But handsome leather can't hide (no pun intended) the effect of age on the QX80's cabin. The center stack, for example, is a mess of cheap-feeling buttons and painted plastic trim that's hard to justify in a vehicle that starts at $65,000. The infotainment system operates on a single-screen version of the operating system Infiniti has rolled out on the Q50, Q60, QX60, and the upcoming QX50, but the absence of a lower screen doesn't make it any easier to figure out. The display in the instrument cluster is small and monochromatic at a time when Cadillac and Lincoln will happily sell all-digital clusters to willing consumers.
The QX80's traditional gauges sit behind a steering wheel that hasn't been updated since the Bush administration. The chunky, four-spoke tiller wears some lovely contrast stitching on the airbag cover and a thin strip of wood trim around the rim, but the overall design feels ancient, particularly sitting next to newer models in Infiniti's own showrooms.
Fortunately, the QX80's age doesn't impact its main job of transporting lots of people and things. This is an absolute workhorse of a truck that will happily schlep seven people with room to spare. The front seats are broad and welcoming, although they're firm enough that the La-Z-Boy effect provided by the Lincoln Navigator's thrones is less pronounced. If anything, I'd like more support on the lower cushion and heavier side bolstering—a luxury SUV's seats should feel like a cow-hide bear hug.
The second row, particularly with a set of captain's chairs, is a comfortable place to while away a road trip, thanks in no small part to a larger pair of displays for the available rear-seat entertainment system, two more USB outlets (three with the entertainment system), an HDMI input, and a 120-volt power outlet. There's plenty of space, too, with 41 inches of legroom. The third row is neither as comfortable nor as well appointed—on the legroom front, its 28.8 inches isn't suitable for anyone but children and there aren't any USB outlets on offer. Frankly, buying a QX80 with a second-row bench and keeping the third row stowed is smart call—there's only 16.6 cubic feet with the third row up.
All QX80s feature a 5.6-liter, naturally aspirated V-8 that may or may not run on whale oil. It might be more efficient that way. Burning gasoline, it returns 14 mpg city, 20 highway, and 16 combined in rear-wheel-drive trim. Subtract a point from each rating for the four-wheel-drive model. Those numbers aren't disappointing on their own—in fact, they're roughly equal to the Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, and Mercedes-Benz GLS550.
But each of those vehicles outguns the QX80, which offers only 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, and by significant margins in some cases (both the GLS and Navigator boast 50-horsepower advantages, while the Escalade is up 20 ponies). The Infiniti doesn't feel flat-footed, though. There's enough low-end torque to set occupants back in their seats, while the V-8 is all too happy to deliver power for passing maneuvers. And the 8,300-pound tow rating is nothing to scoff at, either. The QX80 can out-haul the GLS550 and tie with the Escalade, while the Navigator boasts a negligible advantage at 8,400 pounds.
Part of that is thanks to the 7-speed automatic transmission. While Cadillac and Lincoln are fitting 10-speed automatics to their trucks and Mercedes-Benz is using a 9-speed auto, the QX80 maintains a slick-shifting seven-speed that's quick to engage off the line and almost eager to execute downshifts for passing maneuvers. It's not as quick as the Ford/GM 10-speed on upshifts, although we make that statement as pedantic auto writers—this gearbox will satisfy most owners.