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Review: 2014 Infiniti QX80 – Winter Test

2014 Infiniti QX80

For 2014 Infiniti’s biggest vehicle, like all other Infinitis, gets a name change: it goes from being QX56 to QX80. Other than that not much has changed from the QX56 I reviewed in 2012 or from the one Jeff reviewed in 2011. Except the weather – the weather has definitely changed. Whereas the two previous reviews were completed in mild temperatures, I drove this vehicle through two snowstorms and single digit temperatures on the scale that Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented.

To summarize our previous reviews, the big QX80 is an extremely comfortable full-size SUV. It has seating for seven or eight, if you opt for the free middle row bench seat, but I wouldn’t recommend that as the two captains’ thrones maybe one of the best in the industry. The power-folding third row seat offers space for three, but is a bit short on leg room. There is ton of trunk space, even with the third row up.

Thanks to Its optional magical Hydraulic Body Motion Control suspension, the QX handles surprisingly well and remain super smooth when it is empty or loaded with people and things. The 400hp V8 engine sounds fantastic and it is coupled to a 7-speed automatic transmission which always happens to be in the right gear. Being a proper utility vehicle, the QX can tow trailer weighting 8500 pounds. The side effect of all this space and utility is gas mileage that’s in the teens at best.

2014 Infiniti QX80 rear

Interior if full of typical luxury features found on modern high-end cars, but some things are packaged under pricey Technology or Deluxe Touring packages. The infotainment system feels a bit aged and slow when compared to some new models, but it does everything that others do, and is intuitive to use. From the driver’s perspective, the commanding seating position can only be compared to a Range Rover.

Driving on the highway is pure relaxed pleasure, with plenty of power on tap. Around the city the driver must stay cognizant of vehicle dimensions; finding a parking spot that is big enough to get out of the vehicle comfortably, or maneuver into easily, can be challenging. Infiniti’s Around View Monitor, which projects a top image of the vehicle and everything around it on the nav screen is extremely helpful. There are also sonar sensors which provide audible warnings when maneuvering in tight clearances.

2011 Infiniti QX

But going back to wintery weather, here are a few observations:

  • Remote start – fantastic feature and it works from quite a distance away, too. HVAC controls are in whatever position they were when the car was turned off, so the interior is nice and warm given enough idle time.
  • Heated seats – test vehicle had them front and back. Real toggle switches or rotary knob control those, as oppose to momentary switches like on BMWs, which means your butt warmers will be on whatever setting they were when the car was turned off.
  • Heated steering wheel – this had a momentary switch, which meant that the steering wheel heater had to be manually turned on. Furthermore, only the leather covered portion of the steering wheel was heated, and not the wooden rim. Boohoo, but on Chryslers the “wooden”part is heated too.
  • Rear climate control – There are three climate zones in this bus: driver, passenger, and rear. The driver has the maser control of the rear system but once turned on it can be adjusted from the middle row. It should be noted the whole interior warmed up pretty quickly, much like the Nissan Quest minivan cooled off very quickly in hundred degree heat when I reviewed that a few years ago. Props to Nissan HVAC design team.
  • Wipers – Automatic front wipers work like most such systems, and offer a fine adjustment. They clean a majority of the windshield yielding minimum dirt borders and good visibility. The washers sprayers are located in the cowl and may get blocked by ice/snow, however.
    • Rear wiper has two settings: intermittent and full-time. It would make sense for the rear wiper to be controlled by the front rain sensor, but it isn’t. The wiper itself did not seem to put enough pressure on the window to completely clean it, even with the sprayer (I’m being picky). The swept area is small but sufficient for proper rear visibility.
    • Headlights have spray washers (part of package), which spray every few times that they windshield sprayers are used.
    • Both the Around View Monitor cameras, and the sonar sensors can get dirty. The result is a fuzzy picture or beeping at low speeds when the sensors think that there is something in front of the car.
  • Traction, mechanical – the AWD QX80 (RWD version is also available) comes with an automatic four wheel drive system. Center rotary knob allows a switch to full-time 4WD high and 4WD low. Further, there are snow and tow modes which adjust the traction and stability systems, and transmission shifting accordingly. Unlike on Toyotas, Mercedes-Benzes, or Land Rovers, there are no locking differentials, and the limited slip is applied via brakes. Overall, this should suffice for 99.9875% of people who will buy this vehicle.
  • Traction, tires – This test vehicle was equipped with optional 22” wheels which were wrapped around in 275/50-22 Bridgestone Dueler H/T all-season tires. Simply put, these tires are really bad in the snow. The vehicle would easily spin all four wheels off line, even with traction/stability/snow systems/modes fully enabled. It wouldn’t stop well or short, either. In corners with just a small amount of snow, at low speeds, it would understeer.
    • For comparison purposes, I went out in my own Acura MDX, a smaller, lighter, and less powerful AWD vehicle equipped with all-season tires. In the exact same conditions I experienced a significantly improved traction, cornering, and stopping. This was all at very low speeds and based on my experience it is fair to say that tires were the culprit. A quick look on Tirerack.com shows that the get a rating averaging about 5 on a 10-scale, whereas my Firestones were in the 8s and 9s.
    • Thinking back, several years ago I rented a Toyota FJ Cruiser with the same Bridgestone Duelers, albeit in much smaller size. That vehicle also had traction problems in the snow. Simply put, if you get any vehicle with those tires, drive carefully. It also goes without saying that proper snow tires make an amazing difference in winter driving on any vehicle.

