2018 INFINITI QX80 – First Drive Review w/ Performance Handling Video

QX80 is truly a gentle giant.  This full-size SUV has massive amounts of space and towing strength – key reasons this big brute is still so popular years since its 2011 launch.

This 2018 refresh is the second round of facelift updates for the QX80.  New bodywork in the entire nose and tail strikes a fresh pose for 2018 – and certainly looks sharp.

We got an early chance to drive the new QX80 around Charleston SC this week.  This is a deeply impressive truck with superb ride quality and luxury galore.  Lux materials and of course the luxury of surplus capability and commodious cabin volume.


What’s New Outside?

QX80’s design from the windshield forward is all new.  Blockier fenders meet a much more vertical grille in a new shape.  Infiniti’s flowing wave motif fills this jumbo grille nicely, and brings along a new lower bumper and fascia in body color.

The lighting is a major upgrade point.  Surprising, as the previous QX80 with its bi-xenon swiveling lamps had some of the best headlights we’d ever tested a few years ago.  LEDs take over all lighting functions in front:  LED daytime running lights form a slim, wide ribbon of white light around the edges of the lamps.  This DRL flips amber for its turn signal and is gorgeous!

LED low-beams via the single projector ball maintain adaptive cornering functions, and are joined by separate reflector LED highbeams in the inner lamp area.

Finally, horizontal slashes of LED foglights now live in the lower bumper edges.  It seems like a subtle tweak in photos, perhaps, but does look strikingly new in person.

The profile, on the other hand, is deeply familiar.  This glasshouse stays the same as do the doors, roof and rear fenders.  Worryingly, the cheaper Nissan Armada also shares all this middle section design.

Lifestyle Guru / Launch Drive Partner Mustafa Kacar

Out back, there are more deep design updates.  New tailgate and rear bumper are smoother than before, with full body-color details that are suitably premium for a Range Rover alternative.  Body-color fender flares and new wheel designs (standard 20s, optional 22s) help the QX80 look more posh than Armada on the road.

New LED taillights now match the latest Infiniti design themes and look chic in person.   The turn signals move down to the rear bumper edges and are not LED for 2018, curiously.

Design wise, we love Infiniti’s new looks.  QX80 for 2018 loses the Limited flagship trim and its dark body accents and wheels, sadly.  This leaves lots of standard chrome brightwork and bright silver wheels that are quite conservative, but should appeal to buyers.  We’d love a black-ed out version of QX80 – but that wish applies to almost all the cars we test!

What’s New Inside?

The previous Limited’s luxury upgrades live on inside all 2018 QX80s!  This means that wavy quilted leather stitching, new Saddle brown leather choice and more modern wood accents than before.  (Glossy and not open-pore woods, regretfully!)

There are very few other cabin changes, in all honesty. The dash, steering wheel and center stack are all carry-over, albeit with new leather contrast stitching.  A new gear-lever, cupholder console and extra USBs round out the big changes up front.  The infotainment unit is upgraded with the latest hardware and a higher-res screen.  It is still a weak spot of the vehicle.

Same goes for the gauge cluster and its woefully retro mid-cluster.  Dot-matrix and grey is simple to use but extremely cheap looking and has barely any info to display.

In back, new headrest-mounted screens add an inch in size to 8 inches as well as getting new inputs for HDMI and USB media.  With the Deluxe Technology Package, the total USB count inside goes up to five.  Numerous 12V plug sockets make sure all eight people can be charging simultaneously.

They can also surf the interwebs!  Wi-fi is optional for the first time, as is Amazon Alexa voice control for the remote start and lock/unlock functions.

Lastly, the cabin of QX80 gets a new video-based rear view mirror.  At the flip of a switch, the mirror goes from normal auto0dimming mirror into a 3X wider view from the upper tailgate.  Brilliant for letting you have flawless rearward vision even with a full cabin of people or cargo.


Where Does QX80 Outshine Rivals?

2018’s full-size SUV market is hotter than ever, however, with the luxury full-size segment in particular gaining all-new Lincoln Navigator and BMW X7 in the coming months.  Audi’s Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS also make a strong showing as three-row behemoths.

QX80 is larger than any Euro SUV, however, and more truck-like in its powertrain and construction.  This means QX80 is a rarity in truly challenging Escalade and Denali in towing and off-roading.  8500 pounds of capacity out back via the shrouded standard tow hitch.   This is double what most of the largest Euro SUVs can pull up a mountain.

    • No updates to the 400HP 5.6L V8 and 7-speed automatic. And truly, none needed.  This drivetrain is smooth, throaty on throttle and always full of torque at any time.
    • It makes for a sprightly package. QX80 can roar to 60-mph in an estimated 6.7s – impressive for this scale machine.
    • QX80’s ride quality is what really sets it above Escalade and Denali in our book. 2018 brings a retuned suspension that is even softer than before.  Independent rear suspension and granite-like body structure stiffness mean bumps are just hushed thumps somewhere in the distance.
    • QX80 is smoother and quieter than ever for 2018 thanks to extra NVH insulation and softer tire sidewalls for the 22s than ever before.
    • With a soft ride comes abysmal roadholding and lateral grip. Ask Land Cruiser!
    • Infiniti solves for this with hydraulic active anti-roll bars. It works.  Almost no body roll, lean in corners or pitch/squat when driving hard.  See the video for evidence!
    • This HMCS (hydraulic motion control suspension) is unavailable on Armada – which handles nowhere near as well as a result.

What Are QX80 Weaknesses?

QX80 weaknesses come from its age on the market.  All the latest safety tech is on board, but core tech systems are really feeling their age.  The button fest in the dash console??  Very retro.

Another weakness is clearly the presence of the Nissan Armada for about $10k less than the QX80.

On the plus side, that previous Limited package was a $10k option – and almost all of that is standard on all QX80s for 2018.

How Much Is QX80?

QX80 stickers rise $900 for the 2018 model year.  $65k for rear-drive and pricing from $67,000 for the AWD version.


When Is 2018 QX80 Available?

This new QX80 is arriving at dealers in mid-December (aka NOW!) and makes a solid, smart choice for big families.  Families who need Suburban towing but want exceptional interior comfort and long-haul quality as well.