Infiniti QX80 Premium Select 4wd
The current generation Infiniti QX80 has been around for a decade now, yet it remains a strong seller for the brand. For 2021 improvements are minor, as is expected for year to year updates. The main focus for 2021 is more standard driver-assistance features.
The exterior of the QX80 was last updated in 2018 and no major changes have taken place for the 2021 model year. It’s a sleek design that makes the massive SUV appear muscular and sporty.
The Premium Select trim has dark chrome appearance features which work very well with the Hermosa Blue paint. The 22-inch Forged Dark aluminum wheels are wrapped in big 32.5-inch (275/50R22) tires, which appear smaller than they are due to the large size of the QX80.
From nearly all angles the QX80 looks large and powerful. This is due to the creases throughout the body and bulges in the hood. The only feature that we find odd is the fat lower lip of a rear bumper. It sticks out further than it needs too, which makes loading gear into the cargo area more difficult than it should be, and gives it an odd appearance.
Inside the 2021 QX80
For the 2020 QX80, Infiniti updated the interior with bigger and clearer screens, clearer cameras, and a rearview mirror camera. It’s a nice place to be and it does feel premium with high end leather and soft touch surfaces.
The Dual HD Display System was setup very well with the top screen running Nav and cameras while the lower screen displays vehicle settings, climate, and audio controls. As of 2020 the media system includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Our tester was equipped with the 13-speaker Bose audio system, which was clear and powerful, but not as high end as the systems in other luxury SUVs.
There is plenty of room inside for all passengers, however it would be nice if the middle row had a slide feature to provide more room for the 3rd row passengers. We can’t help but feel like the interior could have been organized in a more efficient manner to provide for more space, while maintaining or even improving the level of comfort.
One think Nissan and Infiniti do well is keep their key size manageable. Other manufacturers believe that massive key fobs are luxurious, which makes them harder to fit in pockets and more of a nuisance to store.
Driving the 2021 QX80 is a pleasure, especially on wide open highways and freeways. With such a large vehicle the seating is elevated, giving the driver a great view of traffic ahead. The suspension and tires separate the cabin from the road. Power from the 5.6-Liter V8 is excellent and makes getting up to speed or making passing maneuvers a breeze.
Around town it’s a little bit of a large vehicle which can make parking difficult in tighter parking lots. At 13/19/15 City/Highway/Combined, fuel mileage bests only the Toyota Sequoia in this class.
Our test model was lacking the Nissan/Infiniti HBMC (Hydraulic Body Motion Control) system. This system uses hydraulics to reduce body lean when cornering, nosedive when braking, and increase articulation when off-roading. All of which is noticeable when cornering or braking hard.
Taking the Infiniti QX-80 Off-Pavement
In the United States the QX80 isn’t equipped with any off-road drive modes. There are essentially 3 modes: Normal, Snow, and Tow. The drive system options are Auto, 4-High and 4-Low. With the standard 7-speed automatic transmission, final drive ratio of 2.94 and low range ratio of 2.7 the crawl ratio is 38.8:1, which isn’t great.
At high speed off-road the QX80 conducts itself well. It absorbs small to medium bumps smoothly. However, the limited travel from the independent suspension means that large bumps are met with the suspension hitting the bump stops. For maintained dirt roads the QX80 is a very smooth and controlled vehicle. Moving into washed our or rutted routes it is bested by the Sequoia TRD Pro.
On our small articulation test hill, the 2021 QX80 clearly shows the limited suspension travel. However, this doesn’t hinder its ability to make this climb, which it does with little effort. Testing in Snow mode reduced throttle sensitivity for more driver control, and tow mode increased sensitivity making it a little less precise.
On the steep hill climb the QX80 has good performance until two wheels lose traction. At this point the brake-based traction system forces the engine to work extra hard. This because the gearing isn’t low enough to climb a steep grade while braking the spinning wheels.. While it was able to climb the hard line it required much more work than any other vehicle we’ve tested with a low range transfercase.
The QX80 doesn’t have the off-road capability of many of it’s competitors. Infiniti could fix this on the QX80 by using lower gearing in the final drive ratio to increase the crawl ratio. They could also add Torsen style differentials in the rear and maybe the front, or better yet, add a selectable rear e-locker.
Pricing the 2021 QX80
With a base price of $76,450 the 2021 QX80 Premium Select 4wd comes well equipped. Our test model was equipped with four additional options; illuminated kick plates, exterior welcome lighting, cargo package, and roof rail cross bars totaling $1,645. Add the $1,395 destination charge and the total MSRP of our tester was $79,490.
Overall, the 2021 QX80 is an excellent vehicle for a good value. The interior feels top notch and the powertrain is powerful and well-tuned. We have a love hate relationship with the QX80. All the potential of a truly amazing vehicle is there, but the implementation is lacking. Our one complaint is that Infiniti needs to make the QX80 more off-road capable or more street oriented. They’ve tried to balance both worlds and could have done better in one of the two areas without losing much in the other.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.