by Roger Biermann
The QX80 for the 2018 model year features some much-needed styling upgrades on both the interior and exterior fronts; however, for a large luxury SUV, the aging on-board technology and infotainment really detract from its ability to outshine competitors such as the Lincoln Navigator and Lexus LX, which have much more to offer. Although the QX80 still boasts the powerful V8 engine capable of 400 horsepower, a superb towing capacity, and above-average cabin space, it ranks within the lower half of this segment. Priced between $64,750 and $67,850, the QX80 does come in at a cheaper cost than rivals, although numerous packages need to be added to bring it up to par. Still, offering a charming and quiet cabin and the ability to comfortably take on rougher terrain, putting this bulky SUV through its paces isn't unpleasant, and it remains a consideration for those who aren't too fazed about needing the latest technology on board.
Various improvements to the exterior have been made for 2018, including a fully redesigned front end. The fascia, grille, and Monograph Concept-inspired headlights make for a much more appealing nose and an updated liftgate design, tail light cluster and rear bumper finisher remedy what was a rather odd-looking rump in the previous year model. In the cabin, refreshed upholstery includes detailed stitching, piping, and quilting as well as modern wood-grain trims. Some conveniences have also been added to fit cups and USB connections in the center console. Mechanically, Infiniti has introduced Hydraulic Body Motion Control to this range in an effort to reduce body roll through corners - which has been only marginally successful.
The previous year model was not in the ranking for the most attractive SUV, and the upgrades for 2018 have been substantial and impressive. With a cleaner, more modern and assertive look, the QX80 now features a better front-end design and sleeker profile, with a sculpted rear-end. Riding on 20-inch alloy wheels, the QX80 has LED headlights with integrated fog lamps, as well as LED turn signals that are incorporated into the power-folding side mirrors. A sunroof is also included as standard.
For an XL-sized vehicle, the truck-based QX80 fits the bill. With a total length of 210.2 inches and width of 79.9 inches, the QX80 is almost identical in dimensions to the Lincoln Navigator, while the Lexus LX is slightly smaller. A wheelbase of 121.2 inches is also on par for this segment, while a total curb weight of 5,676 lbs for the 2WD variant and 5,921 lbs for the 4WD QX80 translates to being a little lighter than the Lexus LX, but generally on the same level as other rivals. To approach rougher terrain, the QX80 also offers a ground clearance of 9.2 inches, which is average for an SUV, better than the Lexus option, but not as impressive as the 9.6 inches on the Lincoln Navigator.
The full exterior color range available comprises nine options, three of which are at additional cost. For $500, buyers can choose Moonstone White, Champagne Quartz or Mineral Black. The six remaining options are Liquid Platinum, Graphite Shadow, Smoky Quartz, Mocha Almond, Hermosa Blue, and Black Obsidian. While no "sporty" red colors are available for the QX80, this palette is quite comprehensive and suits the luxurious image of the vehicle.
There is only one engine option available on the 2018 range, a powerful 5.6-liter V8 motor that makes 400 hp and 413 lb-ft torque. While this is quite standard for an SUV in this segment, some rivals offer better output and faster acceleration. However, for this vehicle, there is more than enough power to reach the 0-60 mph mark in 6.3 seconds and tow an impressive 8,500 lbs (which soundly beats rivals Lincoln and Lexus by more than 1,500 lbs). Paired to a seven-speed automatic, the QX80 has a top speed of 130 mph: although the base model is configured as a rear-wheel drive (or two-wheel drive as per the manufacturer), it can be upgraded to four-wheel drive.
The only available engine configuration is the 5.6-liter V8 that produces 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control responds well to unleashing the throttle, and upshifts are satisfying and quick. While rivals may offer bigger engines, there is nothing lacking on this engine option to motivate the 5,921 lb SUV in its four-wheel-drive configuration to action. The QX80 in four-wheel-drive mode also has settings in 4H and 4L to tackle off-road terrain. While acceleration response is generally quite pleasing, there is a slight lag in overtaking, with the transmission jumping to higher gears too eagerly.
Knowing the QX80 is a bulky vehicle undoubtedly requiring some refinement in driving and handling, Infiniti has added the Hydraulic Body Motion Control system to mitigate body roll when cornering. Along with a softened suspension, this has been moderately successful: the big SUV still offers a substantial amount of sway and dip on winding roads, but this is not unsurprising or particularly disruptive. The dampened suspension has evened out the ride quite well, and the vehicle handles bumps without translating too much back to the cabin. The steering is feather-light and makes for an enjoyable drive at faster speeds; maneuverability in tight spaces feels ponderous though, and with power steering means lots of wheel turns with minimal effort. Snow and Tow driving modes are also available for slippery surfaces and hitching a trailer, which the vehicle does with ease. Overall the QX80 doesn't offer the sense of gravity and grip available on some of the rivals but does impress in its ability to tow heavier trailers without effort and remain solid on the open road.
In its most basic rear-wheel-drive configuration, the QX80 delivers gas mileage of 14/20/16 mpg for the city/highway/combined cycles, which is more or less what is expected of vehicles in this class. Whereas some rivals such as the Navigator do produce better fuel economy, the QX80 is not the worst in this regard either, with the likes of the Lexus LX being a thirstier option. As an all-wheel-drive variant, the QX80's fuel efficiency decreases somewhat, with the 5.6-liter V8 guzzling 390 miles on a full tank of gas; ratios for this 4WD model are 13/19/15 mpg on the abovementioned cycles. With a 26 gallon tank, the more efficient 2WD variant offers a range of 416 miles before needing to refuel.
One thing this SUV has going for it is the generous space and roominess of the cabin. As standard, it seats seven (although an eighth passenger can be added by purchasing the split bench seat package), and while offering excellent visibility, the cockpit is not very ergonomically designed. A lot of reach and extension from the driver is required to manage some of the controls over the center console, and with an aging dual-screen infotainment system and temperamental climate control, the interior leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to more luxurious rivals. Leather seating and soft-touch materials throughout the cabin are pleasant, but the lack of seat adjustment options and the pervading sense of practicality over comfort highlight the fact that this is more a truck-like vehicle, and less of a luxury SUV.
As a standard seven-seater, the QX80 offers second-row captain's chairs that can be converted to seating an additional passenger by means of the split bench seating package. The captain's chairs are a much better option comfort-wise, however, and the additional charge for converting to a bench seems a waste. Although all seats, in general, are comfortable and supportive, there is minimal adjustment available in the front, and even less in the rear. The third row seats are also quite tight and would struggle to seat adults comfortably due to legroom being limited - not to mention the difficulty in accessing the rear-most seats. Legroom and headroom in the first two rows are ample, and even six-footers will feel comfortable here. The driving position is excellent though, with elevated positions up front and large exterior mirrors that mitigate the large side pillars and play off the big windows all around.
There is a limited array of interior trims, with only Graphite and Wheat colored leather available as standard. Saddle brown leather can be selected, but at the additional cost of equipping the Deluxe Technology package (adding a whopping $5,700 to the bill, although upgrades are extensive and not limited to interior trim). Stratford Burl wood inlay is the basic interior trim available across the range, although there are two further options when adding the Deluxe Technology package, which also upgrades seating to semi-aniline leather. These two options are Espresso Burl and Charcoal Burl.
The benefits of an SUV include generous cargo space that is expandable when laying down the seats. The QX80 features well in the rankings in this regard, boasting cargo space of 16.6 cubic feet with all three rows intact, and 49.6 cubic feet with the third row laid flat - an added feature here is that the third row is power-activated to fold down. With all the seats laid flat (the second row collapses in 60/40 split when in the eight-seater "bench" configuration), cargo volume increases to 95.1 cubic feet, which is much more than the Lexus LX offers. Although impressive trunk space for this segment, there are two problems with the design: first, if the captain's chairs are selected for the second row they do not fold away to increase trunk space; and second, the awkward bumper and high-liftover height make for an uncomfortable loading action.
Small item storage in the cabin is satisfactory, with a big center console under the armrest, as well as a clever cellphone storage space. Doors have slim pockets and water bottle storage, and cupholders are available, although without modern clips and restraints that are common on rivals.
Without additional packages, the QX80 offers basic driver aids that include hill start assist, speed-sensitive power steering, trailer sway control, and remote engine start. There is also an around-view monitor featuring moving object detection and a smart rearview mirror. More advanced features are not included as standard and will cost extra when further bundles are purchased. The front seats and steering wheel are also heated and can adjust ten-ways, while a frustrating tri-zone climate control system is also included. The third-row seating can recline, and be folded flat at the touch of a button. A power liftgate is standard across the range. Although this seems sufficient, it compares less favorably with rivals who have much more on-board on their base models, while adding the most comprehensive Deluxe Technology package adds $5,700 to the total price of the vehicle.
A standard eight-inch touchscreen features in the center console of the vehicle, and with a 13-speaker Bose premium audio system, provides satisfactory infotainment basics. Included here are two subwoofers, satellite radio, and SiriusXM traffic navigation. Although there are two USB ports in front and two in the rear allowing for smart-phone connection, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are conspicuously absent. There is also a hands-free text messaging assistance and voice recognition capabilities, but it is almost more trouble than it's worth to activate.
On the JD Power Predicted Reliability rating, the 2018 QX80 scored impressively high, at 4.5 out of five - this is considered among the best and higher than the industry average of three. With no recalls on the range noted, the QX80 presents as being a reliable vehicle. This is further emphasized by the confident list of warranties from the manufacturer, including a four-year/60,000 mile full warranty, six-year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty, and an impressive seven-year/unlimited mile corrosion warranty. Added to this is a four-year roadside assistance plan.
Safety ratings for this vehicle issued by the NHTSA are relatively average, scoring four stars out of five overall. No other safety scores are available as the IIHS has not tested the QX80.
