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The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2014

Buying tip

Four-wheel drive isn't always worth the gas and cash in most SUVs. That might matter less in the luxury market, but given that the QX80 is rated the same with either drivetrain, we say to go ahead and grab the all-weather version.

features & specs

2WD 4-Door
4WD 4-Door
14 city / 20 hwy
14 city / 20 hwy

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.

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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.




A highly finished luxury-car interior meets classic Japanese SUV in the QX80.

The Infiniti QX80, previously called the QX56, has some interesting callbacks to the traditional sport utilities of yore, tough there may be a few lapses in good design taste. We think it's still more appealing than its previous models, especially when you look at its richly-appointed interior.

It's the front end and fenders where the details go off the reservation. Massive headlights and a huge grille pull eyeballs right to the QX's nose instantly, and the ute offers up a lot of sheetmetal before it drops down into the chrome grille, giving it a tall forehead and a surprised look. The vents look inexpensive, though one of them actually functions to bring cool air under the hood. These flaws get muted by darker paint colors--maybe they'd body-color the vents if you asked nicely?

We detect some vintage charm in the QX's silhouette, especially from the side, where its height and glass areas bring back the days of the Troopers and Monteros of the 1980s. The QX is a version of today's Nissan Patrol, another member of that trio (the only surviving one, in fact), and the faintly retro looks owes plenty to those roots. Most of the proportions hit the right notes: the ride height gives the QX the perfect SUV stance, and the D-pillar angles in such a way as to link it to the rest of the company's vehicles, as do the raised panels on the tailgate and the subtly swelled fenders.

Slide in and savor the QX’s cabin to seal the deal. This look and feel fits in perfectly with the grace and finesse of the Q70 sedan. Finely finished wood burls and swirls around the analog clock, audio controls, and steering wheel on some versions; the hazelnut leather in our test vehicle matched it perfectly. Infiniti’s designers have balanced the shapes and textures on the dash in a subtly masculine way, from the hockey-stick angles of the dash center to the aluminum strip implanted into the shift lever like the stitching on a 22nd-century baseball. We’ve seen lots of clear, finely detailed gauges—and the ones on this Infiniti are some of our favorites. This cockpit’s as radiant as that in the Mercedes-Benz GL, more refined than the one in the Escalade—and closer than ever to the cabin in the excellent Range Rover.

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The torquey V-8 sets the stage for true luxury-vehicle road manners.

Following a change in platforms and production facilities, Nissan decided to upgrade the Infiniti QX80's powertrain, handling and overall refinement in an attempt to better showcase as many of the brand's upscale technologies as possible.

Push the start button, and the QX rumbles to life. There's a 5.6-liter V-8–one shared with the Nissan Titan and Armada–under the hood, but the QX's exhaust sounds more lush and refined than NASCAR race-ready. The engine produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, and it's connected the rear- or four-wheel-drive system by a seven-speed automatic transmission. It's a strong, silent type of powertrain that pushes the QX80 to 60 mph in about seven seconds, according to Infiniti's estimates.

Since the QX80 shares some of its rugged underpinnings with the military-grade Nissan Patrol, it’s no surprise the Infiniti has off-roading in its genetic makeup.  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.

That’s not to overlook its considerable on-road talent; the independent suspension does a fine job of muting road imperfections, whether it’s shod with the base 20-inch or the brash, sexy 22-inch wheels fitted on our test machine. 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.

The real, though faint, difference between the suspensions didn’t get much more pronounced with larger wheels, so normally we’d advise skipping the Deluxe Touring Package and the hydraulic suspension—but since it’s added with the 22-inch wheels and other features, it’s between you and your wallet. Steering feel is too light for our tastes, but the QX’s brakes are big and powerful.

While the transmission has more gears and the engine less friction, fuel economy hasn't gone up all that much. It's EPA-rated at 14/20 mpg--better than before, okay for full-size SUVs, not so stellar in the grander scheme of things, even among luxury utes. 

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Comfort & Quality

Provided adults stay in front, everyone's happy in the QX80.

The 2014 Infiniti QX80 has a distinctive interior with seating for seven and a sense of priorities not seen seen past models; it's lower, slightly shorter, and significantly more refined than it ever has been.

The previous-generation QX was assembled in Mississippi next the Nissan Armada, but the current version of the model is built in Japan. It's hard to tell much of a difference in terms of interior space, though.

