2022 Infiniti QX80 Test Drive Review: Luxury With A Catch

Test Drive / 2 Comments

We loved the Infiniti QX80's ability to undercut its competition - until we saw the Nissan Armada.

What you're looking at is Infiniti's most expensive vehicle, full stop. This is the 2022 Infiniti QX80 Sensory, and by the time you reach the bottom of this page, we'll have found out if it does all of the things that Infiniti's most expensive flagship model needs to do.

Infiniti is, at its core, a value brand. This SUV is the perfect example. Strip away the bodywork and badges, and you'll find a Nissan Armada. Models like this big, three-row SUV must undercut the competition while offering as much luxury and tech as they can. The QX80 should do that, in spades, while also keeping up with comparable models from rivals like the Lexus GX.

It should also be able to do all of the things it says on the box, from towing to hauling all seven of its occupants, without getting smoked off the line by a Corolla. The QX80 has to offer some real presence as well. "Walk the walk, and talk the talk," as they say. With that in mind, let's find out if the QX80 can do just that.

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Exterior: Steady As She Goes

As some of you no doubt know, the QX80 is getting a little long in the tooth. It's been a decade since this SUV debuted in the form of the QX56. All this time later, we're still shocked at how rapidly the QX80's 5,678-pound frame disappears into the front end. The designers at Infiniti managed to do an excellent job not just with that, but with the SUV's automatic LED headlights, turn signals, fog lamps, and taillights. The head- and taillights are favorites of ours and do help to keep the older SUV looking fresh in 2022.

Speaking of keeping things fresh, when was the last time you saw an SUV with wheels that weren't sporting a curb-rash-friendly diamond-cut finish? We love the simplicity of these 22-inch wheels. Those, by the way, are limited to the Premium Select and Sensory models. Down the side, there's also a nice step to help you up into the QX80's massive sets of seats.

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That said, the further down the body you get, the more the design begins to show its age. The chrome strip across the bumper looks particularly dated, reminding us of the 2010 Lincoln Navigator's rear tail lights. And that truck was not a looker. However, we are happy with the chrome luggage guard. This is a three-row SUV, after all. You're sure to scuff the Anthracite Grey paint at some point.

Let's circle back to the front for a moment. Notice the chrome use. It's on the fender gills, lower fascia, grille, and mirror caps. One of those things needs to be replaced with paint, preferably the mirror caps. They're simply too gaudy as is, and the mirrors act like a death ray in the right light, blinding you as you walk up to the truck. Gripes aside, this car does have presence. We didn't really think so until one rocked up behind us a little too quickly at the lights. After that, all doubts over this car's presence and poise were put to bed.

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Performance: Infiniti's Time To Shine

Now, we know that subhead is going to make you think this is some sort of budget AMG GLS 63 rival. Rest assured, the QX80 is certainly not that. Still, this 5.6-liter V8 plates up a hearty 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. "Hearty" is frankly the perfect way to describe this car's powerplant. It's like beef stew in a Saddle Brown leather bowl. That big, old-school V8 is hooked to a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which doesn't really make its presence known. Nor should it, and nor does it.

Should you encounter a less-than-dry day, Infiniti's All-Mode 4WD system is there to help, and we're glad for it. The truck feels like it ought to be 4WD, even though Infiniti does offer a 2WD "Luxe" model. But there's an asterisk: fuel economy. We saw 15.2 mpg after a week, nearly bang on the EPA's combined estimate, not exactly a welcome surprise given the gas prices recently.

The tradeoff is an effortlessly smooth powertrain that's more than capable of doing anything you may want it to do without disturbing anyone inside. You win some you lose some, but as far as this SUV's powertrain is concerned, it's won this round.

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Driving Impressions: The Fatal Flaw

Perhaps the best way to describe what it's like to drive a QX80 is this: it drives like it looks. Big, cushy, and sometimes just a little too big and too cushy. That's thanks largely to outdated body-on-frame construction. Much like its Nissan Armada twin, this is the SUV's fatal flaw. Hop on the brakes too hard, and you're rocked to and fro like you're sitting on a rocking horse. The same can be said when you accelerate too hard. This is the point at which we began to question our QX80's $87,985 sticker price. Nothing that costs this much should behave like that.

The suspension does make up for it a little; harsh bumps and undulations are but a whisper. This thing rides like a luxury car at this price point and is plenty comfortable on long trips.

Just don't go using the radar cruise. It's jerky and unpolished, just like the lane-keep assist. Additionally, we can't figure out why the blind-spot monitors are on the A-pillar. Put them in the mirror like everyone else so we don't have to go looking. Hopefully, Nissan will introduce some changes. To compete in this segment, things need to be more polished.