2014 Infiniti QX80 34

While its looks may not be for everyone, there is a lot to like about this vehicle. The spacious and comfortable interior, the trunk space, and towing capacity, along with all the little luxuries and general high quality make this one of my favorites. Anyone shopping for a Land Rover, a Yukon Denali, a Land Cruiser, or even a Mercedes G550 owes it to themselves to drive the very underrated QX80.

[Exterior images: Copyright 2014 Redusernab/Kamil Kaluski. Interior image: Infiniti]

  • Sjalabais

    Enthusiastic review. But I have to admit that the surroundings in the pictures don't help my basic impression of the car: It looks like it was designed by Russians for Russia. Which is odd for a car that is basically American.

    • With that fat, droopy-looking, ugly body, I have to believe it perfectly targets Americans.

      • rennsport964

        I'm not sure what Infiniti was attempting in terms of styling cues. I'm going to go with Disney's Goofy.

        This truck makes me stabby whenever I see one. That is all.

        • Sjalabais

          It's exactly the misfit of design elements that seems odd. Perfectly fine if it was UAZ's attempt at a 400hp luxury SUV for weapon smuglers, pimps and ordinary mob. Strange for Nissan.

          The front view is imho the most offensive, with the rear looking like a shakeup of Toyota Avensis Verso and Toyota Highlander. Petty criticism, especially since the owner/driver wouldn't see it from inside.

        • Devin

          It looks like the styling clay melted a bit and it was greenlit anyway.

    • wisc47

      It'd look better in it's natural habitat: the Costco parking lot.

  • POLAЯ ☄ ihavacomet

    The Gravitational Force is strong on this one…

    <img src="; width="600">

  • Someone got a new camera lens!

  • SteveL

    The remote start just uses the HVAC settings last set? That sucks. My 6 year old GMC has its own temperature sensor that automatically turns on heat and seat heaters if it's cold, and the a/c if it's hot. Only once you get in and turn the key does the HVAC take over.

    And believe me, that is an awesome feature.

    • You know… It may do that, it is an automatic climate control. If you left it at 70F that's where it will default to.

      The point I was trying to make was one vehicle I was reviewing (forgot which) did not turn any accessories when it started via remote.

  • Rover1

    If Nissan is going to employ so many people to design one vehicle, should they get them to talk to each other while they do it -and let them finish?

  • racer139

    I always thought these looked a little crosseyed. But they do seem to be popular in nova scotia. I see then a bunch.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Cushy, overpriced, ugly bloatmobiles. Your commute must be hell on wheels to need this.

    • Vairship

      It's what you use when they refuse to renew your Novocaine prescription

  • BobWellington

    The styling doesn't really surprise me. Just look at any Nissan/Infiniti products. The only decent looking ones are models that haven't been refreshed in the last few years.

    Good review, though. I enjoyed reading it.

  • It looks like the styling clay melted a bit and it was greenlit anyway.