G. Chambers Williams

Infiniti’s QX80 full-size luxury SUV brings elegance and technology to the family hauler

The QX80 is Infiniti's premium full-size luxury SUV, which comes with seating for up to eight and a 5.6-liter V-8 engine. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard, and four-wheel drive is available.
The QX80 is Infiniti's premium full-size luxury SUV, which comes with seating for up to eight and a 5.6-liter V-8 engine. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard, and four-wheel drive is available. Wieck

Infiniti’s full-size SUV, the QX80, returns for 2017 with a three-model lineup that starts with the base rear-wheel-drive model at $63,850 (plus $995 freight), providing luxury-minded buyers a well-equipped family hauler that makes no compromises on performance or safety.

A four-wheel-drive version of the base model starts at $66,950, and the top-of-the-line, fully equipped QX80 Limited model, added last year, lists for $89,450. The only factory option available on the Limited is premium exterior paint for $500 extra.

For 2017, the QX80 carries over essentially unchanged except for the addition of Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection to the Driver Assistance Package ($2,900), available on the two base models but included on the Limited; Trailer Sway Control on all models; and Wi-Fi capability offered with the Theater Package ($2,400 on base models; included on Limited.

The cool-looking Mocha Almond exterior color is now available on all models.

Other features of the Driver Assistance Package include Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Blind Spot Intervention, Backup Collision Intervention, Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist and Predictive Forward Collision Warning

The new Trailer Sway Control assists towing up to the QX80’s 8,500-pound standard towing capacity. An integrated tow hitch is included, along with an automatic-leveling rear suspension.

Although 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels are standard on base models, the Limited comes with dark chrome 22-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, along with stainless steel running board caps, outside approach lighting, darkened headlight and taillight inner lenses, dark chrome trim and exclusive exterior colors.

Interior features of the Limited model include semi-aniline Truffle Brown leather upholstery with a unique quilted pattern, and open-pore, matte-finish ash wood trim.

The eight-passenger QX80, previously known as the QX56, also comes with LED headlights with high-beam assist, three-blink LED turn signals, and LED fog lights.

It also has an integrated rear bumper protector and flush front and rear sonar sensors.

Available on the base models, the Deluxe Technology Package ($5,200) brings adaptive headlights, semi-aniline leather seats, Infiniti’s Hydraulic Body Motion Control and Advanced Climate Control system, and Blind Spot Intervention.

A 22-inch Tire and Wheel Package ($2,800) also is offered with the base models.

The QX80 is among a slowly disappearing breed: a true body-on-frame, truck-style sport utility. Many of these have been replaced by crossover utility vehicles, which combine frame and body into one piece, called a unibody.

This is one of the few remaining traditional SUVs still on the market, and it’s embraced by people who want the ruggedness and trailer-towing capabilities that a truck-style vehicle offers, but with the luxury and refinement of a fancy sedan.

All QX80 models are powered by a 5.6-liter V-8 engine rated at 400 horsepower and 413 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

That’s plenty of power, even when the vehicle is fully loaded with people and gear. We gave it a good workout, even driving on some steep mountain roads with five people on board.

The QX80 is a heavy vehicle -- 5,595 pounds for the two-wheel-drive, and 5,855 pounds for the four-wheel drive -- but the ride is smooth and quiet, and the engine never seemed to strain, even on the hills in a trip through the Great Smoky Mountains.

Handling is excellent, as well, considering its weight and size.

The four-wheel drive system is capable of taking this vehicle just about anywhere it would fit, on or off the road. But I don’t recommend the QX80 for serious off-roading because it’s too big for tight spots, and too expensive to risk getting it banged up.

The four-wheel-drive system has low-range gearing for hills, sand and mud. In automatic mode (high range only), the system can send up to half of the power to the front wheels; in normal mode, the rear wheels get the power.

Both rear- and four-wheel-drive models come with Hill Start Assist, which prevents rollback when the vehicle is stopped on a hill and the driver releases the foot brake.

