Is there a car that so effectively says ‘I don’t care what you think about me’ as the Infiniti QX80 does?
Surely not. Everything about this bulbous and brutish luxury off-roader, based on the Nissan Patrol, is massive — the proportions, the cabin, the engine (and its requisite thirst for petrol), and its starting price of $110,900 plus on-road costs.
But is there also a certain kind of appeal in so succinctly thumbing your nose at the traffic around you? To some people, absolutely yes. Lots of people bought Hummers — including the guy who threw a knowing nod at me, somewhat inauspiciously, after I picked the QX80 up from Nissan HQ.
The Infiniti QX80 launched in Australia last month, though it has been available in select overseas markets — the US, primarily — for a few years now (for a time with QX56 badges). It’s a niche within a niche, but Infiniti’s small local line-up needed an injection to tide it over until the exciting new Q30 hatch arrives next year.
What is the QX80? In short, take a ‘Y62’ Nissan Patrol, add some bling, tweak the styling —presumably with the motto of ‘everything in moderation, including moderation itself’ — and specify the pants off it.
The result is a behemoth that targets the conceptually similar, Toyota LandCruiser-based Lexus LX570. Other size-comparable rivals include the petrol-powered Range Rover (a much more expensive and premium offering) and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.
That’s not to mention the top-spec Nissan Patrol Ti-L, which recently got an almost $30K price cut to make room for the QX80. Could the QX80 possibly be $25K better?
Let’s talk just quickly about that styling, because my gosh it’s a talking point. For all its faults, the Infiniti QX80 has massive presence, like a late-career Orson Welles or Brando chewing up the mise-en-scene.
Infiniti’s additions to the basic Patrol shape are, to most eyes we surveyed, rather silly. Those little chrome-ringed air inlets, the comic grille that amplifies the bonnet’s bulges and the overtly tiny headlights that flank it, clearly belonging on a smaller car but afraid to point it out.
When we said ‘smaller car’ in the previous paragraph, what that translated to it ‘almost literally any other car on the road’. The QX80 is big, seriously big. It’s 5.3 metres long, almost 2.0m tall with roof rails (most car parks are 2.2m, so you’re fine) and almost 2.3m wide with mirrors. The cabin is almost 2.0m across.
For perspective, that’s bigger than a Range Rover Vogue.
It’s also heavy — 2837kg dry (tare mass), with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3.5-tonnes — meaning a full load of passengers is going to have you at your maximum allowance. Especially if those passengers are motoring journalists.
Luckily, you’ve got some serious shove under that comical bonnet. A 5.6-litre petrol-fired double overhead cam V8 punching out 298kW at 5800rm and 560Nm at 4000rpm, matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission with an utterly incongruous manual mode.
And what a fantastic engine it is. It's as smooth as butter (undone on occasion by the odd patch of fussiness and indecisiveness from the transmission), pleasantly sonorous at idle and guttural under heavy throttle. We punched out a 0-100km/h sprint in 7.5-ish seconds, which is not a mile away from a Golf GTI. That’s ridiculous.
Of course, there’s a reason why most massive SUVs are diesel-powered (with the notable exception of the equally US-centric Lexus LX570). Matching the QX80’s colossal dimensions and pace is its king-sized thirst, akin to Barney Gumble at a Duff distillery.
Infiniti claims an official combined-cycle measure of 14.8 litres per 100km. We averaged 18.5L/100km over our 300km combined run, dropping to the low teens at highway cruise pace and pushing into the low 20s on the stop-start urban cycle. That 100L tank gets a workout.
We can scarcely imagine its thirst when towing, given it can legally handle a massive 3.5-tonne braked trailer (like the one that holds the big boat any QX80 owner is all-but-certain to own). Of course, it stands to reason that if you’re looking seriously at the QX80, you couldn’t give two hoots.
We talked about the sporty acceleration. This doesn’t extend to any soft of nimble tendencies in corners, despite the nifty double-wishbone suspension and a Hydraulic Body Motion Control system that is supposed to settle body lean.
The QX80 pitches and rolls about if you push it, and the light steering (with a whopping 3.5 turns lock-to-lock, giving it a dead spot on centre so it passes the requisite highway ‘sneeze test’) loads up at speed but never gives you much feel or feedback.
If ever a car was tuned for comfort, it’s this one. It’s a proper land yacht. And that’s fine with us, because what it lacks in alacrity it makes up for in pure comfort. Even though it sits on huge 22-inch rims, it dispatches road corrugations with the sort of dismissive attitude that we presume Donald Trump gives waiters.
It’s incredibly quiet at cruise too, with its windows-up cabin ambience matching the overall feeling of plushness. The Infiniti QX80 cossets you like a king — which you feel like, given the fact you’re also sitting higher than everyone on the road this side of a B-double truckie.
That driving position is indeed a highlight. You look out over a vast expanse of contoured bonnet, but the large side windows and big mirrors give you excellent visibility. You also get an around-view camera, lane assist (which beeps incessantly until you switch it off, since you’re about as wide as an entire inner-city lane) and a blind-spot warning system.
