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.
See trim levels and configurations:
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.
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 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.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Infiniti QX80: