Tuesday, May 1, 2018


If you had gone by what was being said about them a decade or so ago, you would have thought that full-size SUVs, like the dinosaurs that provide them the fuel to run on, would be extinct by now.

High fuel prices gave even those consumers who had a legitimate need for such a big vehicle reason to pause and rethink their potential purchase.

But, unlike the dinosaurs, the full-size SUV has survived, thank you very much, because there are so many things they do better than other vehicles — like hauling passengers and lots of cargo and towing and going off-road.

And a full-size SUV provides a more commanding driving position, which rates high among some. If you live in a place like Miami, I think you can see all the way across the Everglades to Naples from the driver’s seat of one. (If I’ve been told once, I’ve been told 10 billion times not to exaggerate, but I can’t help myself!)

As rugged and functional as the full-size SUVs are, they also can be luxurious and refined, like the Infiniti QX80, which the luxury division of Nissan introduced as the QX56 for the 2004 model year and rebadged in 2014 to follow the company’s new naming convention. It has been around for a while so designers and engineers have had some time for tinkering over the years.

For 2018, the QX80 gets a makeover for the exterior with a more angular look and a slightly higher (20 mm, or about an inch) ride than the outgoing model. The flat hood is longer, and new LED headlights and fog lights grace the front fascia and new, thinner LED taillights the rear.

At 208.9 inches in length, it is slightly longer than some of its competitors, yet it has a smaller feel about it. Not small, mind you, but not overly bulky either.

It’s a great expressway cruiser, and the only time you may really be conscious of its size is when you’re in a tight mall parking lot or garage.

It gets plenty of power. A 5.6-liter (hence the former QX56 designation) V8 engines is mated with a 7-speed automatic transmission and produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty of power. Infiniti clockers caught the QX80 from zero-to-62 mph (yes, 62 mph; beats me) in 7.5 seconds.

In two-wheel-drive configuration mileage figures are 14 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway and 16 combined. With 4WD, the numbers are 13/19/15. 

A dial on the console switches the QX80 4-wheel drive models from automatic to high 4-wheel level to low 4-wheel for more adventurous off-roading. There also are settings for Snow and Tow mode. It can tow up to 8,500 pounds.

Inside, the cabin exudes an air of refinement, from the analog clock in the middle of the center stack that catches your eye as you climb into the cabin to the comfortable seats that provide two-way lumbar support for both the driver and the passenger.

There’s plenty of room in the cabin as well, with those in the front getting up to 39.6 inches of legroom and those in the second row up to 41. Third-row occupants are a bit more crowded with only 28.8 inches of legroom.

Handles mounted on the A-pillars are helpful in getting in and out, and the second-row captain’s chairs easily tilt forward to allow access to the far back, though that doesn’t necessarily make it easy for an adult to get back there.

A common complaint among several reviewers is that the technological features are a bit dated and not up to the competition, but frankly I’m not sure what those critics were looking for.  I came to drive, not play computer games or watch a movie.

Too often, the latest technology just complicates things. In the QX80, I found audio, climate, and navigation systems easy enough to operate. Knobs can be used to adjust audio sounds and radio stations as well as blower and A/C temperature! Hooray for knobs!

Standard equipment includes Bluetooth communications, navigation with 8-inch touchscreen display and voice recognition, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, two storage compartments in the console, a second-row console with storage compartment and 12V outlet, power rear liftgate, remote engine start, roof rails, and a Bose 13-speaker premium sound system.

That was included in the base MSRP of $67,850 for the 4WD model that served as my test vehicle. Adding option packages like a Deluxe Technology Package (which added two more speakers for the audio and leather-appointed seats with quilting), a Theater Package (heated second-row seats, dual 8-inch monitors and two wireless headphones), 22-inch wheels, a Driver Assistance Package (backup collision intervention, blind-spot and lane-departure warning, Forward Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, and Intelligent Cruise Control) ran the final total to $84,660 including $995 for destination and delivery.

What I liked about the 2018 Infiniti QX80: Too often, third-row seating infringes greatly on rear storage capacity, but not-so much with the QX80. There’s 16.6 cubic feet behind the third row and 49.6 when the third-row seats are folded. Those seats are power-folded, by the way, also a nice feature.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Infiniti QX80: I wouldn’t want to have to ride in the third row very often. Though the captain’s chairs fold easy enough, it’s still not easy to get back there.

Would I buy the 2018 Infiniti QX80? I don’t have a need for a vehicle this size, but if you do, you might want to look past the usual suspects and check it out. It has an air of quality and refinement about it that I find appealing.

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