Behind the third-row seat, there’s as much cargo room as you’d find in the trunk of a Ford Fusion. With the power-folding third-row seat down, Infiniti counts 95.1 cubic feet of storage space. Loading is simple enough, since the QX80 sits at least 2 inches lower than the previous model, and the power tailgate relieves lightweights and shorties from having to jump and hang on for closure.

The current QX is about three inches shorter overall than before, but the interior still sports luxurious front seats, plush chairs with power adjustments and plenty of space in all directions--except possibly at the knees, where bigger passengers might make contact with the QX's center console and its softly padded side. We're big fans of ventilated seats, and the QX80 offers them; they're excellent investments for drivers in the southern third of the U.S., where they relieve some of the burden put on the climate control.

Second-row seating is almost as ample, but three adults across won't be as comfortable in the standard configuration as they will if the owner opted for the no-charge bench seat. The buckets are nicer, though, and get a center console almost as useful as the deep bin between the front seats. The second-row seats also offer heating, and a new tip-forward setup is meant to make clambering into the third-row seat a little easier. In the end, that third-row seat just isn't useful for adults, but three children will be able to jump into it and find plenty of room for themselves and their backpacks.

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There haven't been any recent crash tests of the QX80, but there's no tech deficit.

The Infiniti QX80 certainly looks the part of big, burly and tough, but we've haven't had the chance to actually assess how it holds up against safety tests yet. Despite the fact that neither of the national agencies that crash test cars have rated the QX so far, we've given a score for its long list of advanced safety features.

In lieu of a traditional rearview camera, Infiniti equips the QX installs its Around View camera, a set of lenses that stitches together a set of exterior views for a 180-degree look at potential obstacles. This year, the Around View monitor adds cross-traffic alerts. Dual front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, as are stability control and anti-lock brakes; active headrests; and tire-pressure monitors.

Infiniti offers some of the latest safety technology as options on the QX80 as well. Buyers can opt for adaptive cruise control with Distance Control Assist, which slows it down when the system detects obstacles ahead. A blind-spot warning system and a lane departure warning system are available, as is a lane-departure prevention system that gently nudges the QX back into a lane when sensors think you’re wandering off the mark. Think twice before you're sold on the idea, though--we think they create too much audible and haptic interference for skilled drivers.

Visibility gets a little dicey at the rear quarters, especially if you’re carrying a full complement of people, but the QX80’s big mirrors and drop-away fenders help in parking and cruising with confidence.




With great audio and infotainment, the QX80 goes up against the best top-dollar SUVs.

The QX80 doesn't necessarily layer on every modern technology available, as, say a Ford Flex or Jeep Grand Cherokee might try, but it's definitely no slouch in the segment either.

Each QX has a raft of standard luxury and convenience features, including the requisite power locks, windows, and auto-dimming mirrors; sunroof; leather upholstery; AM/FM/CD/DVD player with satellite radio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and USB connectivity; a moonroof; a navigation with a hard drive for map and music storage; and 20-inch wheels. There's also standard cross-traffic alert and birds-eye view for its exterior camera system.

A Technology Package groups features like blind-spot monitors with adaptive headlights, and a three-zone automatic climate control system. There's also a Theater Package, which includes dual LCD displays for the back seat, alone with remote controls, wireless headphones, and auxiliary inputs for gaming systems. It gets a new remote control and a new user interface this year.

Option packages add on more upscale features, the kind you'll also find in the Escalade and Range Rover. A hydraulic suspension is available; so are ventilated front seats, and heated second-row seats; 22-inch wheels; and easy-folding second-row seats for access to the third row.

Lastly, you can opt to swap the second-row chairs for a three-seat bench at no cost. Savor the second-row seats and the huge console before deciding you’ll need the extra seat more.

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Fuel Economy

The QX80 is very thirsty, but there's no hybrid or diesel option in sight.

Something that hasn't changed with the QX80's name is low fuel economy rating by the EPA.

It's pegged at 14 miles per gallon city, 20 miles per gallon by the agency, no matter which edition is specified--the rear-drive version or the one with four-wheel drive.

While those aren't stellar numbers, they are far better than Nissan's own Armada SUV and better than many other big luxury SUVs.

Infiniti has no plans for hybrid or diesel QX utes here in the U.S.

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