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Driven: Infiniti QX80 to help seize back sales

Off-road in style: Infiniti’s QX80 large SUV will blast into showrooms this month from $110,900 before on-road costs as the luxury brand’s most expensive model.

Improved sales performance expected of Infiniti’s new QX80 large luxury SUV

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Infiniti logo30 Mar 2018

INFINITI Cars Australia is expecting around a 20 per cent lift in sales volume for its facelifted QX80 upper-large luxury SUV that enters showrooms this month with an unchanged starting price.

The Japanese-built SUV was one of only two models to grow volume substantially last year in Infiniti’s stable, moving from 61 units in 2016 to 85 in 2017, while Infiniti sales overall dipped from 807 to 776 between those calendar years.

It was the first time the car-maker has not achieved growth since its local debut in 2012.

Infiniti will continue with a $110,900 plus on-road costs pricetag for the mechanically unchanged, but lightly facelifted QX80, avoiding the trend set by Nissan in 2015 when it culled the price of the Patrol Ti-L (on which it is based) by $27,500 to $86,990 – although the facelifted version has since risen to $88,990.

However, Nissan Cars Australia managing director Stephen Lester, whose company oversees the Infiniti Australia operation, has committed to achieving substantial growth from the low-volume model and insisted that it was an important part of the Infiniti line-up locally.

“I don’t think we would ever commit to specific numbers, but obviously we want to see sales over 100 units next year,” he said, speaking on behalf of Infiniti Cars Australia managing director Chang-hwan (CH) Lee who was unable to attend the national media launch of the QX80 in northern Victoria this week.

“Sales of the last few weeks have been pretty strong from our retailers across the country, again in this segment when we’re talking about the volumes we have currently, it’s not a significant number in the grander automotive sphere, but it’s very significant to us.

“As a brand halo, as a brand shaper in the luxury segment, this vehicle offers probably the biggest refresh of a model that I’ve ever seen, when you think of an Infiniti and what has been done to the front, to the rear and the interior without being an all-new model.

“It’s a much more leather ensconced package. Much of the centre stack has stayed the same … but it’s bringing the level of luxury up in the vehicle with those finer and softer touches. Certainly it brings it in line with all the brand features from an Infiniti standpoint.”

Mr Lester said that he hoped the QX80 would help Infiniti turn its sales slide around this year and end with positive growth. Communications around the QX80 will be boosted this year, and interest from new rivals in the upper-large SUV segment will be leveraged.

While the Lexus LX570, Mercedes-Benz GLS and Range Rover were viewed as key competitors, the pricier Bentley Bentayga was also listed as another rival.

“When you consider what this segment represents and how wide it is … why you would include Bentley in that, well this is a humungous segment not just in physical size but also who that customer (is) and I think certainly the presence of the vehicle establishes the vehicle as a force to be reckoned with in this segment,” Mr Lester continued.

“I think you’ll see a comprehensive communications package from the Infiniti team … especially how you reach consumers in this $100K-plus vehicle category is not just by mainstream television and billboard communications, but actually through a lot of other things we’re doing.

“So we recently announced the exciting partnership we’re doing with Melbourne Football Club, and this offers us contact with a very wide array of customers and people in the target demographic. So we’ll be doing a lot of activities to reach those people.”

As with the Patrol Ti-L on which it is based, the QX80 will remain a petrol V8-only proposition despite key competitors from Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover listing diesel as the preferred choice of customers in this class.

“At the present time we have no plans to put a diesel in this vehicle,” Mr Lester said.

“Diesel is not the core competence for this vehicle, or for the Infiniti brand in general. In Australia it definitely is a different market from anywhere around the world. Coming from an American perspective nobody is saying that word (diesel) so it is a different market, no question.

“Would that be suitable here? We will always push the team for what will work in our market. (But) I think what’s exciting is when you drive the vehicle, when you see the towing capacity of the vehicle, the view from behind the wheel and what they (buyers) are towing, this is not necessarily the driving force that all of these customers have, that it should be diesel and diesel only.”

Starting with newly shaped, angular LED headlights (with automatic up/down high-beam) and a more sharply protruding front grille, Infiniti said it has added edges to the pre-facelift model’s rounded lines. The bonnet is now placed 20mm higher and it extends 90mm further forward to provide a “squared-off” look.

Likewise, a more angular front-side guard applique, higher shoulder crease, a newly angular rear bar and more horizontal LED tail-lights emphasises width.

Inside, Infiniti has extended the quilted leather trim to a greater variety of places and has added thicker padding.

The twin-rear screens have moved from 7.0 to 8.0 inches and with higher resolution, there is a new rear HDMI port and a further duo of rear USB ports, plus fresh Auxiliary inputs for headphones.

A revised dashboard layout and 8.0-inch InTouch infotainment system also feature, while storage space and cupholder size has been further expanded.

The 5340mm-long, 2265mm-wide and 1945mm-tall QX80 has an unchanged 470-litre cargo area with all seven seats in use, extending to 1405L with the third-row electrically folded.

The only change is 20mm-wider running boards for improved occupant entry and exit, while greater soundproofing has been used to achieve a five per cent reduction in “cabin articulation” that measures the audibility of speech between occupants.

Underneath, the fully independent Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC) suspension has been revised with damping wound back by 30 per cent, while the rear auto-levelling suspension and 3500kg towing capacity has been maintained.

Customer feedback has further resulted in a five per cent change to the tyres’ vertical deflection to help absorb smaller bumps and ripples, according to Infiniti, and a new underbody cover helps push air away from rear tyres to reduce drag – although the 0.36 Cd remains unchanged.

The drivetrain likewise has not been altered. The QX80 continues to use only a 5.6-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine with 298kW of power at 5800rpm and 560Nm of torque at 4000rpm, with claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 7.5 seconds and combined-cycle fuel consumption of 14.5 litres per 100 kilometres.

A standard seven-speed automatic transmission includes rev-matching in manual mode, actuated via the tipshifter only, and it continues to include high- and low-range gearing.

The permanent all-wheel-drive system still features a centre differential lock, Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) torque vectoring, hill-descent control, and On Road, Rock, Sand, and Snow modes.

Over the Patrol Ti-L, the QX80 adds LED headlights and tail-lights, forward collision warning, forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking (AEB), a towbar, 22-inch alloy wheels (from 18s), stainless steel rear bar, sports bar, heated steering wheel, semi-aniline leather, heated rear seats, power-fold third-row, a rear-view mirror with forward camera, a Bose audio system with two additional speakers (15), a 10-way (up from eight-way) electrically adjustable driver’s seat, plus an eight-way electrically adjustable passenger’s seat.

Infiniti also provides a four-year warranty over Nissan’s three years, plus a standard premium roadside assistance package that allows for a second family member and vehicle to be covered under the QX80’s roadside-help package.

Other safety features include an around-view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assistance, active cruise control, and a blind-spot monitor.

Meanwhile, further comfort features include keyless-auto entry with push-button start, a sunroof, satellite navigation, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning and wireless rear headphones.

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