I had a vehicular epiphany many years ago when I went to school to pick up my three kids and their musical instruments – including a 3/4-size cello – in a Toyota Prius. There was no way to deny the fact that we just didn’t have enough room for everyone and everything we wanted in the vehicle. In response, I upgraded to a much bigger vehicle, a Toyota Highlander. Sedans might be great for when your kids are little, but as your family grows it turns out that those big, roomy SUVs can be a huge boon. The Highlander gave me sufficient room for our next all kids + instruments adventure, but the new generation of big three-row SUVs offers even more interior space.
I had a week with the 2022 INFINITI QX80 “Sensory” 4WD and even when I had all my now-adult children pile into the vehicle, there was plenty of space for more adults. A cello would have been no problem. INFINITI has been a mainstay of the luxury import segment for many years, so it also didn’t surprise me that the interior of this vehicle was luxurious and quite comfortable, with plush seats, a big nav display, and a powerful drive. Let’s start with a photo of the Anthracite Gray exterior / Saddle Brown interior QX80:
As you can see, it’s a big vehicle. The curb weight on this is about 7,300 pounds and it boasts an 8,500-pound towing capacity. This 4WD model is powered by a 400hp 5.6-liter V8 engine. It definitely had plenty of power as needed, though I didn’t try towing a boat or trailer to see how it would handle with a few thousand pounds rolling along behind the vehicle.
You can get a sense of the interior of the QX80 with this shot where I’ve folded down a couple of the seats:
Notice that unlike many vehicles where the third-row is an afterthought, there’s actual legroom for the third-row passengers (though getting back there still requires some level of agility). The second row also featured a big divider that offered storage and, of course, cup holders. The second-row seats are heated, which your children might well appreciate on cold mornings, and the third row is powered seats, so folding them up or down is a matter of pushing a button rather than wrestling with levers and quick-release handles. Much more civilized!
In fact, while we’re talking about legroom, there’s a quite decent amount of legroom for second-row passengers:
Between the dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system and the heated second row seats, the QX80 is definitely ready for services as an Uber Black or other ride sharing vehicle too. Sure is an upgrade from the back of a typical taxi or ride sharing budget sedan that seems much more common in my own experience. It’s no surprise that the rear passenger climate controls are some of the most sophisticated I’ve ever seen:
A surprising lack, however, was that I couldn’t find a 120V AC plug, which would have been a natural on this control area. Perhaps that’s yet another optional upgrade?
Moving into the front portion, the driver’s console is easily understood because of both the large navigational screen and the real estate available to the designers for this wide vehicle:
A pretty standard layout with the key controls on the steering wheel, then display, audio controls, climate controls, and charging center stacked one atop the other on the center console. You don’t need to manually adjust the radio, however, because there are also center console knobs and dials that let you adjust drive mode, 4WD mode, and interact with the infotainment system:
The knob on the top right is drive controls, while the lower left offers the driver the ability to switch camera views, jump directly to top-level infotainment areas and rotate and push the center button to choose options and settings thereon. In practice, just like Mazda and BMW, the INFINITI control knob works really well and lets experienced drivers keep their eyes at windshield level while driving at a good clip.
Behind this area are plugs for USB-A and USB-C, along with a Qi wireless charging cut-out for compatible smartphones. It’s a surprise that so few vehicle designs include the wireless charger in the center portion itself rather than tucked into a slot but if you’re using wireless Android Auto or wireless CarPlay you don’t really need to see the phone screen anyway.
For all the futuristic design elements, the main gauge is clean, clear, and highly legible. Being able to glance and understand what it’s showing is clearly at a premium compared to the fancier computer displays of some other imports:
With an automatic it’s not obvious why a tachometer matters, but if it’s omitted then there’s that great design question of what to put there instead? What would you prefer as the second dial’s information?
We can’t view this without commenting on the fuel efficiency. 15.5 mpg is painful when gas is $5.00/gallon and while it’s par for the course with a large family or group transport vehicle, it felt wrong to drive it without any passengers or a towed boat, trailer, or similar. If you have a behemoth like this, it would probbaly make sense to have a small, highly fuel efficient plug-in or hybrid – or even a full EV – to balance out your vehicular carbon footprint.
Which brings us to the steering wheel controls. Here’s how they laid out:
Turns out you have to memorize them, however, because they aren’t illuminated in any way when you’re driving at night. Since I hadn’t yet mastered the cruise control settings I was left with a dangerous form of hunt and peck as I tried to suss out which button would engage cruise control and which would let me set or adjust the desired speed and follow distance. This seemed like a weird omission but while there were dozens of settings through both the steering controls and infotainment system, none offered the “button/control illumination level” adjustment that would alleviate this issue.
Poor fuel effiency aside, I really enjoyed driving the QX80 Sensory 4WD and found it was wonderful comfortable whether it was just me with the music cranked up (it’s a great sound system!) or with one, two, even four passengers in the vehicle. The seats are quite comfortable, the SUV form factor means that the driver is up and looking over everything on the road, and that big V8 gives oodles of oomph for hopping onto the highway or heading up a steep incline. It’s quite expensive, however, and the interior controls illumination is a bit peculiar, as I mentioned earlier, but if you’re a big family and need the space and capabilities, the 2022 INFINITI QX80 Sensory 4WD is definitely worth a look.
2022 INFINITI QX80 Sensory 4WD in Anthracite Gray with Saddle Brown interior. Powered by a 400hp 5.6-liter V8 engine with all-mode 4WD. BASE PRICE: $84,850.00. Optional packages: illuminated kick plates, cargo scuff plate, roof rail, radiant interior welcome lighting. AS DRIVEN: $87,985.00
Disclosure: INFINITI loaned me the QX80 for a week in return for this writeup. Thanks, INFINITI!