2018 Infiniti QX80

Infiniti launched the QX80’s predecessor, the QX56, when environmentalists were torching Hummers and energy experts claimed peak oil would dry out the world’s reserves within decades. During the 2004 model year, its first, gas prices crested at more than $2 per gallon, prompting more predictions that big SUVs would soon be extinct. Exactly none of that happened. Since Infiniti renamed the second-generation QX56 as the QX80 for 2014 (and then refreshed it for 2015), sales of luxury SUVs and crossovers have been on fire. For 2018, Infiniti has updated the QX80 a second time. After driving it in Charleston, South Carolina, we’d suggest—no surprise, given its age—that it may still need a few more tweaks.

Same Bulk, Less Hulk

While the QX80 keeps its imposing presence, senior product manager Anand Patel admits that too many customers “could not get over the styling.” He’s talking about its brutish face that was part tractor-trailer, part 1930s-era Chrysler Airflow. By raising the headlights 3.9 inches, slimming their openings, toning down the thick chrome grille, and revising the entire lower fascia, Infiniti designers looked to mimic the gorgeous Q60 coupe and “get it to work on this large SUV.” We think they did a good job. Head on, the QX80 has become a handsome fellow. At the rear, a widened chrome strip connects new LED taillights, although the bumper-mounted incandescent turn signals are the one odd disconnect. The hulking 22-inch wheels (20s are standard), high step-in height, and lofty greenhouse carry over. Three new or revised colors are available, all at extra charge. Moonstone White is bright and pearlescent, Mineral Black adds some copper sparkle in the dark, and our favorite, Champagne Quartz, was said to be inspired by ancient French caves.

Inside, Infiniti now offers Saddle Brown semi-aniline leather when buyers select the $5700 Deluxe Technology package (that requires $8150 in additional options), and the $2450 Theater package’s rear-seat entertainment screens have been widened by an inch, to 8.0 inches. A digital rearview mirror, much like those in the Cadillac CT6 and the Chevrolet Bolt EV, shows a feed from a camera cleverly hidden in the rear glass.

The camera’s view can be adjusted vertically, and (unlike in those competitors) it remains clear in inclement weather because it looks through an area on the backlight that’s kept clean by the rear wiper. Because QX80 drivers bring giant mugs into their vehicles, the front two cupholders feature handle cutouts, and the USB ports are relocated to the dashboard instead of buried in the central cubby, which is also slightly deeper. The optional Bose stereo adds two more speakers, for a total of 15, and there’s a new shifter knob.

Gotta Get Back in Time

What hasn’t changed significantly are the underpinnings of this body-on-frame, truck-based SUV, which follows the same formula as the big Detroit contenders such as the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban, the GMC Yukon, and the Cadillac Escalade. Weaving the QX80 through tight urban streets is akin to being a right tackle pushing his way to the bathroom in a crowded restaurant. You’re fully aware of the QX80’s potential to bruise, smash, and crush smaller objects into submission, except that the light steering masks the vehicle’s three-ton mass. The steering doesn’t communicate anything, the vehicle instead preferring dead-straight lines and the gentlest of curves.

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