The Infiniti QX80 is designed to stand out. It’s hideous, but maybe in a good way.
There’s no denying its deliberately vulgar appearance, and no angle that we could find made it look any better. It was designed for the American market and American tastes, and while we would generally say that ‘looks are subjective’, in this case it’s actually objective. It’s ugly. Moving on.
Basically, the QX80 is the Y62 Nissan Patrol with a different front and rear design, uprated interior trim and additional standard features. In fact, from an engineering point of view the only difference between the Nissan and Infiniti is the use of hydraulic body motion control with a stiffer ride (about 10.0 per cent more than Patrol), giving the Infiniti flatter cornering characteristics as well as a more compliant ride over rough surfaces.
At a retail price of $110,900 plus on-road costs, the QX80 is also almost $24,000 more expensive than the top-spec Nissan Patrol V8 Ti-L, and almost $41,000 pricier than the entry Ti. This is down the the mammoth price cuts Nissan announced on its biggest SUV just last month. It's worth considering that until these cuts, the Ti-L Patrol cost $114,490, a higher sum than the QX80.
With this in mind, the real question is why would you buy one over the Patrol?
Well, it’s not a Nissan. Infiniti may not have the brand credentials of Mercedes-Benz or BMW, but it’s on the slow climb to being recognised locally as a luxury player, and for those that want a large, luxury eight-seater SUV – one more seat than most of its rivals – the QX80 makes a bit of sense.
It does of course gain a whole heap of additional features over its Nissan counterpart. Highlights include forward collision detection with autonomous braking, backup collision intervention, an integrated towbar package, 22-inch wheels (18s on the Patrol), heated steering wheel, 15-speaker Bose sound system, LED front lights with auto high beam, leather-appointed seats with a powered reclining third row, 10-way and 8-way driver and front passenger seats respectively, a four-year warranty as opposed to three and premium roadside assistance.
Read our original pricing and specifications story here.
Even so, step inside and there’s no denying its Patrol underpinnings. The interior is a near clone of the Patrol in a different state of trim. When Audi takes a Volkswagen and makes it its own, the two vehicles are very different inside. That is not the case here. In that sense, it’s very similar to Lexus’ LX570, which is a Toyota LandCruiser 200 with makeup and the QX80's obvious rival.
The use of fake wood through the dash and the general fit-and-finish and interior appointments, such as the Nissan-derived infotainment system, leave a lot to the imagination for a luxury car.
On the plus side, the heated and cooled front seat are a nice place to sit, the second row offers heaps of room (and TV screens to keep the kids happy) and the third row, while compromising boot space (1404L with all seats in use, 470L with the third row folded flat), is more than ideal for kids or height-challenged adults.
The good news is it comes with ISOFIX child seat anchor points which, of all the cars Infiniti Australia now sells, make the most sense in the QX80.
Overall, the general cabin ambience is not befitting of what we’ve come to expect from the Infiniti brand that gave us the slick Q50 sedan, fitted with a modern and sophisticated interior that in this writer's opinion is only second to the newer Mercedes-Benz C-Class in its segment.
That’s mainly because the QX80 is not a new model, but one that was originally launched in 2012 in other markets, updated earlier this year and now heading to Australia about half way through its lifecycle.
Under the bonnet sits the Patrol’s giant 5.6-litre V8 with 298kW of power and 560Nm of torque. It’s actually the same engine family as the one found in the Nissan V8 Supercar team. It’s coupled to a seven-speed conventional automatic transmission and drinks fuel like a champion (we averaged about 17L/100km).
We came to Hobart (where Infiniti actually doesn’t yet have a dealership) to find out if the QX80 goes better than it looks.
Under full throttle it’s fair to say the V8 engine does tend to make a glorious sound. It’s not as meaty or as sophisticated in its audacity as say, the GL 63 AMG, but it’s also a good $103,600 less.
Nonetheless, the Infiniti QX80 is not a performance SUV. It’s not meant to be fast and that become very evident the moment we found some twisty roads on the way from Hobart to Launceston.
The steering is lifeless and ambiguous on centre – exactly like the Patrol – meanwhile it still leans a fair bit into corners despite its body motion control, and although most of the extra large-SUV’s dynamic handling character comes down to pure physics, it’s somewhat disappointing from that perspective.
It is, however, surprising compliant over dirt or poorly surfaced roads, of which we encountered plenty. Despite the oversized 22-inch wheels, the QX80 would be an ideal choice for buyers that commute long distances over country roads. It’s quiet too, with minimal road or tyre noise translating into the cabin.
There’s really nothing ‘wrong’ with the Infiniti QX80, it just seems more like an interim solution to field a competitor in that part of the segment, rather than a model that would lift the Infiniti brand’s credentials and awareness.
We drove it hard and we drove it slow and overall, it’s hard to fault it for what it is: a giant, off-road capable luxury SUV for large families and despite all the mentioned negatives, after a few hundred kilometres, it does grow on you.
There’s something about it. Maybe it’s the heads it turns, maybe it’s the ‘I don’t care what you think’ attitude it so shamelessly represents, whatever the case may be, it will certainly appeal to a niche part of the market.
The Infiniti QX80 is meant for those that want to make a statement, the company says. Buyers that want their presence felt and, much like a British bulldog owner, can appreciate peculiar looks.
To answer the original question, does it make sense over a Nissan Patrol? Unless bigger wheels and a different badge mean anything to you, the answer to that is a no. But perhaps that’s the wrong question to ask, for its $110,900 all-inclusive and no options price compares favourably against the options-crazy Mercedes-Benz GL (starts at $114,900), Lexus LX570 ($134,700) and offerings from Range Rover (from $179,800).
Nonetheless, it all comes down to transaction price, because if Infiniti dealers are willing to drop below $100,000, the QX80 starts to make even more sense.
It will be interesting to see if the Infiniti QX80 will take sales away from the likes of Lexus, or just convince Y62 Patrol buyers to upgrade.