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Driven: Infiniti QX80 a ‘big brand builder’

Big potential: Infiniti’s Nissan-Patrol-based QX80 is offered in one S Premium specification from $110,900 plus on-road costs.

The Infiniti QX80 has the potential to grow sales by straddling two segments


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23 Jul 2015

INFINITI Cars Australia says the introduction of its hulking QX80 is about building long-term brand awareness rather than conquering the luxury-SUV charts, but believes the competitive pricing and packaging will ensure it draws interest from large mainstream four-wheel-drive wagons.

The Infiniti QX80 is based on the Y62 Nissan Patrol, and is on sale now in one specification only – S Premium – from $110,900, plus on-road costs.

According to Infiniti Cars Australia managing director Jean-Philippe Roux, Nissan’s luxury brand is committed to a large SUV flagship for the long term Down Under.

“There is a whole product development activity behind the QX80,” he told GoAuto at the Japanese-built SUV’s launch in Tasmania. “It is a mid-term strategy… it’s not a one-shot launch. There are plans to work on the evolution of QX80. This is a new-to-market vehicle that embodies the values of Infiniti around design, performance, and features, but also is preparing the ground for the next QX80.

Mr Roux highlighted Inifiniti’s future product roll out in Australia, which the QX80 is kicking off.

“And the broader picture is that now we are beginning the second wave of Infiniti, where we will be launching more products and expanding the network… the QX80 will spearhead our new announcements in the market. It is the first event, and there are more things coming. But of course there is the sales potential in the market too.”

Infiniti says that while the QX80 is targeting the $134,310 Lexus LX570, Mercedes-Benz GL350 CDI diesel from $114,510, and Range Rover TDV6 Vogue from $179,800 in the premium SUV segment, the pool of buyers is small, with slightly more than 1100 overall sales recorded last year in the sector.

As a result, sharp pricing – it is Australia’s cheapest eight-seater luxury SUV – and a high level of specification means that the newcomer has also been strategically positioned to lure in customers of the Toyota 200 Series LandCruiser, Volvo XC90, Audi Q7, and even Nissan’s own Y62 Patrol (the Infiniti’s fraternal twin) in the sub-$100,000 large SUV sector, increasing the pool of potential customers ten-fold based on 2014 volumes.

“We think there’s a unique selling opportunity here,” says Infiniti Cars Australia product planner Bernard Michel. “It’s about expanding our product range… and it’s a vehicle we’ve had a lot of enquiry about – a vehicle that’s larger than (mid-size) QX70 … and this fits the bill. We’ve already had people expressing their interest in the car and that’s encouraging.

“In this segment, people are a little less concerned about fuel consumption.

They’re successful, they’re small business owners, with large families, and they want a car that makes a large statement.

Mr Michel said the seating capacity of the Infiniti will also ensure it appeals to potential buyers given a number of its rivals offer seven seats only.

“The Lexus is an eight-seater, but the GL-Class is a seven-seater, as is the Q7 and XC90, so it’s a very unique selling proposition in terms of having those eight seats. For an extended family carrying grandparents it is a unique vehicle. And that is a major consideration for buying this car.

“The upper-large SUV market itself is only around 1100 per annum, but we think there is a bigger opportunity where cars like the Q7 and XC90 sit in the large SUV segment. Because where we’ve positioned the car we’re hoping to attract more of those large SUV customers upwards. A lot of those cars start at about $90,000-plus, and they’re probably already spending about $130K by the time they’re out the dealer door. So this is very much in that sweet spot.”

Although no volume expectations have been divulged, Infiniti Cars Australia general manager of corporate communications Peter Fadeyev said that Y62 Patrol – which prior to a price reduction in early July started at $93,390 and included the $114,490 Ti-L eight-seater flagship – still managed to find 590 buyers last year, giving some indication of what the QX80 could achieve.

“Patrol sales last year were around 1200 units, and around 590 of those were of the Y62 (instead of the older-generation Y61 Patrol diesel alternative)… and if you looked for model-for-model, before the repositioning and at the higher price point, we sold nearly 600 units, so there is a very good opportunity for (the QX80).”

To the end of June, Infiniti sales are up nearly 30 per cent compared with the same period last year, albeit from a very low base of 210 units, up to 271 units.

The best-seller by far is the BMW 3 Series rivalling Q50 sedan with 139 registrations, followed by the QX70 SUV (92 units) and Q60 coupe and convertible (27 units).

As previously reported, the QX80 – which is a Y62 Patrol with differences to the nose cone, tailgate, tail-lights, and alloy wheels – was only given the green light for Australia in the latter part of last year, after protracted negotiations, with Infiniti waiting for the revised Series II version which was unveiled in mid-April internationally.

The facelift involved changes to the LED headlights, grille, air-intakes, fog-lights, bumpers, and interior trim, as well as an uptick in standard driver-assist systems.

Under that bulbous bonnet is the Y62’s 5.6-litre quad-cam direct-injection V8 petrol engine developing 298kW of power at 5800rpm and 560Nm of torque at 4000rpm, driving all four wheels via a seven-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.

With a tare mass of 2837kg, the combined average fuel consumption figure is 14.8 litres per 100km unsurprisingly, the fuel tank is 100 litres. No diesel engine is available anywhere in the world for this model (or the Patrol equivalent), highlighting the QX80’s United States/Asian/Middle Eastern-market priority.

Offering true off-road capability thanks to its ladder-on-frame chassis construction, the Infiniti SUV flagship’s 4WD system is on-demand, with three driving modes, a limited slip differential, hill descent control and lockable rear diff. The suspension consists of double wishbones with hydraulically-activated Body Motion Control compared to the Nissan version, the Infiniti has 10 per cent firmer spring rates.

Towing capacity is 3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked, with a ‘towbar package’ fitted to all vehicles. Tyres are 275/50R22 all-season items, wrapped around 22-inch alloys.

On the safety front there are six airbags, electronic stability and traction control with Brake Assist, radar-guided cruise control, Forward Emergency Braking with Predictive Forward Collision, Around-view monitor with moving object detection, back-up collision intervention with actual braking intervention, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and intervention, and post-collision braking most are new or upgraded for the 2015 facelift.

Additionally, the Infiniti includes LED front headlights with adaptive cornering lights, electrically operated as well as heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, a 15-speaker Bose sound system with two subwoofers and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual headrest-sited monitors, Bluetooth phone and streaming capability, keyless entry and start, satellite navigation, a surround-view camera monitor, sunroof, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, a heated steering wheel, electrically foldable third-row seats, a powered tailgate, side steps, and tyre pressure monitors.

Unveiled globally as the QX56 at the New York International Auto Show in April 2010, the QX80 was rechristened last year to bring it in line with Infiniti’s simplified alphanumerical naming system.

Other markets offering the SUV besides the US include Canada, Mexico, China, Eastern Europe, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

Launched in North America as the JA60 QX56 in January 2004, this car’s predecessor was a rebodied version of the US-built Nissan Armada – a full-sized SUV that was actually based on the company’s Ford F-Series truck-rivalling Titan.

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