One look at the Infiniti QX80 and you will realise which global markets this luxury SUV is aimed at. With its shiny chrome finishes, hulking presence and burly engine, this is undoubtedly a vehicle designed for places such as the US, Middle East, China and Russia.
Little wonder, then, that Nissan SA decided against importing the new Nissan Patrol – a vehicle that has a lot in common with the QX80 – when it was launched back in 2010.
Both the latest Patrol and the Infiniti QX80 are more reminiscent of large vehicles such as the Lincoln Navigator and the Cadillac Escalade than the 4x4s South African buyers tend to opt for.
The first thing that strikes you about the QX80 is its size. It is massive, with an overall length of around 5300mm and a width of more than 2000mm. And thanks to its bulging design and chrome finishes, it has even more of a presence than its dimensions suggest.
The big question is, will there be a market for this sort of SUV in SA? Can a huge 4×4 with a massive petrol engine sell in our market?
Despite its shiny and modern exterior, the underpinnings of the QX80 are decidedly old school. Like both the old and new Patrol, Infiniti’s SUV boasts a ladder-frame chassis.
These days, most manufacturers are moving towards monocoque designs. The latest Range Rover, for instance, sports a very fancy aluminium monocoque design that makes the QX80’s set-up look quite dated, but Infiniti’s ladder-on-frame design shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly.
The robust (some would say over-engineered) chassis of the old Nissan Patrol is famous for its toughness, so those looking for a shiny luxury SUV that can actually tackle the rough stuff will be heartened by the fact that this tried-and-trusted design has made it into the QX80.
Combine this ladder-frame chassis with low-range gearing, 233mm of ground clearance and Infiniti’s 4-wheel Active Brake Limited-Slip (ABLS), and the QX80 is more capable off road than it probably needs to be.
Like the chassis, the SUV’s powerplant is also quite old school. No modern bi-turbo set-up here. Instead, there is a meaty 5,6-litre V8 petrol mill that develops 298 kW of power and 560 Nm of torque.
Thankfully, though, the engine is mated to a modern seven-speed automatic transmission. Nine-speed autos are quickly becoming the norm, but the QX80’s gearbox does its work well.
An extensive suite of advance technology systems is standard with the QX80, ranging
from Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Emergency Braking, Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Backup Collision Intervention (BCI), Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Distance Control Assist (DCA).
Also included is Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), Front Pre-Crash Seatbelts, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) with auto-levelling headlights and Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC) system. The HBMC system helps reduce body lean in turns, resulting in improved ride comfort for passengers in all three rows. Hydraulic chambers integrated into each shock absorber automatically control suspension travel.
The Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) system warns the driver of risks that lie beyond the driver’s forward field of vision. It not only senses the relative velocity and distance of a vehicle directly ahead, but also of a vehicle travelling in front of the preceding one.
Step into the cabin of the QX80, and you’ll be blown away by the space. This is a true eight-seater, capable of transporting three adults in the second row and two in the third row. Even with all seats folded open, you’ll still be left with a good chunk of luggage space.
The driver’s seat is 10-way power adjustable, including two-way power lumbar support. It also features a standard dual occupant memory system for the driver’s seat.
The front passenger’s seat is eight-way power adjustable, including two-way power lumbar support. Climate-controlled heating and cooling for the front seats is standard, and there is even heating for the second row of seats.
Cabin temperature is regulated with the help of Infiniti’s Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with air purifier.
Among the QX80’s premium entertainment and technology features are an eight-inch colour touch-screen display, 30GB hard drive navigation system with 10GB music storage, a Bluetooth hands-free system and an in-dash CD/DVD player with MP3 playback.
A Bose 15-speaker premium audio system with two subwoofers and rear headliner-mounted speakers has also been fitted.
Dual seven-inch monitors mounted on the rear of the front headrests, with two pairs of wireless headphones, a wireless remote control and auxiliary input jacks are there to keep passengers occupied. The system allows playback of games or movies in the rear, while front occupants listen to audio, all at the same time.
Despite its size and weight, the Infiniti QX80 accelerates with surprising speed. It doesn’t offer the sharp acceleration of vehicles such as the BMW X5M and supercharged Range Rover Sport, but no one could accuse the QX80 of feeling sluggish.
The reason for its competent acceleration (and impressive top speed), of course, is its 5,6-litre V8 petrol mill. This engine delivers 298 kW at 5800 r/min and 560 Nm of torque at 4000 r/min, and allows the QX80 to go from 0-100 km/h in 7,5 seconds and reach a top speed of 210 km/h.
The predictable downside of all that power is a stiff fuel bill. Infiniti claims a figure of 14,8 litre per 100km, but achieving that in a real world environment will be difficult. Driving carefully with all that power under your right foot is tough. And once you hit urban traffic, you’ll quickly see a consumption figure of 20 litres per 100km.
The seven-speed gearbox isn’t the most advanced transmission around, but it’s
well suited to the powerful V8. Driving the QX80 is a relaxed and pleasant experience, and should you put your foot down, it will respond instantly.
Braking is provided by 13,8-inch vented discs front and rear, with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and brake assist. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Infiniti’s Active Brake Limited-Slip (ABLS) is standard, along with “engine speed sensitive” power steering.
Considering its bulk, the QX80 feels reasonably nimble through corners. There is some roll when you attack a corner at speed, but Infiniti’s HBMC system does a decent job of levelling things out.
But performance isn’t the QX80’s primary concern. Sure, performance is important, but the chief aim of a luxury SUV is to transport occupants in comfort. The QX80 excels at this. Even on ugly roads, travelling is comfortable, which is especially impressive if you consider that the vehicle rides on 22-inch rims with relatively low-profile tyres.
That said, the QX80 does its best work on tar. It’s where the tyres are most comfortable and that powerful engine can best be put to use. The SUV has a respectable amount of off-road ability, but venturing onto a 4×4 trail feels odd. It is a luxury cruiser built for the open road.
The Infiniti QX80 is a tempting alternative to the established premium SUVs. It is competitively priced, very well equipped and offers impressive performance. Love-it-or-hate-it styling and a steep fuel bill might count against it, though. But if you are looking for a spacious luxury SUV that can do the odd bit of off-roading, the QX80 is worth looking at.