The Infiniti QX80 has always had a winning personality. Comfortable, quiet, powerful, and luxurious beyond its price tag, the QX80 is, and continues to be, an exceptionally satisfying full-size luxury SUV to drive.

Now, the 2018 Infiniti QX80 finally has the looks to go along with it all. Infiniti gave it new headlights that rest higher on the nose next to a new grille. The lower bumper, fenders, hood, and even the fender vents were all redone in the name of aesthetics. The rear gets a redesigned tailgate and taillights, completing the package. The 2018 QX80 is undeniably a much better-looking SUV than the old, droopy-eyed version that came before. It's uncommon for a mid-cycle refresh to have such a dramatic effect but, there you are.

Inside the changes are less dramatic, but still noteworthy. Upgraded semi-aniline leather is now available, with a quilted pattern on the seat surfaces and doors that looks exceptionally upscale, especially in the new dark-brown Saddle color. The leather also includes stain resistance, to help reduce the dye transfer often seen on light-colored interiors. Infotainment is updated to a more modern system with better graphics. There are additional USB charging ports strewn through the cabin, additional sound deadening, and softer carpet. Fit and finish is also excellent, with a sharp seam on the sun visor about the only noteworthy exception.

Same powerful engine

What isn't different is...well, everything else. There's the same 5.6-liter V8 engine and 7-speed automatic transmission driving either the rear or all four wheels. The brute of an engine puts out 400 horsepower, enough to tow up to 8,500 pounds. The suspension is unchanged as well, independent on all four corners, and augmented with the available Hydraulic Body Motion Control system that helps reduce roll in corners. The Infiniti also offers a package that includes active cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and a host of other electronic driving aids.

Infiniti took us to Charleston, South Carolina to check out its updated bruiser. The route took us through Charleston proper, out into the Low Country area and back. The Infiniti QX80 looks right at home in the beachside communities, its luxuriously imposing styling a good counter to the Cadillac Escalades, Mercedes-Benz GLSs, and other luxury SUVs we saw along the coast.

As for the driving experience itself, the QX80 reminds us a lot of other current Infiniti products: Nicer than maybe you'd expect, but still dated in some distracting ways. First the good stuff. The suspension with Hydraulic Body Motion Control works beautifully to keep the vehicle's nearly 6,000 pounds of mass under control when cornering. The system obviates the need for stiffer springs or thicker anti-roll bars, both of which would hurt the big Infiniti's buttery ride. Instead, you get minimal body roll in corners, but with a comfortably compliant ride that feels second to none in the class. This is partially because of its solid construction. Like most of its competition, the Infiniti QX80 is a body-on-frame truck. However, it could fool you into thinking it was a unibody instead, with very little of the body-on-frame vibrations one feels in the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, or other full-size SUVs.

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Silent cruising

The engine has no problem getting the QX80 out of anybody's way. That 400 horsepower is augmented by 413 lb-ft of torque, enough to make the QX80 quick on a sprint from 0-60 mph. It's also quiet while doing it. When you're cruising only a little wind noise around the mirrors will intrude. In fact, silent running is one of this Infiniti's strengths, with very little exhaust note, limited wind and road noise, it's one of the quieter full-size luxury SUVs you can find.

On the flip side, there's only so much Infiniti can do to hide the fact that its luxury SUV was introduced for the 2011 model year. The black-and-white information display between the gauges, for example, looks woefully outdated in an era where glass cockpits are taking over. Despite the upgraded infotainment system there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a missed opportunity. The second-row seats flip and tumble for better third-row access, but they don't slide for better comfort. There's not a ton of space behind the third row.

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No fuel sipper here

The biggest old-school holdover is fuel economy. That big V8 doesn't shy away from consuming bucketloads of gasoline as it goes about its business. The EPA estimates you'll get 14 mpg city with a rear-wheel drive model, or 13 mpg with 4-wheel drive. On our route, we basically hit the EPA's combined score of 15 mpg, but even that falls short of the Lincoln Navigator (18 mpg), Cadillac Escalade (17 mpg), and even the supercharged Land Rover Range Rover (16 mpg).

Balancing all that is price. While not exactly cheap, our 2018 Infiniti QX80's as-tested price of $83,195 included all the major option groups, including the upscale interior and technology package, rear seat entertainment system, driver assist package, and even a special paint job that added $500 to the price. That undercuts the price you'd pay for a similarly equipped Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, or Lexus LX 570. The base price, about $66,000 for a rear-drive model, is even less. That's a pretty good value, and now that the Infiniti QX80 is a looker, it makes it easier to overlook some of its shortcomings. Bottom line: if its new styling made you do a double take, it might be worth an even closer look.

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