Quick Spin: 2019 Infiniti QX80

Each winter I go with my family to southern Florida. One week of thawing out there allows us to get through New England winters without mental side effects. One of the biggest challenges of each trip is finding the right rental vehicle. It’s needs to be spacious and comfortable, but also appeal to my own undefined, sporadic criteria. This vehicle choice is further defined by availability, rental cost, and the pressure of having my inpatient wife and kids waiting for me at the airport terminal.

Two years ago I spotted an Infiniti QX80 among the row of thirty available “Tahoe or similar” vehicles. There was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be my rental. Ever since reviewing a QX56 in 2012, the big Infiniti always topped my list of great road trip vehicles. This one had the super bonus of having factory headrest mounted DVD screens. Winnah!… although even with my rental company membership discount it wasn’t cheap, but I deemed it worth the extra bucks.

The truth is that this pictured 2019 QX80 isn’t that much different from the 2012 model. It received a minor facelift, keeping it somewhat modern but nothing besides from that has really changed. The whole drivetrain is the same and aside from some fabric and material changes, so is the interior. The big upset is that the infotainment has not been updated, either. It just feels old.

The lifespan of full-size utility vehicles is much longer than that of typical cars. Tahoes and Sequoias feel equally dated, with the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator being exceptions due to their recent redo. While others tend to complain about that, I don’t see much of an issue here. They’re still great vehicles – huge, comfortable, and able to tow a substantial trailer. These cannot be beat on a road trip – the driver has plenty of space, at some point all passengers will fall asleep, and there is room for everything.

Those who appreciate the benefits of that full-size space have the ability to overlook the side effects of full-size SUV ownership. They can be tricky to park, they consume a lot of gas, and they’re not cheap. The big Infiniti is in line with all of those and yet I found myself happily paying the extra bucks for it. Full-size SUVs are like upgrading to a 5000 square-foot house. Sure, at first it seems huge and exuberant but then you get used to it and can’t live anywhere else.

Old school is its game and the QX80 delivers smooth power and smooth, quiet highway cruising. The driver sits high and the big windows yield very good visibility. The 5.6-liter V8 cranks out 400-horsepower. The power delivery feels old school-ish but in a good way, as in it is always there. There is no lag – it’s quick off the line and it’s quick to pass on the highway. The seven-speed automatic is free of drama as it always seems to be in the right gear.

There are cameras all around to aid parking and the power-fold side mirrors hide when the space is really tight. There is also a monitor in the rearview mirror that is shows what the mirror would if it wasn’t obscured by whatever is in the trunk – great idea. At 76-inches high, the QX80 just clears most city garages. Its width and length push the envelope of standard parking spots but it isn’t difficult to maneuver it.

For such a big vehicle, the space inside could be improved upon. The third row, while big, lacks legroom. The second row comes with a large bench or, as in this vehicle, two large chairs and a large center console. While the seats are very comfortable, the huge console isn’t really useful. When the third row is folded it creates a rather high load floor – the Tahoe is like that, too. The Land Cruiser, with seats that lift and secure to the side, has an advantage here.

I have a soft-spot for the QX80. I’m willing to overlook its design and cost because I think it’s one of the best highway cruisers on the market, more so than a Tahoe or even the new Expedition. Ironically, its biggest competition seems to come from within. The Nissan Armada, save for some trim, is pretty much the same vehicle but costs significantly less. I don’t understand Nissan’s marketing there but both vehicles, despite their age, are worthy competitors in the full-size SUV segment, be it to buy or rent on vacation.

[Disclaimer: Infiniti provided this QX80 to me at home for the purpose of this review.]

15 Comments

  1. “It received a minor facelift, keeping it somewhat modern but nothing besides from that has really changed.”

    Kamil, the platform is not the Alpha platform the 2012 used. Instead, this is the platform used in the very popular(overseas) Nissan Patrol. That’s part of the reason the rear seat lacks leg space. It was a HUGE change.

    How did the fuel economy compare to the older model? Materials appear to be holding up well in use? The previous model had the highest cost of ownership of ANY car on the road back in the day.

    1. Not exactly. The QX has shared its platform with the Y62 Patrol since MY 2011, but the Armada didn’t adopt it until 2017. Technically, all three (and the Armada back to 2004) are on the flexible F-Alpha platform, though the first-gen Armada version was larger. The older, much shorter Y61 Patrol is a different animal altogether and is still being produced.

      1. Zentropy, Thanks for clarifying. Yeah, it’s a much shorter platform and the F-Alpha was quite primative compared to the Y62 style chassis. Good catch.

        Sorry, Kamil. You’re right. I was off by a year or two.

      1. Here, these are the changes/updates to the infotainemnt system as per Infiniti’s own press release. To say that they are minor would be an understatement.

        “INFINITI’s InTouch infotainment system has been updated, allowing drivers to personalize driving characteristics and the cabin environment. Adjusted via the 8.0-inch touchscreen, the intuitive system is controlled with multi-touch smartphone controls and voice control, as well as physical buttons beneath the screen and on the steering wheel.

        The revised layout of dashboard buttons, and customizability of apps and icons on the touchscreen, make the new QX80’s InTouch system easier to use than ever before. Updates to the navigation system include extended map coverage of countries across Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia Pacific. The system now also features voice recognition and voice navigation in Arabic.”

        Source:
        https://infinitinews.com/en-US/infiniti/usa/presskits/us-2018-infiniti-qx80-press-kit

  2. I don’t mind the dated platforms– it’s the Infiniti styling that kills it for me. I usually describe it as “sorrowful” or “melted”, but never “pretty”. Styling being subjective, I’ll sometimes buy an ugly vehicle because I feel it’s superior in other ways, but nothing about the QX is good enough to make up for its unattractive design, IMO. I think the Armada is the better vehicle, and a better value.

      1. I’ve had nearly a decade to get used to Infiniti’s taffy-like styling, and I’m not warming up to it. Curves can be gorgeous when they’re not sagging.

        Incidentally, the bug-eye WRX and quad-roundie Integra both appealed to me on day one. If it weren’t for the abundance of rust at my price point, I’d have a bug-eye wagon in my driveway.

      1. It’s not that I insist on geometric design, even though I do find it appealing. Organic styling looks great when it’s executed well (Mazdas look great lately), but Infiniti just isn’t hitting the mark for me.

  3. “These cannot be beat on a road trip”

    I’d argue there. A minivan offers more space, better MPG and is easier to drive. Six adults can road trim in a minivan comfortably, not so in this I’d image. Yes, you’d loose a bunch of luxury features (although top trim minivans are not spartan) and you’d have to be OK with being seen in a minivan, but it’s a better road trip vehicle in my view.

    I never liked these aesthetically. Awkward and clumsy are words I’d use to describe the styling. Some car colors seem to hide dirt, this one seems to hide clean. It looks dirty no matter when you washed it.

    Other than the coddling of the luxury features and materials, which are available in a lot of other less obnoxious vehicles, I don’t understand the appeal of these.

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