2019 Infiniti QX80 classy, rugged, versatile SUV

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Now in its mid-teens, the Infiniti QX80 is a large luxury sport utility vehicle with three rows of seating and a dual personality. It has many creature comforts and plenty of driving nimbleness for a heavyweight people mover. But it also has ruggedness to spare.

Formerly called the QX56, a reference to its 5.6-liter engine, the QX80 designation on recent years’ models corresponds to nothing more than a new name.

The 2019 Infiniti QX80 is a luxury SUV with dual role as a rugged workhorse.
The 2019 Infiniti QX80 is a luxury SUV with dual role as a rugged workhorse. Image © James Raia/2019

By whatever name, the monster SUV holds the unique distinction for the upscale division of Nissan. It was the first Infiniti, which debuted in 1989, built in the United States.

The 2019 edition features improvements, as have other recent years’ offerings. A vast upgrade was done inside and outside last year, including a retuned suspension and increased insulation. But this year’s model is overall the same generation introduced in 2011.

Aligning with the industry trends, 2019 QX80 improvements include standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning and pedestrian detection.

The QX80 is equipped with a 5.6-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and four-wheel-drive. It advances with a seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control and manual shift mode. The Infiniti weighs about three tons and can tow 8,500 pounds. But like other vehicles in the large SUV segment, it’s swift for its size. The QX80 completes the standard 0-60 miles per hour standard in just under six seconds.

Complementing its power and performance, Infiniti’s largest vehicle is a smooth operator. It handles nimbly, like a luxury sedan. The ride is quiet and the SUV negotiates bumps as if they’re not there. The overall vision is another strong suit. At night, the Infiniti logo projects on the ground in front of the driver and front-seat passenger doors.

During a recent pre-dawn drive from Sacramento to San Francisco, a load of sheetrock was strewn across three lanes of the freeway. It was just in front of the QX80 before I could react to avoid it. But the SUV drove over the mess without flinching, thanks to 22-inch tires and a raised suspension. It’s likely smaller vehicles had difficulty with the obstacle.

The QX80’s interior design quality and functionality is impressive. One dilemma for some large SUVs is access to third-row seating. The Infiniti’s approach is as nimble as the vehicle’s driving limberness. The individual second-row seats easily fold forward, presenting a sizable opening to the third row.

The 60-40 split third-row seats are lowered and raised with a power button on the right wall inside the tailgate. The second and third rows are spacious, with second-row occupants offered individual eight-inch entertainment screens. The mini movie theatre on wheels has a wireless remote control and two headphones.

With large SUVs, fuel efficiency is never an attribute. The QX80’s averages are woeful, 13 miles per gallon in city driving, 19 miles per gallon on the highway.

Infiniti packs a lot into its versatile SUVs. The technology offerings in the QX80 are generous, although the eight-inch navigation screen is smaller than what might be expected in a large SUV. The 15-speaker Bose audio system is satisfactory but not up to top-notch systems now readily available in other manufacturers’ vehicles.

The equipment list is equally impressive in the comfort and convenience equipment and top-rated safety and security packages.

But all of it comes at a stop-moment cost. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $89,800. A $355 fee for the floor mats and a cargo protector and the $1,295 destination charge pushes the total price to $91,450.

The price means the QX80 will be attractive to a niche buying segment for whom fuel efficiency is not important. A roomy, safe, comfortable, powerful and versatile SUV is important. There’s much to be said for that.

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