2021 Infiniti QX80 Sensory 4WD: Something new in a big, hulking beast?
Price: $87,035 as tested. Options include Cargo Package, $295; Premium Paint, $695. More below.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “handsome styling, standard V-8 power, plush and spacious cabin” but not that it “seems outdated compared with rivals, Nissan Armada is almost as luxurious, poor fuel economy.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Commanding luxury.”
Reality: The QX80 sticks with luxury SUV tradition, for better and worse.
What’s new: The huge SUV (weighing in at 5,813 pounds, able to pull 8,500 pounds) stays huge for 2021. The Sensory is a new top trim level with, among other new features, a Smart Rearview mirror with 9.6-inch display. Which is good, because once inside you cannot see what’s behind this monster for squat. Its last face-lift came in 2018 but the QX80 has received only modest updates since its 2011 introduction.
Up to speed: The 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V-8 moves the QX80 with more ease than one would expect from a huge truck. I was able to perform all kinds of acceleration feats to outmaneuver much more agile vehicles, when a sudden lane change would be needed after a stoplight, for instance. It reaches 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, according to Car and Driver; it’s the Q that roared.
On the road: The QX80 started out feeling like a lumbering beast. No Sport mode is available to offer any relief from the gigantism that the vehicle suffers from.
But Mr. Driver’s Seat did learn to live with it. I put almost 200 miles on the QX80, on country roads and even I-95 and the Blue Route. Hard corners could be taken with some speed, and country roads were not bad — although uneven dips were the vehicles literal downfall. I thought the QX80 would be on its side a few times.
Shifty: The smooth, steady 7-speed automatic does come with shiftability. The lever has a nice feel, and the vehicle doesn’t switch back to automatic on its own, just downshifts headed into stoplights and such like a nice vehicle should.
Driver’s Seat: It’s a long climb to the cabin of the Q, but driver and passenger are amply rewarded. The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat raved about her quarters, saying the QX80 was like a living room on wheels.
My only complaint is one common to a lot of large vehicles — it’s hard to get a comfortable angle on the accelerator pedal. A slightly lower seat would help with this endeavor.
(Note to potential buyers — be very careful not to allow items to slip under the passenger seat; I spent a good long while fishing for a dropped phone.)
Night shift: I usually save this section for later, but the QX80 has some potential problem spots here.
First, the headlights aim far too low for good vision.
Second, many other drivers think they’re aimed far too high — I kept getting high beams flashed at me. I even had one weirdo in front of me get out of his car at a stop sign and yell something while waving downward. He looked disappointed when I turned the high beams on.
Finally, I appreciate subtle interior lights, but I had to access my phone flashlight again and again, even to find the USB port. Sheesh.
All this is really galling, because the Exterior Welcome Lighting Package and Illuminated Kick Plates really help you walk to it in dark places, all for $455 and $485 respectively.
Friends and stuff: Vehicles like the QX80 are the reason America’s kids are going bad.
Mom and Dad fork out a year’s worth of Ivy League room and board, and they ride like kings and queens up front.
But if you’re putting kids in the way, way back, I’m calling family services. The youngsters are crammed into a tiny compartment with a small, upturned seat with all the accommodations of a school bus, minus the headroom.
Someone should print the T-shirts: “Mom and Dad paid nearly 90 large, and all I got was this lousy back seat.”
Cargo space is 16.6 cubic feet behind the third row, 49.6 behind the second, and 95.1 with both rows folded.
Play some tunes: The infotainment system features two screens, as most premium brands offer these days. The lower screen controls most of the functionality, and buttons toggle from audio to HVAC to home menu. A dial controls volume while buttons control stations or scrolling through songs. If it sounds complicated, it is.
Sound quality from the Bose 17-speaker system is very good, maybe an A-.
Keeping warm and cool: Buttons on either side of the touch screens control temperature, fan speed and air source. The rectangular vents offer decent air direction and controls.
Fuel economy: I struggled to get the QX80 to 14 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended.
Where it’s built: Kyushu, Japan
How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the QX80 will be a 3 out of 5 in the reliability department.
In the end: If a big, traditional luxury ride is your thing, there are worse ways to go.