In a far-off fantasy world where money is no object, I would buy the spacious, luxurious, plush 2015 Infiniti QX80 SUV to haul my family and our nonexistent small yacht to the shore on the weekends. In the real world, though, it's a bit too large and pricey for day-to-day use.
For 2015, the eight-seat QX80 has added a Limited trim level and updated the exterior design, specifically the front end. Infiniti has also added some new wheel packages and refined the interior. Compare this year's model with last year's version here.
I drove a base QX80 all-wheel drive equipped with the Driver Assistance Package, Theater Package and Deluxe Technology Package, as well as the Tire and Wheel Package. Compare the all-wheel-drive QX80 with the two-wheel-drive base model here.
If the QX80 isn't your cup of tea for yacht-hauling, take a look at the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class or the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. See them compared side by side here.
Exterior & Styling
Changes to the exterior of the QX80 this year include a new split front-end grill design and LEDs everywhere — or at least in the fog lights, turn signals and high- and low-beam headlights. The QX80's rounded corners are certainly a matter of taste (do you prefer beluga or starlet caviar while watching the regatta?). Sadly, the strange chrome "gills" on either side of the QX80's nose persist. Sigh.
The 22.8-inch step-in height for the backseat (it's 22.4 inches up front) made the QX80 really difficult to climb into and out of. Sure, you can step up on the standard running boards for help, but then you have to simultaneously duck under the doorjamb. This would not be a great vehicle choice for someone with an affinity for pencil skirts. Since we're more of a jeans and flip-flops kind of family, we survived.
How It Drives
The QX80's 400-horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8 engine gets an EPA-estimated 14/20/16 mpg city/highway/combined with two-wheel drive. This gives it a slight advantage over the Land Rover Range Rover Sport's 14/19/16 mpg rating and the Mercedes GL550's 13/18/15 mpg. Mercedes' GL450, however, has a more fuel-efficient 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine, bumping up fuel economy to 17/21/19 mpg city/highway/combined. The GL350 Bluetec's clean-diesel engine, rated 19/26/22 mpg, is the only diesel available in the group, though Land Rover says diesels are on the way. All the gas engines mentioned here require premium gasoline.
The QX is quite comfortable to ride in. Driving it, I noticed the sheer size when trying to take a tight turn or squeezing into a narrow parking spot, in which case the standard Around View Monitor cameras were a massive help. Pulling out of my garage and driveway required a three-point turn, which doesn't happen often with cars I test. The Infiniti has a 41.6-foot turning diameter, compared with 40.7 feet in the Mercedes and 39.7 feet in the Land Rover.
You'll definitely feel the QX80's height in the form of tip and lean in corners. Here, Infiniti should take a cue from Dodge; that automaker managed to make the large Durango hunker down and tighten up in corners.
This SUV thoroughly pampers all occupants. Buttery-soft leather seating throughout invites you to snuggle down into your seat regardless of how long you might be sitting there. As a matter of fact, I'm writing this review while crammed into a pitiful excuse of an airplane seat, longing to be back in the QX80 … or my own bed, whichever comes first.
The driver and front passenger get standard heated seats and can add ventilated seats. A heated leather and mocha burl wood steering wheel is also standard.
In the second row, you can opt for two captain's chairs or, for the QX80's maximum seating capacity of eight, a bench seat for three. My test car came equipped with the captain's chairs, which are a favorite in my family. There was a center console between the two seats providing a large storage bin and two cupholders. While the console is great for the extra storage space, it takes up the "center aisle" walk-through space to the third row.
I would have appreciated the ability to slide the captain's chairs back and forth for added space where it was needed. I did, however, quickly forgive the absent function when I needed to load teenagers into the third row and discovered I could do so instantly by electronically flipping and tumbling the captain's chairs from the comfort of the driver's seat. I didn't have to get out, get cold and wet, or fight with multiple latches and levers (or bark directions to passengers unfamiliar with the vehicle). Just make sure nobody is in the way before releasing the seats, as it's kind of a violent tumble. Lifting the seats back up into position was much easier than I expected; I felt almost as if the seat assisted me in the process rather than making me heft dead weight.
The light and airy "wheat" interior color scheme in my test car was soothing, though it made me want to implement our home's no-shoe policy in the car. Somehow, removing shoes every time someone enters the vehicle just doesn't seem logical, so that beautiful creamy carpet suffered a bit in the end.
Third-row passengers aren't treated quite as extravagantly, with a relatively normal three-passenger bench seat. The center seat belt extends down from the ceiling, which will cut across the neckline of the child who inevitably sits back there. Air vents along the sides of the ceiling ensure climate comfort in the way-back.
Ergonomics & Electronics
I strongly prefer simplicity when it comes to ergonomics and electronics in cars. Some touch-screens are great; you see what you need, you touch it, you get an instant response. Boom! However, in the QX80, the mix of a touch-screen alongside the Infiniti Controller is a bit confusing. When do you touch and when do you turn or press the knob? It's nowhere near the bottom of the list of systems I've toyed with, but it could stand to be simplified.
Cargo & Storage
The 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the QX's third row was more than enough to haul four packaged sink faucets for a DIY project, with plenty of room to spare for my three girls' backpacks.
The third row splits 60/40 and each side can fold flat independent of the other (and lift back up into place) via a standard button in the cargo area. As explained above, the second-row seats tumble forward rather than folding flat into the floor. With them tumbled, the QX80's maximum cargo space is 95.1 cubic feet. This is pretty consistent with the GL-Class' 16.0 cubic feet behind the third row and 93.8-cubic-foot maximum cargo volume. The Range Rover Sport has just 9 cubic feet behind the third row and a maximum cargo volume of 62.2 cubic feet.
Families hauling boats, horse trailers, campers and more will certainly appreciate the QX80's impressive 8,500-pound towing capacity. In comparison, the Range Rover Sport can tow 7,716 pounds and the GL-Class can tow 7,500 pounds.
Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-tests some full-size SUVs, neither it nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have tested the QX80.
Many of the active safety features available on the QX80 come via a $2,100 Driver Assistance Package. It includes blind spot warning, backup collision intervention and intelligent brake assist with forward emergency braking and predictive forward collision warning. An expensive $5,550 Deluxe Technology Package includes, among other things, blind spot intervention and lane departure prevention.
Families installing child-safety seats will appreciate the easy access to the second-row Latch anchors and the stable seat belt buckle bases that make buckling in easier for kiddos with limited dexterity. However, third-row passengers may have more trouble buckling up as the seat belt buckle receptors are on floppy bases. Click here for a full Car Seat Check of the 2014 QX80, which also applies to the 2015.
See all the QX80's standard safety features here.
Value in Its Class
The QX80 is kind of in a class of its own. When trying to decide which cars to add to my comparison set for this review, the only one that seemed natural was the Mercedes-Benz GL. Anything else out there with a similar lux quotient is either much smaller or much larger.
The QX80 manages to be incredibly upscale, yet still functional and utilitarian. You can haul the kids to soccer or the sock hop, haul a trailer for your next house flip or pull up to a valet for a swanky, kid-free weekend getaway … so long as it doesn't seem like too much vehicle for more typical, daily use.
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