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Car reviews - Infiniti - QX80 - SUV

Our Opinion

We like
True 4WD ability, roomy space for eight, reliability, smoothness, quietness, relative value for money, commanding vision
Room for improvement
Provocative styling, jittery ride over poor surfaces, disconnected steering feel, excessive fuel consumption, no diesel alternative

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Infiniti logo23 Jul 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

SIMPSONS fans (if there are many left), can you remember this gem from Season 10:"Can you name the truck with four-wheel drive? Smells like a steak and seats thirty-five? Canyonero! Canyonero!"Well, with the prevalence of leather-lined premium SUVs offering three-row seating and go-anywhere capability, you don’t have to be a jaundiced-skinned cartoon mother with a preposterous beehive to drive something akin to Matt Groening’s cautionary tale of motoring and egotistical excess.

But is the new, multi-seated Infiniti’ QX80 – the company’s answer to the equally formidable Lexus LX570 – really all that?Sure, with a petrol-swilling 5.6-litre V8 in a class where a diesel would at least somewhat assuage those concerned about excessive consumption, it is easy to dismiss the Japanese 4WD as an American-focussed SUV caricature.

We’re keen drivers, so the circa 2.8-tonne kerb weight, ladder-frame chassis construction, and articulated suspension acquired from the off-road prioritising Y62 Patrol doesn’t auger well for the QX80’s steering and handling characteristics and so it comes to pass, because we have never experienced a helm that has felt so disconnected and devoid of sufficient weight and feel as this. It is truly disconcerting at first.

However, closer inspection – and an open mind that is more akin to the target buyer that Infiniti is aiming this at – reveals something deeper and less black-and-white going on.

For starters, not many premium SUVs offer eight seats, besides the Lexus LX570, but it starts from about $25k more than the QX80, which kicks off from $110,900 plus on-roads.

Secondly, look at the specification – beyond the acres of fade and electrically operated gizmos are a bevy of driver-aiding safety features, such as radar-controlled cruise control, collision avoidance, and manoeuvrability warnings that do help make this 5300mm long by 2200mm wide 4x4 a bit less cumbersome.

Additionally, the dashboard is elegantly and logically presented, beautifully finished without any squeaks or rattles, while the seats are fat and cushy for a suitably opulent experience. Better still, there is heaps of space, an appreciable lack of unwanted noise intrusion, and the ambience is at least the equal of similarly positioned (but more expensive) rivals including the Lexus and the base version of the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

However, the Benz also offers a punchy and torquey V6 turbo-diesel that also uses appreciably less fuel than the thirsty Infiniti the company says economy isn’t top-of-mind in this segment, and the QX’s ultra-silky V8 really is a pleasure for its speed wrapped in refinement, but after a while, all the necessary visits to the bowser will become tiresome for many owners.

We’re also not so enamoured with the Infiniti’s on-road riding characteristics, since those massive 22-inch alloys do feel a bit jittery and unsettled on anything other than smooth surfaces. Funnily enough, they’re fine at smothering larger bumps and irregularities, but it’s the small stuff that the Infiniti’s hydraulically controlled suspension sweats over. Strange.

As for that lifeless, overly light steering… well, you get used to it after a while, to the point where it’s better to switch off and forget about any pretence of driving pleasure or athletic dynamic prowess.

And right there sums up the QX80. Nobody is going to buy it for sensory thrills instead, they’ll revel in the aggressive styling that lets the world know you’ve made it financially luxuriate in the hushed and cosseting confines of a cabin that can accommodate more than any other SUV for the money and rest assured in the knowledge that there are enough chimes, warnings, and active safety intervention should the anodyne driving experience lull you into non-concentrating sleepiness.

Above all, though, the QX80 can pretty much take you anywhere you need to go (as long as there are regular petrol stations to satiate that hungry motor).

That’s probably the closest that the Infiniti gets to being a Canyonero. Even though many people will not buy into its almost cartoonish SUV ways, the QX80 has as much reason to exist as any of its petrol-powered contemporaries.

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