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2018 Infiniti QX80 Revealed: Second Time's the Charm for This Giant SUV

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 2017-11-10 STEVE SILER
2018 Infiniti QX80 2018 Infiniti QX80 Revealed: Second Time’s the Charm for This Giant SUV - Official Photos and Info

No one has ever accused the Infiniti QX80 SUV of being small, but for 2018, Infiniti wanted to make it look bigger, and this latest refresh (the model’s second, following a light redo for 2015) achieves that goal. The other thing this update achieves is to make the QX80 less ugly. Indeed, the big rig may have gone from being the worst-looking Infiniti to one of the best.

The changes were previewed by the QX80 Monograph concept at the 2017 New York auto show last spring. Perhaps the most important update is that the front end now looks as if it actually matches the rest of the vehicle. (The doors, glass, and roof all remain common to the Nissan Patrol/Armada SUV.) The outgoing model’s fussy, vaguely Kenworth-like visage is replaced by a taller, more cohesive design with a more prominent vertical grille that mimics that of the Q60 coupe. Below it sits a broader lower air intake, while the headlamps have been redesigned and repositioned much higher than before.

Both the standard 20-inch wheels and the optional 22-inchers on our photo vehicle are redesigned for 2018, as are the running boards. At the rear, the QX80’s liftgate and bumper have been reskinned, and the taillamps have been refashioned in the current Infiniti design idiom. A liberal application of chrome keeps the bling factor high—this thing competes with Cadillac’s Escalade—yet it all seems more tastefully rendered.

Inside, the changes are less dramatic but nevertheless class things up a bit. There are new stitching patterns on the seats and door panels, new instrument-panel lighting, and black carpets and lower interior trim to provide greater visual contrast to the available beige and new brown leather upholstery options (there’s also an all-black interior). The standard wood-grain trim is new, and the front cupholders and device stowage areas have been redesigned. The rear entertainment screens also are an inch larger than before.

While no mechanical changes were made, Infiniti did use the occasion to add some new noise insulation on the door panels and behind the dashboard to lower the levels of noise, vibration, and harshness. For that same reason, the 2018 QX80 rides on different tires, too.

“The QX80 is unique in that the doors and body side are a blank canvas,” Infiniti design chief Alfonso Albaisa told Car and Driver. “It has a little bit of a shoulder, but it doesn’t have any strong character lines that set up any strong visual impression. We wanted to make this thing super horizontal, move all the elements in the front straight up, and make this the kind of premium flagship that is super confident, almost like an aircraft carrier. So we took that shoulder and just went straight all the way to the grille. Which is easy to say and even easier to draw.” But not easy to implement, according to Albaisa. “Engineering had to do serious stuff. You know, to move a headlight up 100 millimeters is not a normal minor-change kind of action,” he told us. “But the engineers agreed that it was worth the effort, and it all fell into place.

“Minor changes usually [help a vehicle], but this one transformed the car,” he said. At first blush, we would agree. The updated QX80 begins rolling into dealerships in early December, at which point you can judge its success for yourself.

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