There’s a feeling of vast space up front, with the distance between driver and front passenger at least a foot, a distance covered by a large, square and leather-topped console. All around you are huge American-ready cupholders, door pockets and assorted spaces for your stuff.
The cabin itself feels like a living room.
The front seats are huge, a little flat and coated in high-quality leather. And yes, of course, they’re heated (along with the steering wheel) and electrically adjust in every direction. The electric-assisted seatbelts retract lowly and deliberately thanks to little motors.
Everywhere you turn you’re greeted with soft leather contact points, on the doors, console and flanking the dash. At worst, there are nice squishy plastics elsewhere. But the whole thing is then tied together with woodgrain reminiscent of an Emirates jet.
The actual layout of the fascia is dated by its clutter of buttons that themselves belong on a cheaper car than this one. Take this into account especially when you see the uber-swish cabin updates on the soon-to-be-updated Lexus LX570.
That said, some of the aforementioned buttons have novel functions, like the one near your right knee to operate the electric tailgate. However, we question the purpose of the two near the gear-stick that tumble the middle seats forward like middle-aged ballet dancers.
The eight-inch touchscreen lacks a rotary dial, and the infotainment system operation on it is clearly a generation old. That said, the sat-nav software is excellent, the whole system is simple to use and most of the bases are covered — with the exception of DAB+ digital radio.
The build quality is first rate, befitting a high-end Japanese brand like this one. Furthermore, the preventative safety technology (beyond what we’ve mentioned, there’s also radar-guided cruise control) actually works, the Bluetooth connection proved glitch-free and the 15-speaker, 5.1 Bose surround-sound system with two subwoofers is suitably orchestral.
Read our full Infiniti QX80 pricing and specifications breakdown here for a complete list of standard equipment, which is as long as War and Peace.
Dislikes beyond the lack of DAB+ and the cluttered layout? There’s only one USB point in the front, the instrument display ahead of the driver looks old, low-rent and does not include a digital speedo, the analogue clock is more Chinese knock-off than Swiss timepiece, and there’s an un-ergonomic foot-operated parking brake.
Space in the middle row is as impressive as the front, with outward visibility first-rate from your plush, couch-like and heated rear pews that easily seat three adult across (though foot-room under the front seats is strangely limited).
The middle row seats recline (there are US-style outboard Latch-compatible anchors), middling seven-inch screens embedded in the front two headrests (with USB/Aux and DVD compatibility) and roof-mounted vents with their own controls.
These middle seats fold flat and tumble forwards in one simple, commendable motion, via levers in their backs, or buttons either near the gearstick or in the cargo area, making entry/egress into the third row less of a chore.
Once ensconced in said third row, you notice sufficient headroom and width for two adults or three kids, though legroom is tighter than some. Naturally, all occupants get proper lap-sash belts, but the presence of third-row vents, cupholders and decent outward visibility via the large glasshouse are all welcome.
Safety watchdog ANCAP has not yet put the QX80 against its testing criteria, but it comes standard with six airbags including curtains.
From the rear of the car, you can electrically and individually fold the third row of seats into the floor (but not quite flush or flat) if they’re surplus to requirements. There’s also a full-sized alloy spare wheel mounted under the car.
Capacities are up to a claimed 2400 litres with the second and third rows folded, shrinking to 1404L with the third row down and 470L with all three rows in use. There's a high loading lip, though.
On a final note, we’ve talked largely about the QX80’s plush urban behaviour and its comfort, but befitting its Patrol origins it can theoretically also handle its own off the beaten path, though its large wheels, road tyres and low side-steps that eat into ground clearance (at 245mm, it’s a few centimetres lower than the Nissan version) impede things.
The QX80 has an Infiniti All-Mode 4WD system with a computer-controlled transfer case and lockable rear diff, with a rotary dial to operate Auto, 4H and 4L (low-range for crawling). There are also three off-road modes that — sand, rock and snow — that program different throttle, engine and transmission characteristics to suit each surface, and a hill-decent control.
Infiniti cites an approach angle of 24.3 degrees, a departure angle of 24.5 degrees and a ramp-over angle of 23.6 degrees. Put a set of proper off-road tyres/wheels on and you’d almost certainly have a big luxury off-roader as capable off the beaten path as most, a la the LX570 and Rangie.
So there it is, the Infiniti QX80. To bastardise a Christopher Nolan film, it’s a niche within a niche within a niche. With its polarising design and drinking problem, its nonsensical on a several levels.
Then again, the big Infiniti cossets you into liking it, beating you into submission as if with a goosedown pillow. It’s plush, ultra-quiet and as vast as a loungeroom. You feel like a boss behind the wheel, and for a small group, that’ll be sufficient.
But modern luxury load-luggers such as the new Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 kill it for economy and practicality, while its Patrol sibling is significantly more affordable.
Additionally updated LX570 looms, promising a heavyweight showdown that’ll put Tyson v Holyfield in the shade (alongside, quite literally, any regular cars parked in close proximity).
Click the Photos tab to see all images by Tom Fraser.