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Still, there are some notable highs to driving a QX80. The amount of sound insulation in this must be enough to fill up another car. Things are supremely quiet inside. You feel isolated from the world around you, which is one of the chief jobs of any luxury car. For a "budget" option, this QX does that very well.

Visibility is another strong point. Given the hilarious high-chair seating position and ride height, you can lord over your fellow motorists like some sort of consumerist dictator. Shockingly, the view over your shoulder is impressively clear. You will have to rely on those frustratingly-located blind-spot monitors, however. Big cars always have blind spots, and this is nothing if not a big car. Thankfully, those lesser motorists will also be intimidated by the size of this thing. No one messes with you.

Still, as our drive progressed, the presence of Nissan's cheaper Armada Platinum crept into our minds.

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Interior: Seeing Double

As we gathered our thoughts for the interior portion of this review, we received a message from another CarBuzz writer. Photos of the Nissan Armada. Prior to this review, we hadn't seen the inside of a top-trim Armada Platinum. Until we looked at the QX80 photos again. You have to look very, very hard to find a difference between the two. Nissan even offers a similar lacquered wood finish in both cars, complete with quilted leather.

This is far and away the most disappointing part of the QX80. For nearly $90,000, your SUV's interior looks just like an Armada, which tops out at $68,900 MSRP. So for $20K more, what do you get? Inside, that means a 17-speaker Bose system, semi-aniline leather (which is supposed to feel nicer than the Armada's plebian leather), and a no-cost set of captain's chairs in the second row. That last one costs you only $650 in the Armada. The sound system is allegedly more impressive, but we honestly couldn't tell and found the QX80's quality to be relatively average.

We'll sum up the rest of that Armada/QX80 nonsense later. For now, let's focus on what this interior does get right.

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First: infotainment. We'd have loved a more updated unit, but as a budget offering over German rivals, this unit performs just fine. We love how high the QX80's screen sits on the dash. Directions are right in your line of sight, and the screen's quality is just fine given the money you're spending. While many have gone to a digital dash, Nissan keeps it old-school here.

Storage inside is, predictably, plentiful. There's always somewhere to put something, and the little wireless charger cover keeps your phone tucked away and keeps the dash looking clean. All controls are clearly labeled and easy to use, too. We couldn't be happier over physical climate controls in a segment that normally eschews them.

There's plenty of space for your friends and family. We stuffed an unhappy significant other into the third row, but aside from their seat at the kid's table, they didn't complain about feeling cramped. Just know adults above six feet will. Those seats can also be folded via buttons at the rear, which makes loading cargo a breeze. Should rearmost occupants need something out of the front, the center console will tilt open towards the rear to accommodate, a nice touch.

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While there are two screens built into the front headrests, complete with headphones, we feel that no one will really use them. Every adult has a phone on them at all times with all the apps they could want, though if you'd like, you can project onto the two rear screens via a cable. We'd also recommend upgrading from the included, and very uncomfortable, headphones.

Now. Seats. These are some seriously A1 seats. A1 like steak sauce. Infiniti nailed it here, providing plenty of support, adjustability, and comfort in one package. The ventilation function was a hair weak, but it still works. You can even have them on in tandem with the heated wheel if you like. Some smaller people may find these seats a little wide, but they are no less comfortable. Sure, the third row suffers a tad, but that's basically car time out, so we'll give that a pass.

But then there's the Armada to think of. Anything we've talked about here that the Infiniti gets right is also done just as right in the cheaper Armada. We liked this interior, but once you know about the Armada Platinum, the Infiniti will be ruined for you.

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Verdict: If The Nissan Armada Didn't Exist...

Here we are. The end. Does this big, three-row SUV undercut the competition while offering as much luxury and tech as they can? Yes, without a doubt, issues aside, the QX80 can do that. But the Nissan Armada exists. Virtually anything the QX80 can do the Armada can do for cheaper. A lot cheaper. In all honesty, that's why we'd buy a Nissan Armada Platinum before buying this. Until Infiniti can make some meaningful changes to differentiate the QX80, there are exactly zero reasons to buy it over the Armada.

Not even the extra speakers from the Bose sound system make that much of a difference. Semi-aniline leather? Come on. Infiniti has to believe its buyers are smarter than that. Thankfully, the two are differentiated stylistically. But we can't see an extra $20K in styling here. Sorry, Infiniti.

Still, this does show some promising signs for Nissan. The brand has struggled over the last few years to become profitable. We expect models like the Titan and Armada to change that, and if the brand can get its luxury house in order, and well above the Nissan brand, well, that's a recipe for success.

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