2016 INFINITI QX80 Limited AWD Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
The first thing I noticed when the Infiniti QX80 arrived in my driveway was how big it is. It’s HUGE. How huge is it? I think the front bumper resides in a different zip code than the rear bumper. (Rim-shot) You don’t look for a parking space as much as a mooring. (Another rim-shot). If you are not Shaquille O’Neal, you better get a ladder if you want to wash the roof. The QX80 is a full five-inches longer than a Cadillac Escalade, and has a five-inch longer wheelbase. That’s big. And despite having nice wide running boards, unless you’re a power forward in the NBA, it’s still a jump up to get into it.
I can appreciate the need for a vehicle like this one, but I’ll bet that most of the owners of this truck don’t fit the need profile I have set up in my head. I picture a family who has a ranch, and the need to transport ranch hands around the property, and also haul a big horse trailer to horse auctions and rodeos. Or maybe a large active family with 5 kids who go camping and they put a pair of Kayaks on the roof, and who also need to tow a boat to the lake. This QX80 has a towing capacity of 8,500 lbs., you know. But more than likely, this is driven by an affluent family who does car pool duty, never takes it off-road, and who like to sit up high to see over all the suburban traffic on the way to soccer practice. Either way, God bless anyone who can afford a luxury vehicle that cost more than my first house sold for after living in it for 10 years.
All QX80’s are powered by a 5.6-liter V8 engine that delivers 400 horsepower and 413 ft. lbs. of torque. Power is transmitted to the pavement via a slick shifting 7-speed automatic transmission. Both two and four-wheel-drive systems are available. The power is more than enough to move the 5,888lb beast from zero to 60 in under seven seconds, which is remarkable. The penalty for this performance comes in the form of 13 mpg City, and 19 Highway gas mileage. So you’ll go through that 26 gallon tank of dino juice pretty quickly. But when you spend nearly $90,000 on a vehicle, the cost of gas is not a high priority.
Of course, with the body on frame architecture I expected this huge SUV to behave and ride like a truck. But I was wrong, dead wrong. It is remarkably smooth and well behaved on the road, despite its worthy off-road underpinnings, and a real low drive ratio. Torque is rearward biased under normal conditions, but can be split 50/50 between rear and front axels when wheel slip is detected. It comes with rear self-leveling suspension, hill start assist, and Hydraulic Body motion Control, which helps with body lean in turns. Despite the huge 22” wheels, the ride is almost luxury car comfortable on the highway, and pot holed pavement doesn’t upset it either. The steering is fairly light, and the only time you feel the vehicles heft is going around tight corners. The brakes have good feel, and produce strong, sure stops without much front end dive.
Styling-wise, the QX80 is a bit of a chunky block that is almost retro looking from the upright SUV’s of the 1980’s. The front grill is necessarily huge to break up some of that large front end, but the corners are rounded with the headlights wrapping into the bulging front fenders. Those massive front fenders are broken up by chromed vents on each side (can you say Buick Venti-Ports?) and look silly. The rear corners are also rounded to soften up the look, and there are some interesting lines. But overall, we’ll just say that function won out over form, and leave it at that.
As much as the exterior styling is unappealing, the interior in the Limited model gets very high marks for appearance and comfort. It would be hard not to appreciate the cabin appointments. I don’t know how many cows gave their lives to upholster this QX80, but I’m sure enough to thin anyone’s herd. The Truffle Brown semi-aniline leather is everywhere, and the seat bottoms, console top, headrests all feature a unique quilted stitching, a la Bentley. And it looks great against the vast amount of real wood trim surrounding the sculpted dashboard, door, center stack and console. That’s right, real wood that looks and feels like real wood, rather than the usual heavily lacquered trim that most manufacturers have been able to make look exactly like plastic. The wood adds a real warm and clubby feel to the cabin. It looks as refined as any Escalade, Mercedes, or even Range Rover.
The cabin feels larger than a $2,500 a month New York City studio apartment, with seating for up to eight. The heated and cooled 10-way power front seats with silvery piping, are wide and comfortable, if a bit light on the bolstering. The heated second row reclining seats, fold flat with the flip of a switch from the driver’s seat. They are also comfortable, and any cowboy will have plenty of room for his legs, and his tall hat, too. Even the middle seat occupant will be mostly comfortable. And with 7” color monitors on the back of the front seat headrests, those cowboys can watch Gunfight at the OK Corral, or The Little Mermaid, depending upon which of my imaginary families are sitting back there. The fold down armrest holds the remote control and the headphones for the DVD player. The second row seatbacks fold flat and then fold forward, to give good access to the third row. But third row seating is still meant for kids, not adults.
With the third row bench in place, there is 16.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Pushing a button electrically folds the third row flat, to offer nearly 50 cubic feet of storage, and with the second row folded, you’ve got 95 cubic feet of cargo space to fill with saddles, bridles, tents and climbing gear, or soccer ball bags and after-game treats. The power liftgate makes it easy to load gear and there’s a fairly low lift-over height to contend with.
Let’s not also forget that some of the weight of the QX80 was spent in sound deadening materials. This is a very quiet cabin. Even at highway speeds, there is not much wind noise making it into the cabin, despite the fact that the body isn’t exactly aerodynamic. That of course makes the 15-speaker Bose Sound System impress with brilliant surround sound.
One of the things I appreciated the most is that Infiniti didn’t overcomplicate driver / technology interface as some luxury cars do these days. That means that there are proper controls on the center stack for operating the Nav system, radio controls, and the HVAC system, instead of having to go through the Nav screen to make all that function. The controls are easy to see, understand, and operate at a glance. And, of course, let’s not forget the jewelry-like analogue clock right where it’s easy to see.
And it’s a good thing they have all those buttons and controls on the stack. There is so much real estate that they had to fill it with something. While the Nav screen is large, it looks small in that wide center stack space.
The voice recognition system is better than most, controlling the radio, phone, Nav, and other apps that the connectivity system allows one to use. Of course there are redundant controls on the steering wheel for lots of functions. Not only is there a Back- up camera, you can push a button for a forward view, and an overhead view showing how the front wheels are turned with grid lines. I’m sure that will help backing up that horse trailer. There is a 360 degree perimeter warning sound if you get to close to anything, even when moving forward into a parking space.
A full complement of safety features like Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, (surprisingly without the assist feature to steer you back into the lane) Radar Cruise Control, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and more are standard on the Limited. In fact, everything one can think of, and more, come on this model. The list would be too long to print. Suffice it to say that you are getting everything for your money with this QX80.
The base rear-drive QX80, which comes with a good list of standard items, starts at $63,250. For $66,350 you can move up to an All-Wheel-Drive version. The AWD Signature edition adds some amenities and begins at $67,350. And then the full-zoot, top of the line Limited puts it all in at a whopping $88,850. With destination, the bottom line is $89,845. Sure that’s a lot of money, but this is a lot of vehicle. And besides, it’s only about $15 per pound. That’s a lot less than a good sirloin steak costs.
Read Ken’s other drive reviews over here…
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman