Review of: 2015 INFINITI QX80 4WD 4dr 8-Passenger
2015 Infiniti QX80: Huge and homely, but wait till you drive it
By Jil McIntosh
Dec. 23, 2014
If the Infiniti QX80 were a movie, it would be Supersize Me. Or maybe Titanic (minus the iceberg and Leonardo DiCaprio, of course). Which is to say that you’d better measure your garage before you think about going to the dealer and bringing one home.
The QX80 (formerly known as the FX56, before Infiniti changed all its names to Q or QX) is one of a handful of large, body-on-frame SUVs left in the market. Like its close cousin, the Nissan Armada, it’s based on the Titan full-size pickup truck’s frame and driveline. Changes for the 2015 model year are few, limited mostly to trim tweaks, standard high-beam assist, and available predictive forward collision warning, which “looks” under the vehicle ahead to see if the one in front of that is braking, for even more assistance in preventing rear-end crashes.
The QX80 comes in a single trim line, with either seven- or eight-passenger seating, and both are priced at $73,650. My tester had the available Technology Package, which added such features as 22-inch forged wheels, hydraulic body mounts, adaptive auto-levelling headlamps, and numerous electronic safety systems. Its $8,150 price, along with three-coat pearl paint for $385, brought my vehicle to $82,185 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + True 4WD system
- + Interior materials
- + Turning circle
- - Cargo liftover height
- - Rear seat space
- - gas consumption
At this point, I’ll admit my bias: I’ve never really warmed to the QX80, although I intend to be fair. Even so, for as lovely as its interior is, it’s a homely beast on the outside. The bulbous nose is too heavy, with a beluga whale’s profile, and the portholes on the front fenders look like a flea-market purchase slapped on with two-sided tape.
It doesn’t get much better at the rear, where the liftgate’s curvy lines look out of place against the truck’s square sides. That jutting bumper no doubt provides low-speed crash protection for the gate, but if you’re trying to put cargo into the rear, it’s a very high and long reach. I had great difficulty putting my groceries into it without getting winter grime all over the front of my legs.
Now we’re talking. While I’m lukewarm about much of the QX80, I love its interior, which is handsomely designed, beautifully finished, and with luxuriously glossy wood trim. It all looks like it’s up to the hefty price point, especially when you get into those sumptuous front seats.
The second-row seats are equally comfortable, but while it’s relatively easy to access that third row, it’s perched on top of the rear axle. The resulting high floor means you’re sitting with your chin on your knees, and coupled with the hard cushions, you’ll reserve these spots for young passengers or those riding just a few kilometres.
Controls are large and easy to use, as is the touch-screen infotainment system. But I do have a few complaints, starting with front door inside handles that are too far forward, without enough leverage to easily pull these huge doors closed. The heated/cooled seat controls are small, low-set dials with tiny lights to indicate where they’re set, and it’s almost impossible to determine the setting in daylight. At night, the auto-dimming exterior mirrors go so dark that it can be tough to see what’s behind you.
Finally, while my tester apparently had every available feature, I still had four blank buttons on the left side of the dash where, if they could be ordered, extra option controls might have been. I know this is common in many vehicles, but I’ve been spoiled by GM, which now uses specific bezels and just the right number of buttons in its pickups, depending on what’s ordered. If a $20,000 truck can do that, why does my $82,000 ride look like I didn’t want to spend the last little bit to get everything?
They don’t call it a technology package for nothing. In addition to the bigger wheels, you also get numerous safety features, many of them active. Start to move over if there’s a vehicle in your blind spot, or wander over the lane markings, and the QX80 will subtly tug you back (it’s not so strong that you can’t steer through it if necessary, but it certainly gets your attention).
The adaptive cruise control setting works at all speeds, and while I nervously kept my foot hovering over the brake (too many years of driving the car myself, it seems), the QX80 came to a full stop when the car ahead of me did, and then resumed driving when that car moved, always keeping a pre-set distance. Autonomous self-driving cars are still in the future, but these are the building blocks that will make them possible.
There’s also backup collision intervention, so if you’re not using your mirrors or the rearview camera (which can give you a backwards view or overhead “bird’s-eye” perspective) and you’re about to smack into something, it’ll hit the brakes. It will come to a complete stop, as it did when I was parking in my driveway and, for some reason, it thought the car I was backing alongside was a danger and brought me to a halt.
The QX80 uses a 5.6-litre V8 that makes 400 horsepower and 413 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is standard and it’s a true system with 4-high and 4-low. The default setting is an automatic four-wheel mode that can be driven on dry roads. Towing capacity is rated at a maximum 8,500 lbs.
Bring cash to the pump. Against published figures of 16.9 L/100 km in the city and 11.9 on the highway, I averaged 16.8 in combined, cold-weather driving. Premium fuel is recommended but it will take regular 87-octane.
The ride is huge-car smooth, and there’s not as much body roll as I’d expected, no doubt due to the hydraulic motion-control mounts included in the Technology Package.
What really surprised me—mouth-open shock, really—was the turning radius and this enormous vehicle’s resulting manoeuvrability. Right after I picked up the QX80, I went to visit a friend in hospital and had forgotten just how cramped the parking garage was. As I drove in (instinctively ducking in my seat as I drove under every low-hanging beam, even though I’d slipped in under the minimum-height barrier with a few inches to spare), I figured I was doomed. After watching a driver giving up after trying to back her Impala into the last available space, I figured I’d give it a try. The QX80 turned so tightly that one attempt got me in and straight. For all its intimidating size when you’re looking down the hood, it’s actually very easy to drive.
While the QX80 isn’t cheap, a peek at the competition shows that, if you’re in the market for a large, three-row SUV, it’s a relative bargain at a starting price of $73,650. The closest you’ll get to that is the Lincoln Navigator, which starts at $75,110. It’ll take $78,500 to get into a Mercedes-Benz GL; $81,345 to get into the all-new Cadillac Escalade; $95,750 for a Lexus LX570 (which is rated at a ferocious 19.0 L/100 km in the city); and it’ll be $100,590 for a Range Rover. All of those are arguably much better-looking, though.
Spending a week with the QX80 did point out some of the things it does quite well. The interior’s gorgeous, it’s relatively well-priced for its segment, and the most surprising, it handles like something half its size. I still haven’t completely warmed to it and maybe never will, but that’s just me. If you’re shopping the segment, give it a spin.