HUNTINGTON BEACH, California — The Infiniti QX80 is one of a relatively small number of vehicles of the hundreds I’ve driven that I have an interesting story to go with. Some seven years ago, I spent a weekend camping at Buttonwillow Raceway in the back of Motor Trend’s model year 2011 long-termer—read: sleeping in the back on an air mattress. The mattress fit neatly over the folded rows of seats, back when the model was still known as the QX56. The big SUV was an excellent partner for the nearly three-hour trek from my then-home in Long Beach to the track and back. And, to my pleasant surprise, not much has changed in the intervening years.
Oh, sure, a new grille and LED lighting arrived for 2015, but that’s hardly a significant change. And for 2018, the QX80 received a more significant update from the A-pillar forward, and its headlights now sit near the top of the fender instead of toward the bottom, substantially improving its overall appearance. But aside from that, as well as interior trim revisions, a new shift lever, and the addition of driver-assist tech like adaptive cruise control, the 2018 Infiniti QX80 is fundamentally the same rig it was back in 2011.
That’s not holding the QX80 back from commercial success, though. In fact, 2016 and 2017 were record years for the big SUV (including its QX56 years), with 16,772 and 17,811 units sold, respectively—and that was before it got its new face, which will come in handy when it comes to batting away fresh competitors like the Lincoln Navigator, which got a long-overdue and complete redesign for 2018.
Once you get behind the wheel, it’s easy to see why Infiniti hasn’t messed with the QX80’s formula. The ride it offers remains among the smoothest, quietest, and most comfortable ones on the market, an impressive achievement considering it’s a 5,888-pound body-on-frame vehicle. Thanks, Hydraulic Body Motion Control, for doing such a great job of managing body roll and road imperfections—you’re well worth the $5,700 cost of the Deluxe Technology Package you’re part of; our tester didn’t suffer any ride quality degradation even though it rode on 22-inch wheels (a $2,900 option).
The naturally aspirated 5.6-liter V-8 makes an ample 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, but delivers it in a more old-school way than modern twin-turbo powerplants, emitting a crescendo growl as it spins up that would be well-served by a throaty aftermarket exhaust. It’s a satisfying engine to push around, and Infiniti claims it gets the 2018 QX80 to 62 mph in 7.5 seconds, but the old 2011 QX56 was able to do make the 0-60 mph sprint in 6.1 seconds in MT’s hands, and there’s no reason to expect a significant drop in performance given that the two vehicles are mechanically identical. It certainly felt quick enough with the throttle pedal pushed to the floor.
While the QX80 is a quick-enough sprinter, you’ll want to give yourself ample space to decelerate. Sure, the SUV has potent-enough stoppers—13.8-inch vented discs front and rear—to bring the show to a rapid halt, but I reckon you’d rather avoid having your mall haul from flying all over the cabin.
Along with HBMC, those checking the Deluxe Technology Package box also get semi-aniline leather upholstery, a smart rear-view mirror, a 15-speaker Bose audio system, climate-controlled front seats, and adaptive front lighting. This loaded $85,160 example also featured the $2,450 Theater Package (twin eight-inch screens for second-row passengers with wireless headphones, rear 120-volt outlets, HDMI ports, and heated and remote tip-up second-row seats), the $2,900 Driver Assistance Package (backup-collision intervention, blind-spot warning and intervention, lane-departure warning and prevention, intelligent cruise control, and predictive forward-collision warning, and forward emergency braking), $225 cargo package (carpeted cargo mat, cargo net, and a first-aid package), $400 roof rail cross bars, $465 illuminated kick plates, $450 in-car wifi, and $425 welcome lights. Topping it all off is a $500 fee for the Champagne Quartz paint.
While the option list allows buyers to expand the QX80’s on-board tech kit, the model’s age limits its overall capabilities. Want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto? A large, fancy screen? Funky haptic controls? Nope, sorry, you get to use the same knob- and button-heavy infotainment interface that Infiniti has now offered for the better part of a decade, just through a higher-resoultion display. Even the graphics haven’t changed—not even on the new twin-screen setup found in the Q50/Q60 and 2019 QX50.
But unless you’re the sort of technophile that has to have the latest and greatest gadgetry of any kind, you won’t mind this because you’ll be too busy enjoying the satisfying sense of splendid isolation while sitting in traffic—and the ample, smooth power of the big V-8 while cruising on an open road. The 2018 Infiniti QX80 may not be a monument to technological progress, but it sure is a damn good luxury SUV.
2018 Infiniti QX80 Specifications
|PRICE||$68,845/$85,160 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||5.6L DOHC 32-valve V-8/400 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 413 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||13/19 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||208.9 x 79.9 x 75.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.4 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|