On the plane on the way to George to drive the all-new Infiniti QX80, I had two troubling issues on my mind.
The first was the all-new DareDevil TV series. Matt Murdock, also known as DareDevil, is one of my favourite comic book characters of all time and they’ve just made a TV show about him. I just knew it was going to flop big time. The themes explored in the DareDevil comics simply wouldn’t work on mainstream TV, so I was expecting a watered-down version of my favourite anti-hero.
My thoughts on the Infiniti were exactly the same. I was expecting a watered-down Range Rover, made for boulevard cruising rather than bundu bashing.
I was wrong on both accounts. I’ve seen only one episode of DareDevil, which was as dark and broody as the source material, and I’m reliably informed that it only gets better from there.
As for the Infiniti, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was expecting an American version of a large luxury SUV, but instead I found something that gets very close to the Range Rover. In fact, this may even be the thinking man’s Range Rover. It costs R1 240 000, which is about R200 000 less than the entry-level Range Rover. It’s also R100 000 cheaper than the Lexus LX570 and Mercedes-Benz GL.
You might think that R200 000 matters little in this particular segment, but since the financial downturn a couple of years ago, buyers are looking more closely at value for money across all segments. Even the rich can appreciate a good buy, and in this segment there’s nothing remotely close to the QX80 in the value for money stakes.
It also helps that there’s only one model in the line-up. There’s no need to tick extra boxes on the options list, because the eight-seater QX80 has everything, and I really do mean everything.
It would be impossible to list all the features, but my personal highlights are the rear entertainment system with cordless headphones, radar guided cruise control, electronically folding second row seats, heated and ventilated seats front and rear and an around-view camera system that allows you to monitor the vehicle from all angles when you go off-roading. It even has a heated steering wheel, which worked like a charm on a cold and wet George morning.
This car is as luxurious as they come and, even now, a few days after driving it, I can’t think of a single luxury or gadget that was missing.
As for quality, it’s on a par with the best. Every surface you can see and touch is festooned in leather, wood or high quality soft-touch plastic. There’s an aura of well being in the cabin, and you get the sense that you’ve arrived before the wheels even start turning.
Then you switch on and the massive lump of an engine barks to life. It’s a 5,6-litre naturally aspirated V8, and after emitting a burly sound to let you know it’s there, it settles down to a nice, gentle thrum. Not that it remains gentle for too long. How could it possibly do that with 298kW and 560Nm on tap? For the record, it can haul itself to 100km/h in 7,5 seconds, which is plenty fast for a car that’s larger than most modern bachelor flats.
Drive it slowly and the noise is hardly noticeable. Infiniti obviously put a lot of effort into keeping noise, vibration and harshness levels as low as possible. Once again, it easily matches the Range Rover.
On tar, at both low and high speeds, it does exactly what you’d expect. It’s composed, smooth and makes light work of overtaking poor people.
Infiniti is aiming this car squarely at the off-road market and to put this to the test, my co-pilot and I drove it on a short dune course near Vleesbaai. I came away feeling as though I had barely scratched the surface of what this vehicle can do. It conquered the dunes with ease, never needing more than a quarter throttle.
All signs point to this car being the ultimate luxury off-roader, but I’m going to wait for a proper Leisure Wheels off-road test before calling it. We’ll hopefully be getting a test vehicle for a week soon.
My instincts tell me that the Infiniti may out Range Rover the Range Rover. That’s how good a first impression the QX80 makes.