I’ll admit it, I felt fairly dwarfed by the 2020 Infiniti QX80. It has a gargantuan profile and cavernous interior. Plus, with wide-open spaces and a plethora of cubby holes surrounding every seating position, I could almost hear an echo when I talked.
While I know I’m petite, this full-size SUV made me feel downright Lilliputian.
Thank goodness for running boards that are standard on the Limited 4WD model – otherwise, it would have been like climbing Mount Everest every time I accessed the driver’s seat.
Actually, for the sheer size of the QX80, it’s fairly well suited to a smaller driver with a highly adjustable driver’s seat and good sight line out the windows.
However, having this vehicle in the city of Chicago posed a unique set of challenges that were mostly mitigated by technology.
The biggest – and most important – aid for the Infiniti QX80 is the around-view monitor, which can operate in reverse and forward gears at low speeds. Whether I was pulling into the grocery parking lot or backing into my garage, this was the singular feature that kept me from scratching my bumper or scraping my wheels against curbs.
The QX80 also has a whole host of safety technology that will help keep drivers out of trouble. You’ll get all the latest driver-assist features people are starting to expect in new vehicles – things like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist and automatic emergency braking. A couple of nice additional features include automatic reverse braking (called backup collision mitigation in Infiniti speak) and blind spot intervention.
What I appreciate about these features is they aren’t overwhelming. In fact, they’re barely noticeable as long as you’re doing your job as a driver. There are some vehicles that have strong assist features that leave you fighting for control of the wheel or allow you to take your hands off the wheel for extended periods of time – this isn’t that system. The warning notifications are more obvious with their audibles than the actual mitigation features. You can feel a slight nudge if you’re moving out of your lane, but you can’t take your hands off the wheel, or the vehicle will immediately stray.
For those who dislike stern assist “nannies,” this is a great system. For those who want more of an assist, well, it’s not.
Ride & Handling
I’d love to say that the Infiniti QX80 drives smaller than it is, but it doesn’t. It drives like a boat.
That is both a positive and negative statement.
It’s great if you live in a location that is littered with potholes and speed bumps. The QX80 floats over these obstacles with nary a flinch. In fact, I found myself heading toward potholes just to see how it would feel, and it was damn near imperceptible, like I was hitting a minor bump rather than a moon crater. That’s a huge win.
On the negative side, if you have a tight space to maneuver, the QX80 kind of sucks. The turning radius is huge and the long nose will have you doing 5- and 6-point turns to get into small parking spaces.
This is where that around-view monitor is totally clutch.
When you leave city spaces and hit the open road, however, that’s where the QX80 really shines. It’s a plush and posh cruiser with a 5.6-liter, V-8 engine that won’t quit. It’s smooth and quiet with fast and seamless power. It delivers 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty of power for this nearly 6,000-pound behemoth.
Whether merging or passing, the QX80 has no problem getting up to speed and doing what you want it to do at the exact moment you want it. That’s the advantage of a naturally aspirated V-8 over a turbocharged V-6.
Design pluses + one huge minus
Everything about the Infinti QX80 is large – especially with the Limited 4WD model. From the over-large forward-tilting grille to the 22-inch wheels, it makes a big statement. The front view with the squinty LED daytime running lights, it looks aggressive and angry.
The side and rear views are slightly bulbous and less interesting. But the front? I love it.
The interior is next level. The seats are beautifully crafted bastions of pillowed comfort with elegant reverse stitching and sueded inserts. The soft-touch dash and door accents make the entire cabin feel posh and elegant. The test vehicle had gray wood trim pieces that fit well with the overall look and feel of the vehicle.
The interior also proffered both USB-A and USB-C charge ports, which is a forward-thinking feature as we start to move from one tech norm to another.
The second-row seats are just as cushy as the front seats, but while front seats have heated-and-ventilated options, the middle seats just offer the heated function. But there are HVAC controls, and in fact, the QX80 offers tri-zone climate control – as well as vents in the third row – so you can keep the peace for those long drives.
Third-row access is fairly easy with easy middle-row folding seats and a large opening for ingress. The third-row seats are marginally stiffer and less comfortable – though there is plenty of leg and foot room for small adults and children.
One note about driver-seat comfort: I felt perfectly fine, but when I talked to a couple of cohorts on the big and tall side of the spectrum, they commented the QX80 didn’t work for them at all. From not enough head and legroom and too-small seat bolsters, they said for as large as this vehicle is, it’s not well-suited to someone who’s taller or heavier.
Now for the glaring miss: The dual screen has to go, Infiniti. It’s ugly and confusing, and it diminishes the hard work you’ve but into the rest of the vehicle. I’ll leave it at that.
Trims & Pricing
The Infiniti QX80 only has three trims, and there’s a big leap between the Luxe models and the top-tier Limited – both in terms of packaging and pricing.
Luxe ($66,750): Well-equipped at a base level, includes leather seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, lane keep assist, reverse automatic braking, front-wheel drive.
Luxe 4WD ($69,850): This is basically just the four-wheel-drive version of the base model.
Limited 4WD ($91,450): In addition to a huge price jump, includes premium accents and interior finishes, 22-inch wheels and Infiniti “welcome lighting.”
Looking ahead to 2021, Infiniti is doing some trim shuffling, bridging the pricing gap and ditching the Limited trim, which might just work more in the QX80’s favor.
New for 2020
The Infiniti QX80 doesn’t get any drastic changes for 2020, but it does get a few important additions. Namely, starting this model year, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available.
Other additions include a new Bose 17-speaker premium audio system, standard automatic reverse braking and a revised ProPilot Assist.
What about the Nissan Armada?
Before closing out this review, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in the room: Nissan Armada. This is the Infiniti QX80s less-expensive brother from another mother. It’s very similarly styled, and I’d argue, from the side, it’s nearly identical.
The engine is also basically the same. They both have the 5.7-liter V-8. The QX80 just has 10 more horsepower and 19 more pound-feet of torque.
The big difference is in pricing. While the base price for the QX80 is at about $68k, the top-tier price for the Premium Platinum Reserve Armada is $70k.
So why QX80 over Armada? Frankly, I’m not sure.
The bottom line on the Infiniti QX80
The Infiniti QX80 is one of those vehicles I really want to love. But I don’t. I did, however, solidly like it – and I like it even more after comparing it to the recent test of the 2021 GMC Yukon.
That vehicle is similarly gargantuan. The styling is more handsome than plush, and the dash design (sans dual screen ickiness) is head and shoulders above the QX80. But the driving position in the Yukon stinks for someone on the petite side of the spectrum.
So, when you get into the full-size three-row SUV realm, you need to decide what’s more important: looks or comfort. I have yet to find a recent large SUV that works for both.