Infiniti QX80: The Feisty Leviathan

2015 Infiniti QX80

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Nissan Patrolimage126364_b

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The QX80 is a brutish thug in an Armani suit. It is the Bouncer of the auto world. It is big and butch but impeccably dressed.

You stand next to it and realise the top of the bonnet comes up to the chest of a 6 foot tall bloke, then you see that a badge proudly proclaiming a thumping 5.6 Litre V8 lurks inside. How do I know it’s thumping? All 5.6litre V8’s thump. Everything about this off-roader is big: big bonnet, big seats, and to go with the big engine, big performance and even bigger fuel consumption. Even with a big (but nowhere near big enough) 100L fuel tank, average use will see it drained at 28L/100k. The claimed combined figure of 14/100k seems rather hopeful, but if most of your driving was on the freeway you might get closer to the fanciful claim. Our figures came from the On-board computer and the fact that we got a little less than 300k out of the 100L tank seems to back it up. One wonders where the claimed fuel consumption was invented doesn’t one? The 298kw/560Nm power/torque numbers go some way to explain the economy, and the 2837kg mass and 3500kg GVW explains the rest of it. Imagine what you’d get if you were towing something.

 

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Nissan Patrol right VS Infiniti QX80 right

 

If the QX80 looks slightly familiar, have a butchers at the Nissan Patrol. Although the patrol got a somewhat controversial and polarising front and rear make over and a few extra bits inside, I’m not sure that justifies the $122,110 (on-road NSW) VS the $94,679 (on-road NSW) for the top patrol.

Confusingly, the patrol gets a 140L fuel tank, while the Infiniti gets a piddling 100L tank. 100L is normally cavernous, but we found that with a very light foot, city traffic seems to drain the tank faster than Amy Winehouse’s cocktail glass. That’s fine if you’re in town where most buyers will undoubtedly be found, but what of gallivanting across the Gibson? You won’t get very far without needing fuel flown in!

Looking at the tasteful cabin: you’ll enter via the smart key button on either of the front doors. Nissan hasn’t fitted them for rear doors but there is a rubber opening button and locking nipple under the handle on the rear hatch. There are 7 seats which can be manipulated by twiddling some buttons which control little motors. The 3rd row are operated by discrete buttons inside the cargo hold, but the 2nd row and be collapsed in a grander fashion by buttons on the dash. The 2nd row seat back flop forward with a loud thud, then fold completely forward in just a few seconds. The 2nd row headrests can be a pest so it’s a bit of fun to see them disappear with the flick of the wrist.

The driver’s seat is very comfy but very far off the ground. Like most full size 4×4’s, an optional side step is essential. Even a taller bloke will have to hoist himself in by the grab handle so the step makes thins slightly more graceful. The cabin is tasteful and has an air of sumptuous elegance. Keep in mind it is image126327_bpossible, though highly unlikely, that this rig will find itself axel-deep in schmutz, so is a luxury interior quite appropriate? Deep plush twist-pile and acres of hand-reared cow don’t hold up well when a driver is covered in filth. I was on the dunes recently, and no matter how careful you are, you can’t help but bring half of it into the cabin. We had sand and dirt from stem to stern. Had the day been wet and muddy, well, say no more. No, the Infiniti will no doubt be seen mostly driven by rappers and footy players no further than the M 1 turnoff. They don’t drive long distance, they’ll jet there in a jiff.

