubic feet of space.
Small-item storage is also useful; you get a lockable glove compartment, front seatback map pockets with front and rear door pockets, nine cupholders, and four bottle holders as well as a second-row center console armrest with two cupholders.
With a pretty serious price tag, the Infiniti QX80 also comes with a pretty serious list of standard features, and we're impressed by the addition of a number of standard active driver assistance features for 2020. The exterior of the 2020 QX80 gets standard automatic on/off led headlights with high beam assist and LED turn signals, and Limited models get an adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlights. Staying with the exterior, all QX80 cars get a power-sliding moonroof with one-touch auto-open/close, a power liftgate, and rear privacy glass. If that sounds good, then the interior will sound even better: all cars are fitted with an Infiniti intelligent key with push-button ignition and remote engine start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, as well as a surround-view camera system. The front seats are ten-way power-adjustable, including two-way power lumbar support, an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger's seat, with two-way power lumbar support. Standard driver-assist tech includes predictive forward collision warning, backup collision intervention, and forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Limited cars add an advanced climate control system with auto recirculation and plasmacluster tech, heated second-row seats, intelligent cruise control, and lane departure prevention.
Back in the early 2000s, SUVs were still considered utility vehicles - machines that were built to take on mother nature herself. Luxuries such as infotainment systems were deemed to be unnecessary distractions that would only end up breaking in any case. These days, the infotainment system is one of the central pillars around which cars are built, especially ones claiming to be of the luxurious variety. The bling QX80 doesn't disappoint in this regard: standard on both trim levels is an upper eight-inch and lower seven-inch full-color touchscreen display which features Bluetooth streaming, SiriusXM Radio, Traffic and Travel Link, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as well as a premium Bose sound system. Luxe model cars get a Bose 13-speaker premium sound system with two subwoofers, while Limited models are equipped with a performance series 17-speaker system. Limited models also add two sets of wireless headphones and two headphone jacks, an HDMI port, dual 8-inch color monitors in the back, and a wireless controller.
With a consumer verified score of 78 out of a possible 100, J.D. Power considers the Infiniti QX80 to be a somewhat reliable piece of machinery, and we tend to agree; in the past three years, only one recall has been issued for a faulty reverse camera system, but competitors such as the Escalade scored higher. Other than that, there have been no serious problems across its near-on decade long run. Infiniti will back up its QX80 with a four-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which includes a seven-year/unlimited-mile corrosion plan, a six-year/70,000-mile drivetrain warranty, and four-years of roadside assistance.
Probably the QX80's best safety system is the fact that it's huge and heavy and should destroy smaller cars upon impact. Seriously though, the 2020 Infiniti QX80 is a safe car, but couldn't convince the NHTSA or IIHS to give it a perfect score. The NHTSA gave it four out of five stars and were unimpressed with its frontal crash and rollover protection, and the IIHS simply hasn't tested one. Researches at Consumer Reports have noted that when pushed to the limit, the QX80 tends to slide the rear out by a large margin, which can result in a crash if an inexperienced driver is behind the wheel. 2020 cars come with a slew of newly standardized driver assistance features, which should go a long way in keeping bodies intact.
The large and luxurious Infiniti QX80 does its best to offer as much safety as possible and gets it right most of the time, but its physical size and potential instability count against it in most safety tests. Infiniti has gone out of its way to include as many standard safety features as possible, and the Limited model bristles with driver assistance tech. All QX80 SUVs come fitted with six airbags, including roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags with rollover sensor for all three rows, front-seat pre-crash seat belts, brake assist and trailer-sway control. Standard driver assistance features on all models include predictive forward collision warning, backup collision intervention, and forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Limited models also get front-seat pre-crash seat belts and blind-spot intervention.
We aren't sure if the popularity of the luxury SUV will ever fade, at least in the near future, and we understand why; it offers all the practicality of an SUV, with all the benefits of a luxury sedan. But where the QX80, as so many of its contemporaries, fail to impress, is in the fact that it disconnects the driver from the actual driving experience. The QX80 is basically a floating lounge fitted with all the comforts of home and more, which is great if you're sitting in one of the many passenger seats, but the poor soul behind the wheel won't be having the most fabulous time. We enjoy the QX80's bold styling, strong V8, and luxury, and the cargo space is impressive, but we're not convinced about a number of things. Firstly, the interior, while luxurious, isn't as refined as European rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLS class SUV, and that V8 engine, although powerful, will suck your wallet dry. The optional 22-inch wheels look good if you're into that sort of thing, but ruin the ride quality. All in all, it's a competent effort by Infiniti, which should appeal to those looking for something bold.
