The 2015 Infiniti QX80 is still a huge hunk of metal. The full-size SUV is an imposing figure with a massive curbside presence. Piloting it around the cramped streets and tiny parking lots of San Francisco had me feeling just a tad self-conscious.
The high SUV seating position for the driver offers a commanding view of the road ahead. You'll be practically eye level with city bus drivers and long-haul truckers. As a fan of low-slung sports cars and roadsters, even I have to admit that being able to see farther down the road or to keep an eye on the two or three cars ahead of the car ahead of me is nice.
Being big on the outside means that the QX80 boasts plenty of space on the inside of cargo and people. To be exact, it's a seven-seater, but I think I'd consider it a six-seater due to the large, stationary center console on the second bench. According to Infiniti's math, you have three seating positions on the third row; after squeezing back there I'm convinced that there's only room for two reasonably sized adults. Giving credit where due, those two reasonably sized adults will be reasonably comfortable for a short trip, but I wouldn't recommend anyone with a chassis larger than my 5-foot, 10-inch frame attempt it.
Adding a bit of convenience to the luxury SUV driver's day is keyless entry and start, a power lift gate, and power folding rear bench. By holding a button in the rear storage area, the owner can fold the third row bench flat, expanding the storage area. Doing so takes forever, but the simple motorization takes all of the guesswork and footwork out of getting those seats out of the way. The second row also folds forward with a more conventional lever to create a mostly flat loading floor that extends from the tailgate the the front seat backs. The bucket seats also flip forward and upward to provide easier passenger access to the third row.
A "Split Bench Seat Package" option is available at no cost, which removes the second-row console and adds an additional center seating position, bumping the officially stated capacity to eight souls.
When an automaker uses the word "proven" when describing an engine, it's usually code for "old." In the case of the QX80, "proven" also means "reliable." The 5.6-liter naturally aspirated engine is a workhorse mill that the automaker has been building in some form or another for over decade now. This latest version makes use Infiniti's VVEL (Variable Valve Event & Lift) technology and gasoline direct injection to produce 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. The engine has a fairly flat torque curve and delivery is smooth and is well mated to the QX80's 5,878-pound bulk. The vehicle gets out of its way well enough, but there's a reason that you won't hear a QX80 owner bragging about 0-to-60 times.
The V-8 sends power to the wheels via a single-option seven-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are smooth and, thanks to Adaptive Shift Control and Downshift Rev Matching software, fairly predictable. There's a manual-shift program available, but I never used it during my testing.
Our QX80 arrived in the standard rear-wheel drive, but an optional all-wheel-drive configuration is available. Fuel economy is rated at 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined, regardless of which drivetrain you choose. I averaged 14.1 mpg during my testing.
Independent double-wishbone suspension components at all four corners give the big-ass SUV a planted feel and a buttery-smooth ride, which is likely exactly what prospective buyers are looking for, and the massiveness of the vehicle itself makes the chassis difficult to upset at lower speeds. Hydraulic body-motion control (part of the $5,550 Deluxe Technology package) does its part to help keep the SUV flat when cornering and to control that boatlike bobbing that you typically get in these gigantic, softly sprung luxury land yachts.
RWD or AWD, the QX80 boasts no off-road traction management system, no custom terrain settings. (I've got a feeling, though, that the QX80 only needs to be optimized for one terrain type anyway: tarmac. Infiniti gets that most luxury SUV drivers aren't the trailblazing type.)
This RWD model does feature a Snow mode that optimizes traction in slick and icy conditions and a hill start assistance feature that keeps the big SUV from rolling backward after stopping on a steep incline by holding the brakes momentarily after you, the driver, release the pedal. Finally, the QX80 features a Towing mode and a Class IV tow hitch with wiring harness for a trailer -- all of which is hidden behind a cover in the rear bumper. With the proper equipment, the QX80 boasts 8,500 pounds of towing capacity. When towing, a self-leveling rear suspension should keep the tail lifted even under load, though I was not able to confirm this claim. No one on the CNET staff would loan me their boat for testing.
