Redesigning the 2018 Infiniti QX80

Alfonso Albaisa, Senior VP of Global Design for the company, addresses their new approach

by Andrew Maness

Sometimes a minor refresh goes a long way, and such is certainly the case with the recently debuted 2018 Infiniti QX80. CH got a sneak peak at the QX80 last month in Los Angeles and it’s clear the subtle changes to company’s flagship SUV have made a big impact.

The revised front fascia brings the vehicle into line with the rest of the Infiniti family featuring an intimidating grille and focused headlights. The rear features new taillights and a revised tailgate, but retains the large protruding bumper of the previous model. (Unfortunately it didn’t get the flush bumper and sculpted dual exhaust tips from the QX80 Concept that was shown at the New York Auto Show earlier this year.) Inside things look more or less the same as before, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Common touch-points are covered in high-quality leather, the seats feature a quilted diamond design and there’s genuine open-pore wood as well. To get a better idea of how the redesign for the QX80 was approached, we spoke with Alfonso Albaisa, Senior Vice President of Global Design for Infiniti and Nissan.

When adapting the current Infiniti family design language to the QX80, what was your biggest challenge?

As a flagship of powerful elegance, we focused with engineering on bringing a greater sense of presence to the front of QX80. This change started at the shoulder-line by bringing forward and strengthening the horizontal movement through the hood and ending at the double arch grille. This new gesture also is enhanced by the new position and design of our signature headlamps. With our strong desire to enhance our powerful presence, we also introduced new levels of detail and artistry to all the surfaces we touched on this big but minor change.

How would you describe the overall design aesthetic of the QX80?

Power, stability, presence and artistry.

What is one element of the design that you fought hard for?

Moving the lamps up nearly 100mm was a key aspect for our teams to create this new balance and confident presence. Once we received the green light, it allowed us to raise the hood and straighten the shoulder movement.

Where do you see the full-size SUV segment heading both in form and function?

I believe the full-size segment in premiums is obviously a reward car. It is powerful and large, thus the form and function is a natural aspect—but the refinement and iconic brand value elevated these vehicles to brand flagships really.

Are interior materials chosen as a result of the design or vice-versa?

Fortunately this category requires artistry in authentic materials. The COE are leathers and woods but how they are executed must feel bespoke, the hand and mind of the artist needs to be visible.

What is one piece of design you think might be overlooked on the QX80?

Maybe not overlooked, but the work done by the teams on the rear has also brought significant change to the power and stability-feel of QX80. Rear-end designs tend to be a restricted canvas on minor changes therefore the creativity of the teams requires cleverness and persistence.

What are your main design influences from the natural world?

Power as expressed organically continues to be a fundamental influence. The surge of oceans, the extreme agility of animals, the influence of light on objects and context… not just how can that end, but how science will adjust or change our vision of these is our new dimension.

Images courtesy of Infiniti