I never thought I'd say this, but the 2018 Infiniti QX80 looks pretty darn good. This is shocking given how droopy the 2017 model looks and that this new model is just a mid-cycle refresh. However, Infiniti's designers have done a heck of a job with this facelift and its largest model has come away looking like something you might actually want to drive.
That said, this is just a refresh and, for better or worse, the 2018 QX80 is still pretty much the same SUV it was before.
The biggest changes are the visual ones. Infiniti's designers have completely revamped the QX80 with a new look that's all new from the A-pillar forward. I'm not just talking new headlights and a bumper; the SUV's whole fascia has been reshaped.
The grille is wider and more upright. The LED headlamps aren't just new; they sit higher up on the new fascia, giving the QX80 a more commanding and modern appearance than the old model's droopy eyes. Even the new fender vents looks more modern and less droopy.
Out back, the changes are less dramatic. The taillights are completely new and required that the power liftgate also be reshaped. The chrome bar that once floated in the middle of the liftgate now stretches between the new lights, anchoring them. An odd side-effect of the new rear design is that the turn signal indicators have been moved down into the new rear bumper, which sort of makes them harder to see.
Infiniti has also increased the width of the side steps by 20mm (0.79 inch) to make getting in or out easier.
The redesign continues in the interior, where the QX80 receives more redecoration. The carpet is plusher, which, along with other insulation revisions, cuts down on road noise and helps keep the SUV's cabin quieter at highway speeds. The cockpit is so quiet that I could barely hear or feel the V8 engine when idling or humming along while cruising.
The rest of the cabin materials get an upgrade as well. Leather is standard, but a new semi-aniline leather option steps up the luxuriousness and softness of the touch points. There's new stitching and quilting on the doors and dashboard and new burl wood trim. A new saddle brown color option gives drivers an additional choice in addition to the returning wheat and graphite palettes.
The rest of the interior changes are small, but thoughtful. The center console, for example, has been redesigned to accommodate coffee mugs in its cupholders and now also has a place for your phone to sit and more space under the armrest for stowing tablets.
The front USB ports have been moved to a more accessible position at the bottom of the dashboard and are joined by more USB ports on the second row that now support high-speed charging of iPads or phones.
While on the second row, I also took note of the new rear seat entertainment option, which steps up to dual 8-inch displays that are an inch larger than last year's. The new system features Wi-Fi connectivity and accepts inputs from HDMI, USB or a DVD player on the front row. The system can be controlled via remote out back or from the dashboard by parents and features a 110-volt outlet for powering game consoles.
Other new tech includes the ability to lock or unlock the doors remotely via Infiniti's Amazon Alexa skill. This particular trick works through the Infiniti Connection wireless telematics system, which also allows remote monitoring, honking the horn, turning on or off the light and other telematics features. Similarly, you can still access Infiniti Connect via a smartphone running the automaker's app.
Despite the new tech out back and being remotely connected, the QX80 is still saddled with the same old InTouch tech from the previous generation. The screen's a bit nicer and the software a tad smoother, but this is still a generation behind Infiniti's newer models, lacking Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or any other significant smartphone integration beyond iTunes connectivity with iPhone devices and Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming for the rest.
In addition to the QX80's already solid suite of safety tech, the SUV gains the automaker's new Smart Mirror camera system. This feature allows the driver to flip a switch to activate an always-on rear camera feed that is displayed on the glass of the rearview mirror at the top of the windshield.
We've seen this system before on GM vehicles like the Cadillac CT6 and Chevy's Bolt. Here, it proves to be especially useful given the QX80's poor natural rear visibility and increased likelihood that the rear view will be blocked by passengers' heads or cargo piled high. Just take a while to get used to looking at the mirror instead of through it before you hit the road.
The Smart Mirror is in addition to the QX80's regular rear camera that only activates when reversing and is displayed on the dashboard display. It can further be augmented by the automaker's Around-view camera system, which includes front, side and a 360-degree stitched views at low speeds.
The QX80's lane departure prevention and distance-sensing adaptive cruise technologies persist unchanged from the previous model year, along with front and rear automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The automaker's Distance Control feature is also still there to help prevent following too closely, even when adaptive cruise isn't active. The driver aid tech is starting to show its age -- particularly the brake-based, rather than steering-based, lane departure prevention system -- but the QX80 still does a more than adequate job of keeping its human cargo safe.
The QX80 sees small changes and tweaks almost all over. The one exception is in the performance department; there's just nothing new here.
The 2018 model is powered by the same 5.6-liter V8 engine mated to the same 7-speed automatic transmission. It's still available in either rear or four-wheel drive and boasts the same 8,500 pound towing capacity.
The ride is comfortable and quiet and body roll, squat and dive typical of a tall SUV is kept in check by the Hydraulic Body Motion Control system. The hydraulic system (which replaces the stabilizer bar) helps keep the body flat around corners while also allowing the more independent wheel movement than a bar to soak up bumps. The system also allows a bit of rear auto-leveling, which keeps the tail from sagging when loaded up or towing.
There are no surprises here. If you readand thought, "That sounds great, but I wish it looked better," the 2018 QX80 fits that bill perfectly. However, if you were hoping for a more efficient transmission or any performance tweaks, you've got a few years more to wait for the true next generation.
The 2018 Infiniti QX80 is arriving in dealerships now with a new look and its new revisions starting at $64,750 for 2WD and $67,850 for 4WD. Before destination charges, that's a $900 increase over last year and money well spent if you were already sold on the QX80 and just want the best possible version.
For the rest of you unaligned luxury SUV buyers, the improved QX80's closest competition will be the, which also recently underwent a revision. But beyond that, the Infiniti faces more steep competition from newer models with more efficient performance and more modern tech. Lincoln's new EcoBoost-powered springs to mind.