IN a bid to take the fight to its more established rivals, Infiniti has pulled out all of the stops with the introduction of its super-sized QX80 SUV. But, having sampled this luxurious leviathan, we had to ask ourselves: is bigger really better?
At the time of testing the Infiniti QX80, we also had the Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG Coupé (see page 90) and Kia Grand Sedona gracing our forecourt, both substantial cars in their own right. But the arrival of the big Infiniti made them look like a pair of Dinky Toys
But, while its dimensions are suitably imposing, the styling isn’t so much Marmite-divisive as cod-liver-oil-difficult-to-digest. The combination of a vast grille pasted on that bullnose front flanked by small, low-set headlamps, slabby sides and a fairly nondescript tail don’t make for a particularly handsome vehicle. A darker colour could prove a bit more engaging, potentially contrasting the impressive 22-inch rims that looked lost against the sheer expanse of our test unit’s silver paintwork.
The cabin is better news, though. The team was impressed by the quality and fitment of the interior trimmings, particularly the quilted door panels, stitched leather that covered most surfaces and the creak-free, if somewhat gaudy, wood inlays.
As with most Infinitis, much of the QX80’s switchgear will receive a nod of recognition from those who’ve sampled most high-end Nissan products, and while the centre console is something of a button riot, the controls are legible and it doesn’t take long for the driver to familiarise themselves with the ancillaries.
That two-metre width and a wheelbase measuring just over three metres mean that the QX80 doesn’t want for much in terms of cabin space. The second row feels especially impressive owing to its metre of headroom and 800 mm of legroom but, as is often the case, the rearmost pews are the preserve of kids. They’re also a bit hit-and-miss in terms of packaging modularity. Although they’re designed to fold into the boot floor, the seatbacks still form a ramp when lowered and, while their electrically assisted folding mechanism looks impressive, it’s painfully slow and the controls don’t have a one-touch function, leaving you standing there with your finger on the button for some time – a basic mechanical arrangement would’ve been a better bet. For the vehicle’s sheer size, luggage and utility space are merely good when viewed alongside the cavernous capacities of its abovementioned rivals.
Mechanically, the QX80 is in essence a rebodied Y62-model Nissan Patrol and, measuring more than five metres long and around two metres in height, it’s the largest car that we’ve tested in quite some time. Therefore, when you pilot the car round town, you’re aware of every inch of its imposing frame, especially when attempting to park – an exercise that some of us joked would require planning permission – when the array of parking sensors and 360-degree camera system prove a godsend. Thankfully, the speed-variable power steering is fingertip light, although full lock requires over three turns.
On the open road and away from the grimacing that threading through urban confines entails, the QX80 acquits itself admirably as a long-distance cruiser. Wind and road noise are well suppressed; the ride, which can occasionally prove fidgety at low speeds, is pillowy and well damped; and the steering’s lack of feel and responsiveness around dead centre no longer irritates.
It’s unlikely that prospective owners will drive this car with any degree of aggression, but those inclined to do so will see the QX80 wallowing on its springs and screeching its tyres in an unpleasant battle with its sizeable mass.
Similarly, few owners will likely venture off the tarmac. But here the QX80 is an accomplished performer. One of our testers took the car on a demanding off-road trail and, courtesy of its rugged underpinnings, useful 234 mm of ground clearance and largely fool-proof drivetrain-management system, it simply sailed over most things thrown its way. The one caveat, though, is that the sensitive throttle requires a measured foot on more technical sections to avoid the vehicle digging in.
Like Toyota, Infiniti hasn’t adopted forced induction for its V8 powerplant, opting instead for good old-fashioned displacement. Given that it’s working against a whopping 2,8 tonnes of car, the QX80’s 5,6-litre unit feels strong and, barring some occasional hesitancy when booting the throttle, gels well with its smooth-shifting transmission.
Our performance tests further impressed upon us just how strong the big naturally aspirated V8 is, propelling the QX80 from standstill to 100 km/h in an impressive 7,53 seconds.
Braking was similarly surprising. While stamping on the anchors had the car diving a touch, those 350 mm discs brought proceedings to a halt in just three seconds.
But as big, burbling and smooth as it may be, being tasked with moving the QX80’s heft means that the engine is far from frugal. Time spent with the car saw test members returning average fuel consumption figures of between 22,0 and 24,0 L/100 km. Even measured driving on our fuel route didn’t improve matters much, with the QX80 consuming 20,4 L/100 km. Factor in CO2 emissions at an atmosphere-cleaving 350 g/km and running costs are substantial.
Like its closest rival, the Lexus LX570 SE, the Infiniti is simply packed to the gunwales with kit. Multi-zone climate control, rear entertainment system with seven-inch screens and wireless headphones, a raft of safety features including blind-spot assist and adaptive cruise control are all present, and form part of an extensive standard specification list to which there are no optional extras available.