In the global Renault-Nissan portfolio, the QX80 Limited lives among greats like the R35 GT-R or RenaultSport Megane Trophy. Being such an event car and flagship has always been a core part of the massive truck’s appeal among owners.
With all the class of a Range Rover, but all the guts of a Denali — the QX80 is famous worldwide for its bomb-proof chassis toughness married to a standard 400HP V8.
The QX80 is fresh for 2015 with new nose detailing, LEDs and an extra-swanky new Limited option pack. Fabulous opulence inside this cabin rivals any superlux mark worldwide, and might be the most plush cockpit for any Japanese machine, ever.
Is the QX80 still the right answer for big families, cool dads and hot moms in 2015? The competition is certainly stronger than ever, with even trad trucks like the Tahoe or GX460 going high-tech, modern and town-friendly in their drive manners.
Let’s hop up into this truffle brown stunner and go for a drive. Review headings are the standard Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary. Check out the drive videos as well. Surf and turf of a drag-strip airport runway and then off-roading shortly afterward.
Since first meeting the QX80 Limited at Pebble Beach 2014, we’ve been deeply smitten with its dark and sexy makeover.
All QX80’s have fresh grilles, LEDs wrapping the outside edge of the adaptive, cornering xenon low-beams. Another full HID set of bulbs runs the high-beams, while LED fogs and front blinkers complete the update. The new grille features a cool inner element in a wave mesh that looks darker and more chic on both standard and Limited trimlines.
For the $10k Limited option, every bit of the exterior brightwork is dipped in black chrome. Contrasted with this dark exterior shade, the pieces look bright in this photo set. But in real life, they are quite dark. The Limited comes with 22-inch “dark chrome” alloys as standard, but the test truck upgrades these to forged multi-spoke steamrollers for a $2k option price.
The QX80 update outside is very effective and helpful in feeling new and fresh — especially since the QX80 has been on the market for five years with the current silhouette.
If the exterior changes from the new Limited pack are effective, the cabin is a smash hit. Semi-aniline truffle brown leathers wrap every single inch of the dash, doors, consoles. Right down to leather wraps for the speaker grilles and the grab handles!
Open-pore ash takes the place of burl woods in other trims — with craftsmanship and grain quality that is near-sensual in its touchability. Such beautiful grains feel like fine furniture under your hands — with the giant wood pieces themselves being impressive in scale. The center console and passenger dash pieces alone are more than a square meter of sanded coolness.
The finish and beauty is not skin-deep, either, inside the QX80 Limited. Knock on the wood panels and they feel as solid as a banker’s desk. This is in contrast to all other touch points — which are so, so soft and lovely. It almost feels like there is a full QX80 leather cabin under here — wrapped once more in quilted supersoft hides. The dark hypersuede headliner is a fabulous design change that looks sublime, feels silky and even cleans up from stains as easily as a Lululemon microfiber.
The QX80 has twin thrones in back that beat any Escalade for posh and comfort levels in the second row. A giant center console wears yet more woods around its cupholders. The seats are super wide and have an overstuffed designer furniture feel. But you do not sink into them like the best Range Rovers, Bentleys or Rollers.
So all is well with the Limited upgrade inside.
But there are some issues with the largely carry-over infotainment features in the QX80. The central touchscreen is HDD-based, yet lacks the latest app integrations and map graphics. The mid-gauge screen is extremely disappointing. It is the super basic two-button trip computer in dot-matrix hell. With so much luxury all around the cabin, the analog gauges and some button controls feel dramatically dated.
Yet this simplicity is also a hidden perk for some drivers. The QX80 makes perfect sense and is easy to operate for any driver. The same cannot be said for the Cayenne, Q7 or even the Escalade.
The QX80’s hidden talents are its unstoppable powertrain and chassis. The 5.6-liter race-tech quad-cam V8 delivers its 400HP and 413 pound-feet of torque in a huge rush like a mighty crashing tidal wave.
The induction growl alone of the QX80 Limited makes this V8 easily one of our favorites from any manufacturer. Where the Denali and Cayenne are all exhaust noise, the QX80 Limited bellows from the front.
A look under the hood at the airbox reveals a giant, massive snorkel box as big as an NYC window A/C. The alloy engine block is impressively sunken and rear-mounted under that massive big-rig nose.
As you get rolling, the QX80 Limited is incredibly calm and simple to pilot. 360-degree parking cameras are cool and helpful, and the tank rolls blissfully through suburban streets at 25-mph. It feels unbelievably light and easy from the helm in these drive scenarios.
Atop the standard QX80 rear load-leveling, the Deluxe Pack adds hydraulic body motion controls. This keeps the QX80 more level in corners automatically. There is no setting or choice of firmness, so we can only report the overall road manners — which are good, but not great.
Good in that the QX80 has flawlessly pure steering and a tight turning circle versus competing trucks.
Not great in that the QX80 lacks the pure air-sprung comfort of the Mercedes-Benz GLS (previously GL-Class) or Range Rover. It is also bumpier than the Lexus GX460, but has much quicker steering response. The ride/handling balance results in fewer sharp jabs like the Escalade or Expedition, but is still a bit bouncy for its intended audience.
For fast corners and full-throttle blasts, though, the QX80’s 22-inch alloys have grip galore and inspire you to push harder than ever possible before.
The seven-speed automatic and switch-able AWD system with auto, 4-high and 4-low is fantastic for passing or snappy downshifts.
Dynamically and driven like a musclecar, the QX80’s biggest issue is its throttle response. This electronic throttle is a little unpredictable. Sometimes there is lag between your right foot and the vehicle. This is clearest in a brake torque launch, or even a simple 0-60 run, as seen in the above videos. There is a brief and electronic-feeling pause before the QX80 charges off the line.
From a base price of $66,350 ($63k for RWD), the test QX80 Limited added every option to reach an $89,845 total.
Major options as seen on the below window sticker scan are driver asistance and theater packs for $5k total. The Deluxe Tech Pack is the most dramatic change thanks for its Hydraulic Body Motion Control system. The Deluxe pack includes a wood upgrade and other tweaks for its $5k tally.
Finally, the Limited package for a cool $10,000 even. Huge list of upgrades outside and in, capped by the $2k forged wheels mentioned previously.
So, after a week with the QX80 Limited, what is the bottom line?
Awesome truck. Major muscle under the hood, a granite-block of chassis rigidity and strength. All wrapped in velvet-rope couture inside?
Yes, the QX80 Limited might have some carryover details and cabin tech that is feeling dated. This 2015 refresh deserves attention from full-size SUV shoppers for sexing up the QX80 outside to match the brilliant power and luxury inside.
Explore colors and build your own QX80 via the link below.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.