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2017 Infiniti QX80 review: It's big, it's bold and it's almost gone

The company just showed off a refreshed 2018 QX80 at the Dubai Motor Show, but that doesn't mean this year's model should be overlooked.

Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
7 min read

I was a bit hesitant as I turned into San Francisco traffic at rush hour in the 2017 QX80, Infiniti's behemoth of a full-size luxury SUV. Looking down from my perch I could see over the roofs of the three cars ahead of me. On my left I could practically reach out and shake hands with the guy riding shotgun in a large delivery truck.


2017 Infiniti QX80

The Good

The many driver's aids can be customized for easy access via a steering wheel button. Strong acceleration and handling characteristics belie the SUV's large footprint.

The Bad

The QX80 sports an ugly mug and pretty terrible fuel economy.

The Bottom Line

The 2017 Infiniti QX80 is the luxury SUV that makes you feel like the master of all you survey, but a new model is coming for 2018.

The QX80 is a seven-passenger full-size SUV with optional eight-person capacity. It's available in two-wheel or four-wheel drive as well as in the limited-production Signature Edition. While the refreshed 2018 QX80 recently debuted in Dubai, the company sent me a 2017 model in the uber-luxe Limited trim line, with dark chrome trim on the outside and an interior that looks like the a leather version of the chocolate river from Willy Wonka's factory.

When the QX80 arrived at Roadshow HQ, I jumped in as quickly as possible, not only to experience the spacious interior but also to avoid looking at the hideous front end. The QX80 has a face only a mother could love and even then I don't think my mom could muster up any affection for this beast's appearance.

But hey, it's what's inside that counts. Unique to the Limited trim, the Truffle Brown interior is by far the most luxurious I've seen in an SUV. Infiniti wraps everything in leather, including the speaker grilles, and where there isn't leather there is open pore matte finish ash wood trim. San Francisco can be a bit chilly, so I thumbed on the heated seats and steering wheel as I continued my drive through the city.

Traffic loosened up and my right foot got a bit heavier. The large 22-inch wheels make the ride more harsh than I would like over the rough city streets. The smaller 20-inch wheels on lower trim lines would make for a more comfy commute, but then, they don't look as fly as 22s. Regardless, I sped along to my destination, following the car in front of me at what I deemed to be an appropriate distance.

Apparently the QX80 had other ideas. As its Distance Control Assist kicked in, I felt the gas pedal actively push up against my foot. I decided to let it ride and as the car ahead came to a red light, the QX80 braked to a full stop behind it, with no help from me. While this technology might work well in suburban areas, leaving a large gap in front of you in the city is just begging to be cut off. After digging through some menus, I turned the system off. I don't need that kind of technology in my life.

2017 Infiniti QX80: The last go-around for Fudgie the Whale

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What I do need in my life while driving the large-and-in-charge QX80 is blind spot warning. The SUV is nearly 17 and a half feet long and over six and a half feet wide; changing lanes to the right can be dangerous. Numerous times the visual and audible warnings kept me from running into a smaller vehicle or motorcycle. The chimes were enough to stop me, but for those who refuse to take the hint, the QX80 will also brake one side of the vehicle to guide itself back into the correct lane.

The lanes in San Francisco tend to be on the narrow side, so I found lane departure warning and prevention to be helpful in navigating this beast through the city. Both work much like the blind spot technology, with warnings and then braking if I crossed lane markers without signaling.

Also needed in my heavy-traffic life is adaptive cruise control. The QX80 can lock on to the car in front, staying at a predetermined distance during stop-and-go traffic. The system brought me smoothly to a complete stop but I had to immediately reset the system using the button on the steering wheel to get going again.

The InTouch infotainment system, showing on an 8-inch dashboard-mounted touchscreen, let me customize all the QX80's driver aids. I found that just blind spot and lane departure warning were enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. Once I got my parameters set, I could turn everything on and off from a button on the steering wheel.

The Driver's Assistance package is standard on the Limited trim, but customers will have to shell out an extra $2,900 to get it on other models. It's worth mentioning that there is a $450 option for a 4G Wi-Fi connection that can connect up to five devices, although my tester was internet-free.

Driver and passenger will have to share a USB port as there is only one for the first row of seating. The second row can grab juice from a 12V plug as well as an ungrounded 110V, so good luck getting a computer with three-prong plug to charge. The third row seats get no charging options at all.

It can be tough to park a full-size SUV like the QX80, but Infiniti thoughtfully included plenty of parking sensors that bing and boop if I got close to hitting something, and a 360-degree camera made things even easier.

I was very disappointed by the InTouch infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered and the graphics and interface on the touchscreen are very much last-generation. I could select from its overly complex menu structure from the touchscreen or the dial and button panel just below the screen, although that felt awkward. When I went to look for a destination, the navigation system insisted I was taking a drive in Southern, not Northern California and tried to navigate me to the "nearest" Target... more than 300 miles away.

2017 Infiniti QX80 Limited

The Limited trim interior is coated in quilted leather.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Every trim of the QX80 is powered by a 5.6-liter V8 engine, putting out 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. Like the InTouch system, this engine has been around for a while. However, age hasn't diminished the engine's hustle. Power delivery is smooth and offers more than enough grunt to deliver a tow rating of 8,500 pounds. Mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, the combination works well and gives the QX80 prowess in passing and on the highway.

The SUV even has four-wheel-drive with high and low ranges, although I wasn't able to get the QX80 into a low-range situation. A snow mode also adjusts the traction and transmission shift points to get the best performance on the slippery stuff.

For such a large vehicle, the QX80 is surprisingly spry. A self-leveling hydraulic suspension, standard on the Limited but part of a $5,200 deluxe technology package on other trims, keeps things flat in the turns and there is surprisingly little body roll for a rig that weighs nearly 6,000 pounds. The high seating position made me feel like the queen of all on the road, and though I had a few issues with the aforementioned 22-inch wheels on city streets, the ride on the highway was smooth as silk.

While the 16.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row is pretty average for a full-sized SUV, that expands to 49.6 cubic feet behind the second row and just over 95 total. Be warned, however, that the second row with captain's chairs also includes a center console that is fixed in place, so the surface is not completely flat when seats are folded. A 60/40 split bench seat can replace the captain's chairs and center console at no charge. The third row was a bit of a tight squeeze for my 5 foot 9 frame, but the second row captain's chairs tip up for easier entry and exit into that last row.

2017 Infiniti QX80 Limited

Flip-up second row seats allow for easy access to the third row.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Any large vehicle with a V8 engine is not likely to get great fuel economy. The four-wheel drive QX80 gets an EPA rating of 13 miles per gallon in the city, 19 on the highway and 15 combined. You can expect a bit better out of the two-wheel drive model. During my week I saw a mere 14 miles per gallon. Yikes.

If all this sounds pretty cool but you're not quite willing to take the plunge with what our editor-at-large Brian Cooley calls Fudgie the Whale, you could take a look at the all-new Lincoln Navigator on tap for 2018. The Cadillac Escalade is a stellar luxury choice with a larger engine and GM's excellent Magnetic Ride Control, but if you're looking for more off-road prowess, check out the Lexus LX 570 or the king of dirty luxury, the Range Rover.

The 2017 Infiniti QX80 starts at $63,850 for a two-wheel drive model, while my ultra-luxury Limited trim tester hits the wallet at $90,445 including destination. There is a lot to like about good ol' Fudgie. The driver's aids are pretty outstanding, the ride quality is good and Lord knows the inside is posh. The 2018 model improves on the InTouch system, but we still have no word on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Further, the engine remains the same for the newer QX80. With that in mind, if you find a 2017 QX80 at a reduced price, go for it.


2017 Infiniti QX80

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Features 9Design 5Media 6