The price of large luxury SUVs is starting to get out of hand, with vehicles such as the Cadillac Escalade reaching upward of $95,000. That is not to say that the QX80 is a cheap car, not by a long shot, but it does manage to slot in between SUVs such as the Escalade in the upper echelons, and the Nissan Armada at the bottom of the list. The 2020 QX80 starts off with an MSRP of $66,750 for the 2WD Luxe, which excludes registration, tax, and a destination fee of $1,395. Add 4WD to the list of features, and that price will rise to $69,850. For the 4WD-only Limited, you can expect to pay an eye-watering $91,450.
For 2020, Infiniti offers the QX80 in two different trim levels; the Luxe and Limited. Luxe cars are offered in either 2WD or 4WD formats, while the Limited is available in 4WD only. Both trim levels are powered by the same 5.6-liter 32-valve V8 engine, which produces 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via an electronically-controlled seven-speed automatic transmission.
On the outside, both trim levels get standard features such as automatic on/off LED headlights with high beam assist, and a power-sliding moonroof. Limited models add luxuries such as headlight washers and stainless steel running boards. On the inside, all models share the same heated ten-way power driver's seat with two-way power lumbar support and eight-way power front passenger's seat with two-way power lumbar support and an auto-dimming inside mirror with HomeLink. Limited models add an advanced climate control system with auto recirculation and plasmacluster tech and adaptive cruise control, amongst others. Both cars get Bose sound systems, with the Limited getting an upgraded 17-speaker version. Standard safety tech includes predictive forward collision warning, backup collision intervention, and forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Limited models add features such as blind-spot mitigation.
Luxe models are available with a $2,200 Proassist package, which adds safety features such as a steering wheel switch for access to Infiniti's Safety Shield Technologies, a smart rearview mirror, lane departure prevention, as well as adaptive cruise control, distance control assist, and blind-spot intervention. Also available on the Luxe trim is the Theatre package, which for $2,000 will add dual 8-inch color monitors for multimedia video playback in the rear, a wireless infotainment system remote control, and an HDMI port amongst others. Limited trim vehicles are available with the same Proassist and Theatre packages, and come standard with the Sensory package, which includes an advanced climate control system, a 17-speaker Bose sound system, and climate-controlled front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as predictive forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and backup collision prevention. So the Luxe then, offers power, luxury, comfort, and practicality for a lot less than the range-topping Limited.
We don't see the 2020 Infiniti QX80 taking on any serious off-road trails or rock-climbing adventures, so missing out on a 4WD system won't be a death sentence for this massive luxury SUV. In the same breath, the 4WD-only Limited model goes for nearly $25,000 more than the Luxe, which to us seems a bit out there, and for those two reasons, we'd suggest going with the cheapest option; the 2WD Luxe. What makes the Luxe a good option is the fact that it shares a large number of parts and features with the top of the range car for a lot less money. The 5.6-liter 32-valve V8 engine that produces 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque can still be found under the hood, and the exterior still gets a set of automatic on/off LED headlights with high beam assist. You also still get a premium Bose sound system, power, and heated front seats, to boot.
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade exudes big baller energy, and even with the infotainment system switched off, you can still make out the faint whispers of Nuthin' but a G Thang by Dr. Dre when this large-and-in-charge block of American indulgence cruises past. In the past decade, the Escalade has gone from premium SUV to seriously-luxurious SUV, and the price has increased to match its new status. Starting at just over $75,000, the 2020 Escalade comes with a massive 6.2-liter V8 engine producing 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. This is enough to pull the Cadillac around with a convincing pace when needed, but a fuel economy figure of only 14//23/17 mpg city/highway/combined will slow things down. The exterior of the Escalade remains a mix of angular lines and brutalism, but that's exactly why so many love it. On the inside, the Escalade is a more refined vehicle, but as with the QX80, it fails to impress with its design language. On the road, the Cadillac wafts along with excellent comfort, and the Magnetic Ride Control suspensions keep things in check. Standard features are extensive, but you pay dearly for them, and a fully kitted Escalade will easily cross the $100k mark. Get the Escalade if image means more to you than a price tag.
The Armada is a woefully under-appreciated car in a market flooded with big names. Not only is the Armada significantly cheaper than its luxury-branded sibling, but it also gets a lot of the same features as the QX80. Under the hood lies the same 5.6-liter engine, but in the Armada's case produces ten less horsepower and almost 20 lb-ft of torque for a total of 390 hp and 394 lb-ft. Power is sent to either the front or all four wheels via the same seven-speed auto transmission. Fuel economy is a thirsty 14/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined for 2WD cars. The exterior styling of the Armada is noticeably more rugged, and despite Nissan's best efforts, it still looks like a '90s SUV. We appreciated the Armada's interior, which, in a car of this price, is quite impressive. Standard features were also impressive, and the Armada shares 2020 updates such as standard automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, and rear door alert with the QX80. The Nissan Armada doesn't pretend to be an all-out luxury SUV, and with a starting price of only $47,100, it doesn't have to. It's a true bargain that is often overlooked and would be our choice in this comparison.