Car reviews - Infiniti - QX80
Old-school luxury and V8-powered pleasure mixed with modern dynamics, massive boot, not as thirsty as you think, looks a lot better than it used to
Room for improvement
Garish interior, dated on-board tech, infuriating ergonomics, third-row space, socially unacceptable, not $22,000 better than the Nissan Patrol on which it’s based
If big and brash is your SUV style, the imperious Infiniti QX80 ticks a lot of boxes
19 Nov 2018
JAPANESE luxury brand Infiniti is struggling to emerge from obscurity in Australia, but it does have one big, attention-grabbing model up its sleeve: The hulking QX80 SUV.
At $110,900 plus on-road costs and with a climate-crushing 5.6-litre V8 petrol engine behind its gaping air intake, this is hardly a model for the mainstream.
But the QX80 represents more than 10 per cent of Australian Infiniti sales and its popularity is growing, which the brand desperately needs as much as it does an attention-grabbing flagship that gets people curious about the badge on its nose.
And you know what? We found driving the QX80 to be something of a guilty pleasure.
Price and equipment
The Infiniti QX80 has one variant with no options, priced at $110,900 plus on-roads. Take it or leave it.
It has three 8.0-inch media screens – one in the dash and one in the rear of each headrest plus two sets of wireless headphones for rear passenger entertainment – and a 15-speaker Bose audio system with twin subwoofers.
There is also sat-nav and Bluetooth/USB/Aux connectivity, tri-zone climate control, quilted leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 10-way electric driver’s seat adjustment and eight-way electric front passenger seat adjustment (both with two-way lumbar support control), keyless entry with push-button start, power fold/recline third-row seats, a sunroof, a heated steering wheel, 22-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights and tail-lights.
Driver assistance and active safety features include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking, a surround-view camera system with moving object detection, front and rear parking sensors, and tyre pressure monitoring.
From this standpoint the QX80 looks like good value for money, although we’d expect the LandCruiser to be worth more come resale time.
The QX80 is effectively an exterior styling package and specification upgrade from the Nissan Patrol Ti-L that rides on massive 22-inch alloy wheels and has a slightly redesigned cabin festooned with quilted leather upholstery and woodgrain trim.
It feels a bit like driving around in an Emirates business class lounge. More than slightly gaudy and vulgar.
Even if this is how you like your expensive things to look and feel, you probably won’t appreciate the awfully dated technology in the QX80 cabin.
Let’s start with the instrument cluster. In the middle of six analogue gauges is a small, monochrome trip computer with blocky 80s graphics, operated by weird crunchy-feeling buttons on the cowling and with laughably few functions that can only be accessed one at a time. There isn’t even a digital speed readout.
To the left is a tragically lo-res multimedia screen controlled by an unfathomable mixture of rotary knob and shortcut buttons. Its slow responses and clunky menu system make you want to rip it out and have an aftermarket system installed.
Lower on the central stack are even more media control buttons, flanked by four identical-looking knobs that all have distinctly different functions, which makes it difficult to use at-a-glance, while the seat heating and cooling controls are so small and recessed that your backside knows what setting you’ve selected before your eyes do. It’s a mess.
The steering wheel is one of the less visually offensive wood-rimmed items, but the switchgear on it looks old and feels cheap. We’re not fans of foot-operated parking brakes, either, although in the Infiniti there’s so much room in the footwell that it presents less of an issue.
Front seats are huge boofy armchairs and incredibly comfortable, with the soft quilted leather providing a genuine sense of luxury that is marred by the limited range of adjustment and the fact this is operated by the exact same low-rent switches as found in a Nissan X-Trail.
Second-row comfort is similar to that in the front, with plenty of legroom, but the third-row seats are incredibly hard and basic and it is clear the capacious boot behind – more on that later – is at the expense of legroom here.
The centre row cannot slide to provide more space for those at the back but shoulder space is pretty generous – in the Patrol this is a three-seat bench – and headroom is adequate provided the backrest is reclined, which also liberates a little more legroom as it allows the squab to slide backwards.
The third-row folding mechanism glides gracefully under electric power – which can also be used by its occupants to set their backrest recline angle – while the second-row is manual and flips like a trebuchet when the release handle is pulled. Keep your chihuahua well out of the way.
Storage is good, though. Under the broad central armrest is a cavernous felt-lined storage bin, the glovebox is pretty generous, there is a sunglasses holder in the ceiling and all four door bins are large with bottle-carrying capacity. The QX80 also has nine cupholders, ranging in size from giant slurpee to espresso shot.
The boot has underfloor storage area but the biggest news here is its impressive 470L capacity with all seven seats in use. It expands to a huge 1405L with the third row stowed and a garage-like 2265L with all the seats folded.
On the move, we found the QX80 fits its luxury brief in terms of quietness and isolation, thanks in part to improved soundproofing on this updated model. It does, however, allow some of that beautiful V8 bellow to enter the cabin under acceleration.
Despite its substantial size (5340mm long, 2265mm wide, 1945mm tall and weighing in at more than 2.8 tonnes) the Infiniti does not feel unwieldy and tends to shrink around the driver – until you notice you are peering down like a tank commander at Prado drivers.
