Upscale three-row luxury utility gets smarter appearance and tech.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Despite what your local upscale mall parking lot might suggest, Dubai is ground zero for full-size luxury SUVs. These three-row bruisers populate the biggest city in the United Arab Emirates with the ubiquity of the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic in America. In fact, Bahrain, Lebanon and Dubai are in Infiniti's top five global markets by share, so it's unsurprising that Nissan's luxury brand has chosen this week's Dubai Motor Show to reveal its 2018 QX80.
Less of an all-new model and more of a second heavy refresh, the 2018 QX80 will likely remain something of left-field choice in a land that favors the Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX twins, as well as costlier players like the Land Rover Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The same should probably hold true in the US, as well, but new styling and updates to its cabin and safety tech should go a long way toward getting it on buyers' consideration lists again.
The 2018 QX80 rides atop the same platform with the same 121.1-inch wheelbase as before, and the same front strut/rear double-wishbone suspension still features optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control to mitigate roll in corners. It also still relies on the same naturally aspirated 5.6-liter V8 good for 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque backed by a seven-speed automatic.
None of this is particularly innovative stuff, but the outgoing QX80 was always a surprisingly athletic vehicle given that it weighed around 6,000 pounds and spanned the size of a decent Manhattan apartment, and there's no reason to expect anything but an improvement from this new model.
The same cannot be said of the QX80's fuel economy figures, however, which are unchanged and frankly unimpressive. That means two-wheel-drive models are EPA rated at 14 miles per gallon city and 20 mpg highway. Four-wheel-drive models see their efficiency figures dip by a single mpg on each cycle.
Having said all that, I'll take a spin behind the wheel to know for sure, but the 2018 QX80's biggest areas of improvement seem to center on its appearance and the addition of new interior and safety technologies.
Gone is the old QX80's odd, snubnose dolphin countenance, and in its place is a more upright, traditional SUV front end. The hood now stretches 3.5 inches further forward and sits nearly an inch taller, melding with a more vertical grille and redesigned light fixtures. The new appearance isn't particularly earth-shattering, but to my eyes, it does look significantly more contemporary and upscale. The rear end likewise features more rectilinear detailing and thinner tail-lamps.
On the cabin tech front, an updated version of Infiniti's InTouch infotainment runs on the eight-inch touchscreen, with rationalized menus and customized apps and icons. This is basically a single-screen version of the two-screen system in the updated Q50, but that may be for the best, as the two-screen setup has never been a Roadshow favorite. Either way, there's still no word yet about the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Other new interior tech features include larger available rear seat entertainment screens with improved connectivity and the ability to play different sources on each screen.
The interior features additional sound deadening and a redesigned center console with brought-in tech in mind. The phone storage bin has been upsized to include fablet-sized handsets like Apple's new iPhone X, and the armrest storage has space to accommodate today's larger tablets, too. Finally, a remote engine start with precool and preheat functions is also new for 2018, and a smartphone app enables remote unlocking and a horn beep or light flash if you can't locate your car in a crowded lot.
In terms of safety, the 2018 QX80 will finally be available with a full complement of advanced driver-assist safety systems, including features like blind-spot assist, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, as well as intelligent cruise control and forward collision warning with auto-brake. These drive-assist technologies work between 20 and 90 miles per hour, but the smart cruise control only works down to 1 mph (it's apparently not a system capable of auto-resuming after a traffic stoppage).
On the plus side, a new Smart Rear View Mirror is available. Drivers can use the mirror conventionally, or flip to a video feed from the LCD rearview camera for a wider and unobstructed field of view. In similar digital mirror applications, I've found that some people love this feature, while others have trouble adjusting to their differing depth of view.
In two-wheel-drive configuration, the QX80's fuel economy is rated at 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. Four-wheel-drive variants are capable of 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.
The refreshed QX80 will find itself wading into battle against a tougher competitive set than in recent years. For 2018, Ford is offering an all-new Expedition, and Lincoln is fielding a new Navigator, too. What's more, GM has just updated its Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon Denali models with a 10-speed transmission for improved efficiency.
The Kyushu, Japan-built 2018 QX80 is slated to reach dealers later this year, but whether you live in Dubai or Dubuque, pricing has yet to be announced.