Though the high seating position is a guilty pleasure, the SUV's bulky footprint and high shoulders make positioning the truck within a narrow lane or around a tight parking deck bend tricky. Fortunately, Nissan makes a lot of parking and driver-aid tech available... for a price. The aforementioned $5,550 Deluxe Technology Package combined with a $2,100 Driver Assistance package gives us a full load of the automaker's driver-aid technologies.
Checking this box adds rear cross-traffic warning and front and rear parking-proximity alerts. If the SUV drifts over a lane line without signaling or tries to merge into a lane when a vehicle has been detected in the blind spot, an alert sounds and the QX80 gently brakes with the front wheel on the opposite side to yaw the nose back into the lane. When reversing, the system can automatically brake if it detects an obstruction (or person) in its path. As I drove along, a forward-collision warning system or the full range adaptive cruise control monitored the distance to the car ahead and automatically added braking to maintain a safe following distance, even if that means slowing the QX80 to a full stop.
New for 2015, the QX80 also gains Forward Emergency Braking and Predictive Forward Collision Warning systems, which can automatically apply full emergency braking if a collision is imminent, and automatic high-beam assist.
That's a lot of aid and intervention tech, which takes a lot of getting used to -- even for me, a person who spends a lot of time testing these systems out. For example, when driving in heavy traffic, the automatic braking system would sometimes activate in the moment between lifting my foot from the gas and applying it to the brake pedal, so I'd end up hitting the brakes a bit harder than I thought. Eventually, I learned that you have to either trust the system to handle these minor adjustments in speed or just deactivate it...I went with the latter.
You, the driver, can choose which of these driver-aid systems you want to use in an onscreen menu. So, if you love lane-departure prevention, but get annoyed by the distance-control system, it can be customized. Once set up, the driver can quickly activate and deactivate all of their chosen driver-aid systems with the touch of a steering wheel button.
Most of the dashboard tech is a holdover from the previous model year, but I expected as much - the 2015 model is merely a refresh. The QX80 feature's Infiniti's "proven" infotainment system, which uses a combination of a color touchscreen and bank of physical controls to put snappy navigation and a full helping of digital media sources at the driver's fingertips. USB, Bluetooth audio streaming and calling, iPod connectivity, DVD playback, HD Radio, satellite radio -- the gang's all here.
I give props to the Infiniti QX80 for its dedication to driver aid and intervention technology. In a class filled with big, luxurious SUVs that are dinosaurs of tech, Infiniti is still one of the best in this respect.
However, my previous criticism of the QX80 still stands. The SUV lacks the off-road pedigree that the biggest Lexus and Land Rover models boast. This is a gigantic soft-roader that caters to the odd subset of drivers who want a big ol' truck that never gets dirty. To be fair, I don't think that the average Lexus driver will be fording streams in their LX 570 , but one could if one wanted or needed to.
As is, the QX80's strongest selling point seems to be its luxury transport of six people; a job that I think the excellent Infiniti QX60 (formerly known as the JX35 ) does better and more efficiently. Unless you've got 8,500 pounds of towing to do, you may want to think smaller than the QX80.
|Model||2015 Infiniti QX80|
|Powertrain||5.6-liter V-8, direct injection, seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|EPA fuel economy||14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, 16 mpg combined|
|Observed fuel economy||14.1 mpg|
|Navigation||Yes, standard HDD navigation|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes, standard|
|Digital audio sources||USB/iPod, Bluetooth audio and calling, HD Radio, satellite radio, HDD, DVD/CD|
|Audio system||Bose audio|
|Driver aids||blind-spot monitoring/intervention, lane-departure warning/intervention, forward collision warning/intervention, adaptive cruise control, proximity alert, rear cross-traffic alert|
|Price as tested||$76,745|
The 2015 Infiniti QX80 starts at $63,250 for the rear-wheel drive model or $66,350 for all-wheel drive. I evaluated the former. Add to that $995 in destination fees, the Driver Assistance package, the Deluxe Technology package, $2,450 for 22-inch wheels and tires, and a $2,400 rear-seat entertainment system to reach our as-tested price of $76,745.
The QX80 is not available in the UK or Australian Infiniti lineups.