The cruise control system regularly runs away with itself on gradients, making it a bit less relaxing to use than it should be. It will bring the vehicle to a complete halt, but only for a while before it beeps and requires driver intervention to stop it creeping forward.
Problems like this, the dated infotainment and lack of differentiation from the Nissan upon which it’s based mean the Infiniti fails to feel quite as special inside as any of its luxury-brand rivals, or as honest as a LandCruiser Sahara.
The QX80’s drivetrain has not been altered for this facelift, which is no bad thing as the 5.6-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine punches out 298kW of power at 5800rpm, 560Nm of torque at 4000rpm and the most wonderful sound.
It has a fantastic smooth and free-spinning character, providing a claimed zero to 100km/h acceleration of 7.5 seconds that we have no reason to question. The seven-speed automatic transmission is a peach, too, shifting intelligently, quickly and smoothly. The whole setup is wonderfully flexible and a pleasure to use. Now that’s a luxury.
Official combined-cycle fuel consumption is 14.8 litres per 100 kilometres. We got 15.3L/100km during our week-long test, which was much better than we expected, with a respectable 10.3L/100km on the motorway that undercut the official highway figure of 10.8L/100km. As a result, the 100-litre fuel tank provides reasonable range.
Ride and handling
Despite work done by Infiniti for this update to better absorb small bumps and ripples, the QX80 struggles to absorb initial impacts at suburban speeds, which we blamed on its big 22-inch wheels. But generally, it wafts around soaking up uneven surfaces with the ease you’d expect from a big, heavy luxury SUV – especially at country road and motorway velocities.
A 12.6-metre turning circle does make swinging into tight parking spots tricky, but the big Infiniti is easy to place, and visibility is pretty good.
In fact, the steering is incredibly light, fluid and smooth for manoeuvring, and would be a revelation if you are used to something like a LandCruiser 200 Series. The Infiniti feels a lot less lethargic than a LandCruiser in general.
The smooth and light steering we enjoyed round town was surprisingly not too slow when we took the QX80 along our challenging dynamic test route, but it was completely devoid of feel and feedback.
It’s impossible to be aware of what is happening at the wheels, but the big tyres help it hold on pretty well – even in the wet conditions of our test. It only really came alive – and not in a good way – when we experienced rack rattle on some poorly surfaced corners.
Braking is a weak point – unsurprisingly given the Infiniti weighs 2.8 tonnes – and it took a hell of a long time to haul it up on damp roads. Even at slower speeds the braking experience is pretty uncomfortable, pitching the car and its occupants forward and feeling reluctant to come to a complete stop. This is worst when decelerating down hills.
It’s pretty hi-tech underneath, with independent suspension all round and Hydraulic Body Motion Control that eliminates the compromise of sway bars, enabling flatter cornering on road and plenty of wheel travel off-road.
The system really works on road, with the kind of wallow you’d expect from a vehicle of this type conspicuously absent. There’s rear auto-levelling to help when fully loaded, or using the QX80’s 3500kg towing capacity.
And although it shares all the Patrol’s off-road hardware, with those spangly 22-inch alloys, we were not game to drop the QX80 into low-range and hit the trails.
We did venture onto some gravel roads, though, where the Infiniti remained as remarkably refined and stable as in any other environment.
Safety and servicing
ANCAP has not rated the QX80 or Nissan Y62 Patrol on which it is based.
Infiniti provides a four-year, 100,000km warranty plus a comprehensive roadside assistance package that can cover a second family member and vehicle in addition to the QX80 itself.
Few people know what an Infiniti is, but the QX80 sure did get a lot of attention during our week with it. It is definitely a superior brand-builder than Infiniti’s more generic-looking smaller models. Being so big, chromed, obviously expensive and unusual means people can’t help but be curious.
But being petrol-only, with minimal brand recognition, there has to be something about the QX80 that really floats your boat if you’re going to commit.
In terms of how it drives, the QX80 is much easier to live with than a similar-priced LandCruiser or the more expensive Lexus LX, that’s for sure. We’d definitely recommend you compare if petrol power is not an issue.
From that perspective the QX80 could even be considered a budget alternative to the full-size Range Rover at $80,000 less than that car’s starting price – but by the same token you’d get a lot of Land Rover’s decidedly premium and much more practical Discovery for $111K. Both the Brits have nicer interiors and superior technology.
But would we have one over a Mercedes GLS? Not sure. We’d be more tempted by a Volvo XC90 or Audi Q7.
Overall though, we’d be much more likely to save more than $20,000 and buy a Nissan Patrol instead.
Toyota LandCruiser Sahara petrol $115,230 plus on-road costs
Arguably the QX80’s most obvious rival given the Lexus LX is so much more expensive. But it feels pretty ancient by comparison in terms of how it drives. Heavy, lethargic and sluggish. But it’s the ultimate ship of the desert.
Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription $102,900 plus on-road costs
Characterful, sumptuous, well thought-out Euroean SUV. Volvo’s first solo effort in many years is a good one and it’s an incredibly classy way to travel with impressive on-board tech. Probably the antithesis of the Infiniti.
Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE $114,900 plus on-road costs
In terms of brashness, the Rangie Sport is in a similar league to the Infiniti – see what we did there – but we’d prefer its more practical and demure Discovery sibling.
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