The basic QX80 configuration includes hill start assist and rear automatic self-leveling suspension, as well as trailer sway control, which will make hitching a camper or the like much safer. An around view monitor is included, which features moving object detection, and the QX80's advanced airbag system comprises front driver and passenger airbags, side impact airbags as well as additional airbags on the roof and seats. ABS and electronic brake force distribution, with brake assist, are also standard. Advanced features such as blind spot warning, backup collision intervention, distance control, and forward collision warning are not included as is but can be added by purchasing the Driver Assistance Package.
This is somewhat of a loaded question because although the vehicle itself tests high on reliability and has acceptable safety scores, the technology on board is aging and less effective in terms of driver assistance and convenience features. Adding advanced safety technology comes at a price, and while it offers the space and comfort of an SUV, it is a few notches below competition regarding luxury and being really well equipped. The powerful engine performs adequately, and although not nearly the strongest in output, allows for a pleasant driving experience and confident towing capacity. It is, however, a lot cheaper than rivals as a base model, and thus buying additional packages somewhat levels out the competition a little. For buyers seeking a large family SUV at a value-for-money price, the QX80 should form part of your research, but it may be a better option to consider the Lincoln Navigator instead.
The base model 5.6L rear-wheel drive has an MSRP of $64,750, excluding a destination charge of $1,295. There are no additional trims, however, the all-wheel-drive variant of the same SUV costs $67,850, with the same destination fee that must also be added.
The 2018 range consists of one 5.6-liter V8 base model available in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, which the manufacturer denotes by naming the base model the QX80 2WD or the QX80 4WD. The basic composition remains the same, and the SUV itself has a list of standard features that include leather-appointed seating with ten-way power adjustment for the driver, heated front seats and steering wheel, eight-inch touchscreen with navigation and satellite radio interface, and a respectable 13-speaker Bose premium sound system. Tri-zone climate control is standard, and a selection of driver aids is available, including hill start assist, trailer sway control, snow and tow drive modes, and automatic self-leveling suspension in the rear.
5.6-liter V8 Gas
The available packages on the QX80 are broken down into five optional bundles, each dealing with safety features, convenience or entertainment features, or much needed additional technology, most of which need to be stacked on top of each other to be equipped.
The driver assistance package is arguably the most important, as it contains the bulk of the advanced safety features that are otherwise standard on vehicles in this class. For a price of $2,900, backup collision intervention, blind spot warning, predictive forward collision warning, lane departure assist, emergency braking with pedestrian recognition and distance control assist can be added to the base SUV.
A theater package is also available but requires the driver assistance package to be installed. This brings additional entertainment features to the base model, including dual eight-inch touchscreens, wireless headphones, and remote control, HDMI jack, heated second-row seats, and power folding third-row seats. This bundle is priced at $2,450.
Two minor packages, the split bench rear seat package and the 22-inch tire package, both require the driver assistance bundle to be installed with the second-row captain's seats replaced by a bench to seat an additional passenger, and stylish 22-inch wheels. These cost $250 and $2,800 respectively.
A final option is the deluxe technology package at $5,700 extra, although this needs to be stacked on three of the other packages (which combined, cost around $8,000). This package upgrades the sound system to a 15-speaker Bose set and adds semi-aniline seating with two unique wood grain inlays to the cabin. Further, it includes advanced climate control, ventilated front seats, and the hydraulic body motion control system.
If you are convinced that the QX80 is right for you, we would suggest bypassing the deluxe technology package and sticking with the base model in four-wheel-drive mode for its superior handling ability, and adding the driver assistance package at the very least. Even adding the theater package (if only for the heated seats in row two), brings the total price to $73,200, which is in the same range as the entry-level Lincoln Navigator. The 22-inch wheel package can be skipped, as the increased wheel size proved to negatively affect ride comfort and handling.
The SUV offering from Lincoln is an excellent point of reference for this segment as both vehicles feature almost identical exterior dimensions. The Navigator comes out on top in cargo space and general cabin comfort, however, with a much more opulent feel throughout. The Navigator is available only in a 3.5-liter V6 engine, yet produces more horsepower and torque (450 hp and 510 lb-ft versus the QX80's 400 hp and 413 lb-ft) and also offers significantly better gas mileage. Test drives also suggest that the Navigator offers a less bumpy ride with a better sense of handling. The only clear advantage the QX80 has over the Navigator is the superior towing capacity, which is 8,000 lbs to the Navigator's 6,200 lbs. When compared spec-by-spec, the QX80 needs additional packages to come up to par, and in this case, the Navigator remains the better option.
The Lexus is by far the smaller vehicle compared with the QX80, especially in terms of cargo space. Despite this, the Lexus has a slightly weightier body and is available in two configurations - as a five-seater or a seven-seater, each of which features the 5.6-liter V8 engine, just like the QX80. With a similar engine, the Lexus produces a little less power, yet has significantly poorer fuel economy ratings. Between these two vehicles, the Lexus has the upper hand when it comes to a beautiful, stylish and opulent cabin, but in all other respects, it doesn't fare as well practically as the QX80. It is also priced significantly higher than the Infiniti, and although having the benefit of the Lexus brand, is a less value-for-money option.