- Tough off-roading capabilities
- Upscale Interior
- Genuine SUV design
- Strong V-8 engine
- Light, dainty steering
- Thirsty when efficient is in vogue
- Oversize front end
- Gaudy fender vents
If you're looking for a luxury SUV with legitimate off-roading potential, vehicles like the QX80 fit your niche interests.
For 2014, the QX80 badge replaces the QX56 nameplate, but the vehicle, a full-size luxury SUV, is essentially the same. It only adds confusion to a vehicle that's already confusingly good on many fronts; there's a lot to appreciate, badging aside. The QX80 is the best Infiniti SUV to date–and superior to at least a few of its competitors. At the same time, it's also a gas-guzzler without an alternative drivetrain in sight, though it's built in Japan by the company responsible for pioneering the first mass-market electric car, ever.
Look to the QX's closest ancestor, the Nissan Patrol, and it's easy to see that this modern luxury barge still looks the part of a proper SUV. With its higher ground clearance, thinner profile and lighter side glass, the kinship is there. The old QX56 was American-made and bulky, and while the QX80 may still have the tall forehead and cheesy fender vents, its interior is a handsome blend of leather, burled wood and metallic trim, all arranged with logical controls and strong, masculine lines.
The QX is noticeably shorter than in the past, by about three inches. It's still quite spacious, with big front chairs that don't lack for room in any direction except where knees meet the center console. Ventilated front seats are an option. In the second row, where the leather seats can be heated, there's plenty of room for two adults, though three would be possible for short trips. Second-row bucket seats are available, and we prefer them. The QX's third-row bench is for small children only. Behind it, there's enough space for moderate shopping duty, but the third-row seat can be powered down to expand cargo space to 95 cubic feet. A lower liftover height and a power tailgate make loading and unloading easier than before, too.
The QX80 isn't quite the tech orgy you’ll find inside a Lincoln MKT or a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, but Infiniti's big SUV does come standard with the usual power features; navigation with a hard drive for maps and music; DVD audio and satellite radio; 20-inch wheels; a moonroof; a power tailgate; Bluetooth with audio streaming; pushbutton start; USB connectivity for audio players; and leather trim. This year, a backup collision intervention system also makes its way to the technology package. At a base price of just about $61,000, its chief competition lies in the GL-Class and Navigator, while the much more pricey Range Rover and Escalade are thousands more--and they don't include the sublime Infiniti ownership experience.
Under the hood, there's just one drivetrain configuration with the QX80. It starts with a 5.6-liter V-8 that produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, funneled through a seven-speed automatic that blips the throttle to smooth out downshifts, just as the gearbox on the G37 sports coupe does. Infiniti promises a 0-60 mph time of about seven seconds, and gas mileage, while still low, is a big improvement on the last American-made QX, at 14/20 mpg.
For traction, Infiniti upgrades the rear-drive QX80 to full-time four-wheel drive with a real low drive ratio. Torque is biased to the rear, but can be split 50:50 between the front and rear axles when wheels start slipping. It’s fairly simple and effective—more so with the QX’s standard hill-start-assist electronics.
The QX's independent suspension does a fine job of controlling its ride quality, even up to the 22-inch wheels that are available on the most expensive versions. There’s an automatic leveling setup on the rear end for towing duty (the QX will drag 8,500 pounds behind it), as well as available Hydraulic Body Motion Control, which uses a closed air-pressure loop to damp out body lean in tight corners. It's slightly different in feel, but to our wallets, not distinctly more comfortable, and not worth the thousands of extra dollars. The QX's steering feel is light--maybe too much so for our tastes--but its brakes are big and powerful.
Maybe it's a narrow demographic, but the 2014 Infiniti QX80 has it nailed. It's for buyers who need seats for eight and can tell high-spec off-road hardware at a glance--but can also appreciate the fine turn of a Nakashima table.