Doomed as it is to city service, the QX80 dispatches its duties with the aplomb fleet-footed school boy. It is eager, and while not exactly nimble, is quick off the mark. The V8 has a higher pitched rumble which aficionados will appreciate. The steering has almost no feel but this isn’t a sports car so it hardly matters. The handling is surprisingly good. You won’t be throwing it around corners intentionally, but if you do get more enthusiastic than you’d otherwise wish, you won’t feel like you’re going to scrape the door handles off. In fact, the Infiniti makes a decent fist of corners considering the impressive bulk. The ride on a slightly bumpy suburban street is not as limo-like as you’d hope. The remnants of an outdoorsy-outback-desert-crossing-mountain-leaping-lifestyle means as suspension setup that has to cope with knee high rocks, knee deep mud, and snow cold enough make your testicles want to pack their bags and migrate to warmer climes of their own accord. The fact that a road is a doddle by comparison means you will never get the suspension out of first gear, but it still has to cope with all surfaces. It is impossible to get sedan ride in SUV form and be really good at both on and off-road. It is a common fault with SUVs. None the less it would transport you and all you BFFs in great style and comfort. The chaps in the 3rd row might need to be petite, but other than that the QX80 is a capacious luxury bus with the power of a small sun.

It is important to note that the QX80 is a proper 4WD not a watered down AWD softroader such as an BMW X5, Mercedes Benz ML or Audi Q.

There are many off-road gadgets which no doubt make trans-continental treks easy but those thousands spent on such technology will mostly go wanting.

On the highway, the Infiniti is as at home as it is on a rocky, rutted mountain but it struggles in town. The 360º view camera, while handy, cannot hide the sheer size. Almost the entire parking space is used any time the wheels stop turning. Getting into a parking spot a trial and darting in and out of peak hour traffic is a mere dream. Including LCVs like HiLux, Triton and Nissan’s own Navara, SUV-style vehicles make nearly 50% of all vehicles sold so why, when no one will ever go off-road, do we insist on our ever spiraling love affair with them? Who knows. The real question should be: why spend more mony, use more petrol, take up more space and have a vehicle more difficult to live with than conventional coupe, sedan or hatch? I could understand it if we all lived on farms, or if the urban hoards descended on the countryside hell-bent on the mass erection flimsy structures scarcely more advanced than a teepee, but we don’t.

So far things have gone pretty much as expected. We have a big well-appointed barge with a slightly questionable front end, but for a hundred and twenty grand I’d expect all the bells and whistles. For example: there is blind spot monitoring, but the lane keeping is passive only, and merely gives a chirp. Cheaper cars apply subtle torque to the steering wheel to coax you back into your lane, and, there is no automated parking. That is something that is available on a base model Commodore ute. But worst of all is the sound from the rather marvelous looking Bose audio system. The radio sounds tinny enough, but plug in your iPhone and things go from bad to worse. Mister Bass deserts us completely leaving the sound thin and reedy. We tried everty adjustment to coax more bass from the system. It just won’t do, it won’t do at all. I thought it may have been a fault with our test car so had a fiddle with other QX80s. They sounded as bad.

The QX80 has many admirable attributes. It’s luxury and comfort are obvious. It rides beautifully and has decent handling despite its heft. There are very few full sized SUVs about the place and even fewer fall properly into the true luxury bracket. For me though, neither the QX80, nor the Lexus LX570, are sufficiently different from the more commonplace nameplates on which they’re based to justify the premium over the Nissan or Toyota badges. The real Achilles heel is the lack of smaller more economical engines, or a diesel or hybrid alternative for the posh greenies. On the other hand, the V8 Range Rover Range Rover is a diesel and costs $215,900 (on-road NSW) which is almost 100 grand more than the QX80. The Range Rover fleet has 3 engines, all of which use much less fuel, but even the cheapest 3.0L diesel is $193,900 (on-road NSW). You can do a lot with $73,000 so as I see it, the QX80 slots in under the cheapest of the uber Euro SUVs. For those who either can’t or won’t pay more, there is an alternative. However, the type of bloke who buys a QX80 would not be seen dead in a tent.

Price: $122,110 (drive-away NSW)

Engine: 5.6L direct injection V8, 298kw/560Nm

Trans: 7 sp auto with electronic control

Econ: 14.8 L/100k combined city/country as per Infiniti spec sheet (but we got 28L/100k)

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