New & Used Infiniti QX80: In Depth
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The Infiniti QX80 is the brand's largest SUV offering, its biggest model in general and currently the most expensive thing to wear the brand's goggle-esque logo. It is a large, distinctively-designed, sport-utility formerly known as the QX56, but as of 2014 it has adopted the new QX80 badge.
The QX80's lineage stretches all the way back to the 2004 model year, when the then-QX56 was launched as a more luxurious spin-off of the big, bruising Nissan Armada full-size SUV. Built in Mississippi right next to the Armada, that QX56 had more plush finishes but almost no mechanical differences when compared to its cheaper kin. Both vehicles were based on the Nissan Titan full-size truck platform and used that vehicle's sole drivetrain--a 5.6-liter V-8 that over time saw its output climb to 320 horsepower and 393 pound-feet of torque.
Infiniti's renaming strategy is meant to to dismantle the mix of letters and numbers by beginning every Infiniti model with Q (sedans) or QX (crossovers and SUVs). For more details and a cheat sheet on the new badges, check out our story on Infiniti's naming strategy.
MORE: Read our 2015 Infiniti QX80 review
With a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive and a standard five-speed automatic, the QX56 was a brawny machine that could tow up to 9,000 pounds. In other ways, however, it came up short. The interior wasn't as luxurious as those in competitors like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. To fix that flaw, Infiniti upgraded the cabin of the QX56 with better materials, while it also face-lifted the sport-ute and added new audio and navigation features.
The first major model change for the vehicle that would become the Infiniti QX80 came in 2011. As a part of a wholesale movement to give Infiniti more distance from Nissan's U.S. offerings, the big SUV changed platforms and homes. The 2011 Infiniti QX56 turned away from its past as a plusher version of the Nissan Armada SUV. Instead, the name was applied to a Japanese-market ute not sold in America, the sixth-generation Nissan Patrol. The new vehicle can still hold up to seven passengers, and it continues to offer a big 5.6-liter V-8; this new engine, however, makes 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, and comes paired with a new seven-speed automatic.
For 2014, that QX56 became today's Q80. Infiniti announced in late 2012 that it would rename all of its offerings with numbers and letters that depicted their relative size and place within the lineup, instead of basing them on engine displacement. All cars begin with Q, while all the SUVs and crossovers get QX names. The changes were put into effect for 2014; as the QX80 is the largest SUV, it gets the biggest number.
The 2015 model year brings a new Limited model to the top of the QX80 range. The package includes a new Truffle Brown cabin marked by a palette of brown, black, and silver leather appointments and wood and trim. Quilted leather seats, a suede-like headliner, silver accent piping, and leather-wrapped speaker grilles for the instrument panel are among the many dress-up items within.
Today's QX80 is basically the same vehicle as the QX56 that came before it. The big V-8 provides fabulous acceleration, and it's balanced by fuel economy that's surprisingly decent given the bulk of this model; the QX80 gets the same 14 mpg city, 20 highway ratings as its differently named predecessor. The QX80 also retains the optional linked hydraulic suspension, which helps reduce body roll on-road and also improves articulation should the luxury bus find itself off pavement, allowing the wheels to basically unlink and move more freely, much like with active anti-roll bars. Its tow rating of 8,500 pounds also carries over.
The QX80 is handsome overall, although some take issue with the very tall hood and blunt front-end styling. The cabin is extremely plush, with nicely contoured leather and wood trim that looks inviting and masculine at the same time. The first two rows of seats are very comfortable for adults of any size, while the third-row bench is sized for kids. This behemoth offers plenty of cargo space, while the load floor has been lowered compared to the previous generation.
Feature content lags the big American luxury utes, but the QX80 now has standard rear and side-view cameras, as well as backup collision intervention--the SUV will apply brakes if it senses an obstacle crossing behind it when in reverse. Other standard features include navigation; DVD audio; Bluetooth audio streaming; and pushbutton start.
The QX80 also comes with the Infiniti dealer experience, something that rivals like Lincoln and Cadillac still can't quite match, more than 25 years down the road.