High-tech safety features abound on the QX80. It comes with Infiniti’s advanced Moving Object Detection system, which works in conjunction with the vehicle’s Around View Monitor, giving the driver a bird’s eye view of the vehicle and its surroundings on the dash navigation screen – a system pioneered by Infiniti, but now being copied by other automakers as well.

The object-detection system uses front and rear sonar to provide audible and visual warnings to the driver if, when starting to go forward or backward, there is a moving object in front or behind the vehicle.

Any potential hazards are visible on the dash screen through the Around View Monitor, which combines the views from four super-wide-angle cameras – front, rear and both sides – to project a 360-degree view of the area around the vehicle, seemingly from overhead.

Among standard safety features are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution; electronic stability control; roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all three rows; seat-mounted front side air bags; and tire-pressure monitoring. Also included are self-dimming outside mirrors.

Up to eight people can ride in a QX80, although our tester came with the optional seven-passenger seating arrangement, which is available with no extra charge. This brings two comfortable captain’s chairs in the middle row to replace the standard three-person bench. There is a three-person bench seat in the third row, and dual bucket seats in the front.

Kids will enjoy the Theater Package, which adds a rear DVD player with two seven-inch screens in the backs of the front headrests, two pairs of wireless headphones, a remote control, a 120-volt power outlet, auxiliary audio/visual input jacks, second-row heated seats, and remote tip-up second seats. It now also includes Wi-Fi capability ($450 extra), which lets the kids enjoy their own devices where cellular broadband service is available.

Everyone on board has comfortable seating, even in the third row. During our test, teenagers rode in the middle row captain’s chairs, which can be quickly folded forward to allow access to the third row. The third row was convenient when we had more than four people going out to dinner or for a sightseeing run.

When the third row isn’t needed for passengers, it can be quickly converted into cargo space. There’s 16.5 cubic feet of space behind the third seat, which isn’t really enough for the necessities for a long family trip. With the third seat folded (60/40 split, power fold), the cargo area opens up to cavernous size.

EPA ratings are 14 mpg city/20 highway/16 combined with rear-wheel drive, or 13/19/15 with four-wheel drive). On our trip, about 60 percent highway driving, we averaged 15.4 mpg.

To help reduce drag, the QX80 has a front chin spoiler, rear liftgate spoiler and streamlined outside mirrors. It has a 0.37 coefficient of drag, and there is “zero lift” from air passing underneath, Infiniti says.

Among other standard features are heated/power-folding outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, courtesy lights and reverse tilt-down feature; body-color running boards and integrated front and rear splash guards in the wheel arches; roof rails; a power/sliding/tinted glass moon roof; and a power rear liftgate.

The adaptive self-leveling headlights are designed to move slightly in the same direction as the vehicle to provide illumination of the area into which the car is turning.

The standard Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System includes a backup-camera along with the Around View Monitor system.

Our Limited model came only with one extra – the Wi-Fi system. Total sticker price for our well-equipped and luxurious QX80 was $88,895, including freight.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2017 Infiniti QX80

The package: Full-size, seven- or eight-passenger, five-door, rear- or four-wheel-drive, V-8 powered, premium sport utility vehicle.

Highlights: The QX80 (formerly the QX56) is a premium family hauler with lots of power, a smooth ride, and a long list of available high-tech features.

Negatives: Can get quite pricey with all the extras.

Engine: 5.6-liter V-8.

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 400 HP./413 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Length: 208.3 inches.

Curb weight: 5,595 pounds (2WD), 5,855 pounds (4WD).

Cargo capacity: 16.5 cubic feet (behind third row).

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, three-row side curtain.

Towing capacity: 8,500 pounds.

EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city/20 highway/16 combined (2WD); 13/19/15 (4WD).

Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/premium recommended, but not required.

Base prices: $63,850 (2WD); $66,950 (4WD), $89,450 (AWD, Limited), plus $995 freight.

Price as tested: $88,895, including freight and Wi-Fi option (Limited).

Major competitors: Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, Audi Q7, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada Platinum.

On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.