The 2021 Infiniti QX80 is a basically good three-row luxury SUV. However, context is always important, and when viewed through the same lens as its new competitors, including a call coming from inside the house, as it were, all of its bright pieces may not be as bright.
- Smooth and powerful transmission
- Soft and luxurious ride
- Plenty of room for passengers
I do not like
- Worse technology than the Armada
- Aged styling
- Too thirsty
Premium look and comfort in abundance
The 2021 Infiniti QX80 has a cosmopolitan good look, some of which come from a 2018 update, while the rest comes from an internal nip-tuck from model year 2020. While the headlights and taillights now look more like da next to other modern Infiniti models, the overall body shape remains the same since it was called the QX56, including the unsightly rear bumper underbite. From a front three-quarter view, however, it’s modern in all the right places, and its 22-inch alloy wheels fill the wells with the right kind of appearance.
Context once again comes into play within the QX80. While I like the layered dashboard, it looks decidedly old compared to three other luxury rows like the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Cadillac Escalade, or Lincoln Navigator. Heck, even the Nissan Armada – an SUV the QX80 shares a platform with – feels like a step up from Infiniti in this department, especially when the terrifying two-screen center stack is the center of attention. However, there’s a lot of comfort to be found here, with soft leather on the seats and, well, almost anywhere you can reach.
Considering the QX80 is roughly the size of a red dwarf, it’s no surprise that the second and third rows aren’t too shabby for the occupants either. My Premium Select tester swings two captain’s chairs in the second row that are just as comfortable as the ones in the first, separated by a center console large enough to handle whatever the kids want to toss on or in. Slide one of the two chairs forward and there’s ample room to sneak up to the third row, which is roomy enough to accommodate adults, though perhaps not for road trips without a few stops to stretch.
Luxury also does not affect the carrying capacity. With the third row up, the QX80 offers a commendable 16.6 cubic feet. Release the third row and that number expands to 49.6 cubes. Leave only the first row standing and that number grows to 95.1 cubic feet.
Lots of motivation
The 2021 QX80 reminds me that sometimes there is no replacement for the shift. All variants of Infiniti’s three-row SUV feature a 5.6-liter V8 that produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to two or four wheels (the latter on my tester) through a automatic seven-speed transmission. It’s exactly the same configuration as the Armada, believe it or not.
Performance is also influenced by the fraternal twins. Despite a pig curb weight of around 6,000 pounds, the V8 is eager to take the nose of the QX80 and send the SUV skidding forward with the slightest provocation. Transmission is smooth for its age, but some climbs take a little longer to register than I’d like. Towing fans will appreciate all that hustle and bustle, because that driving force grants the QX80 a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds in both the 2WD and 4WD variants.
Comfort is at the forefront of the QX80’s driving experience and the result is gratifying. The steering is an overboost touch, which makes it a little easier to make direction changes without upsetting the balance of the SUV; on its standard fixed suspension, things can he it gets a little heavy if caused to move too fast. However, between the Bridgestone Dueler H / T 275 / 50R22 shock absorbers and tires, most of the road nasty is defeated before it reaches the cockpit. Road and tire noise are also pleasantly low in the cabin.
One thing that is low, and not in a good way, is the fuel economy of the QX80. 4WD variants like my Premium Select tester achieve an estimated 13 miles per city gallon and a 19mpg highway, with each number increasing by 1 for 2WD models. I’m generally pretty quiet on the accelerator on the freeway, but reaching the EPA estimates took a fair bit of concerted effort.
In all honesty, both Armada and QX80 drive almost exactly the same. They feel quite similar on the road, whether it is the feel of steering or suspension or braking. They are both capable of towing up to 8,500 pounds. One of those vehicles costs a few thousand less than the other. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.
Weird, old infotainment system
Infiniti needs to put its two-screen infotainment setup on a boat and ship it to Valhalla. It’s not necessarily difficult to use: the map lives on the top screen, while most of the usual tasks are handled by the screen below – it’s nowhere near as good as what competitors can offer, such as BMW’s iDrive or MBUX. by Mercedes-Benz. Graphics are noticeably different on each screen, although I’m glad Infiniti has upgraded the higher display to a resolution that no longer looks like a Garmin bought from a better buy, and neither layout screams “luxury vehicle.” At least there are physical buttons for the climate controls, which makes adjusting them a breeze. Both screens are responsive enough, however, and modern subtleties like, and a Wi-Fi hotspot are all hidden in there.
Here’s the bigger problem, though: The Nissan Armada’s new infotainment system is leagues ahead of its luxury-oriented sibling, and for less money, to boot. The layout is cleaner, the graphics appear to have been designed in the last one or two years, and Apple CarPlay is available wirelessly. I can only hope that in the future this system will reach not only the QX80, but all Infiniti models, because it is much closer to what is expected of a luxury vehicle in this price range.
While my Premium Select tester isn’t a top-of-the-line variant, it’s still loaded with oodles of standard safety technology. Window sticker includes front collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, rear door warning, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance and a flight view monitor d ‘bird. I don’t like using them most of the time, as I prefer to be in control of all this momentum at all times, but when I took things on the highway, it worked flawlessly.
Up to brass tacks
The 2021 Infiniti QX80 has stellar competition, which puts it in a difficult position. The Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class and BMW X7 are much more luxurious and both are also more rewarding to drive. The Lincoln Navigator can be optional in wild ways, offering unique interior styling cues that even Germans have a hard time matching.
But in all fairness, the QX80’s biggest competitor is the 2021 Nissan Armada, which offers the same driving experience and cabin space with better technology and, in my opinion, better looks. My Premium Select tester is the mid-range model, and with a limited number of options, its $ 76,450 base price rises to nearly $ 80,000, including $ 1,395 per destination. Nissan hasn’t released pricing for the 2021 Armada at the time of writing, but it will undoubtedly come at a lower price than this.
In a bubble, there’s a lot to like about the 2021 QX80. He’s a big boy who offers large interior spaces and leather-lined comfort on the road, and is capable of towing a good amount of stuff thanks to a V8 that loves to move. But when placed in the context of its closest competitors, it begins to lose some of that luster.