To paraphrase the late singer/songwriter Guy Clark: sometimes a job is so big it needs a bigger hammer.
Which seems like a perfect way to think about Infiniti’s QX80; it’s the hammer that gets big jobs done.
The eight-passenger SUV weighs in at a full-size 6000 pounds. Its 5.6-liter V-8 makes 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a sturdy and smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission.
Despite its three-ton bulk, the QX80 ($64,750) accelerates from 0-60 in 6.3 second. And it can tow up to 8500 pounds.
The QX80 exists in rarified air. A true, truck-based sport utility vehicle, it’s built for strength and durability. But it’s also a leather-trimmed luxury rig meant to convey passengers comfortably over long distances.
Such balancing acts always involve tradeoffs. With its high center of gravity, the QX80 struggles to tame body lean in the corners. It’s ponderous in traffic and a handful in crowded parking lots.
Climbing aboard is indeed a climb. And the QX is not easy at the pump.
But such is the way of big tools.
Facelift counters signs of aging
The second-generation QX debuted in 2010 and shows its age in a busy dashboard layout and in touchscreen graphics that trail the competition by a generation.
Still, a 2018 model-year facelift lightens and brightens the QX80, with sharper character lines and crisper edges. A pair of slim new LED headlights sit high in the fenders, lessening the truck-like drop-fender look of the previous model. They flank a grille that sits taller, wider and more upright.
Thin LED foglights and a trimmer lower fascia elevate the QX80’s visual center of gravity and accentuate its tall greenhouse.
New LED taillights and a redesigned tailgate and bumpers freshen the look out back.
To improve ride quality, Infiniti sets the 2018 QX on tires with softer sidewalls and retunes its suspension.
Inside, an updated center console includes a new cellphone storage pocket. New cargo-area insulation reduces road noise.
A single, well-appointed trim
The QX80 is available in rear- and four-wheel-drive configurations and in a single, well-appointed trim, with several available options packages.
Every QX80 gets high-quality stitched-leather upholstery; a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel; automatic tri-zone heating; and keyless entry and ignition. The heated front seats are broadly power-adjustable and include two-way adjustable lumbar support. Lighting functions include automatic high-beam control.
A pair of captains chairs comprise second-row seating. They can be replaced with an optional no-charge three-person bench.
The third-row bench will house a pair of adults in reasonable comfort, though clambering back there is a challenge.
Standard tech includes navigation, a 360-degree parking camera, Bluetooth, an 8-inch touchscreen and a 13-speaker Bose sound system.
A full suite of driver-assist features are available under the $2,900 Driver Assist package.
Twenty-inch wheels are standard; 22s are optional.
Happiest in wide open spaces
On a road trip to Portland, we opted to drive I-84, along the Columbia River’s southern banks, rather than our usual route, the twisting two-lane state route on its northern side.
It was a good choice. The QX was in its element out in the wide open spaces and gentle terrain of northern Oregon. Our tester included Infiniti’s Hydraulic Body Motion Control system, which sapped the drama from high-speed sweepers.
The self-leveling suspension is available only as part of a $5,7000 Deluxe Technology Package, which also adds quilted semi-aniline leather, heated and cooled front seats, a 15-speaker Bose stereo and adaptive front lighting.
Steering feel is on the light side, a benefit in parking lots and tight spaces, but a heavier feel would be nice at freeway speeds. The steering system is more communicative than most competitive systems and its solid on-center valley kept the QX tracking true in its lane, without requiring constant course corrections.
When it comes down to it, the QX80 is a much bigger hammer than most of us will ever need. But, for the well-heeled horse crowd and the big RV set, it may well be the tool that gets the job done.
Contact Don at email@example.com.
2018 Infiniti QX80 AWD
Vehicle base price: $64,750
Trim level base price: $67,850
As tested: $84,660 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Deluxe Technology Package, Rear-seat Theater Package, 22-inch Wheel and Tire Package, Driver Assistance Package, cargo mat and net, first-aid kit, roof rail cross bars, illuminated kick plates, WiFi, Welcome Lighting
Tow rating: 8500 pounds
EPA rating: 15 combined/13 city/19 highway