08 Oct 2018

Infiniti QX80 2018 new car review

The QX80 has a list of pros and cons as big as its size
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A wealthy nation with an aging population are circumstances that should play directly into the hands of vehicles such as the 2018 Infiniti QX80.

With many in the ‘baby boomer’ generation having made loot in the property boom, there could be cash to splash in a retirement trail that quite literally extends from 5.0-metre-long upper-large SUV through to an equally broad caravan on the back and country roads behind.

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Although an entry-level Nissan Patrol or Toyota LandCruiser might do the job just fine, some parents (or grandparents) may simply want to channel a bit of the youth’s You Only Live Once (#YOLO) with the most luxurious version of the former, which is this Infiniti QX80. And it goes into battle with the latter’s equivalent, the Lexus LX570, which costs more again.

The question is, what are such touring buyers looking for? And should they look to Infiniti?

Vehicle Style: Upper-large SUV

Price: $110,900 plus on-road costs

Engine/trans: 298kW/560Nm 5.6-litre V8 petrol | seven-speed automatic transmission

Fuel Economy Claimed: 14.5 l/100km Tested: 16.3 l/100km

OVERVIEW

Buyers could simply select a Patrol Ti-L from $88,990 plus on-road costs. It’s the same size, with virtually the same interior, and an identical engine to this QX80 at $110,900 (plus orc).

While the 5.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol V8 still makes 298kW of power and 560Nm of torque, however, Infiniti adds a unique Hydraulic Motion Body Control (HMBC) suspension – where each of the four wheels’ shock absorbers are linked by high-pressure hydraulic channels that transfer oil between each corner, and are able to firm up one side to offset roll.

And the QX80 also adds 22-inch alloy wheels (replacing 18s), forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) in forward and reverse, a towbar, heated steering wheel, higher-grade leather, heated rear seats, an electrically adjustable third-row, two extra Bose speakers (now 15), as well as two extra electrically adjustable driver’s seat adjustments (now 10-way) and an eight-way electrically adjustable passenger’s seat over the Patrol Ti-L.

Beyond the Nissan/Infiniti stable, this upper-large SUV also seems reasonably priced compared with its rivals, including the $116,800 (plus orc) Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE Luxury and $120,301 (plus orc) LandCruiser Sahara diesels, and especially the petrol-powered $142,789 (plus orc) LX570 – although Lexus has just introduced a five-seat-only diesel version as the $134,129 (plus orc) LX450d. The QX80, like the Patrol, is petrol only.

THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.0/5

Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start and electric-fold door mirrors, automatic on/off wipers and LED headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electric sunroof, adaptive cruise control, electrically adjustable steering column with heating, leather trim with electrically adjustable and heated/ventilated front seats, heated middle-outboard seats, electrically adjustable third-row seats and tri-zone climate control.

Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, satellite navigation with live traffic, 15-speaker Bose audio system and twin-rear 8.0-inch screens with Blu-Ray/DVD/HDMI/USB input and two headphones.

Options Fitted: None.

Cargo Volume: 470 litres (7 seats).

At 5340mm-long, the QX80 almost makes the 4970mm Discovery and 5080mm LX570 appear compact. Forget the Patrol and ‘Cruiser for a moment, because the Land Rover and Lexus most deserve to be cross-shopped if buyers genuinely want to combine size with luxe.

While a recent facelift has sharpened the exterior styling of the now surprisingly handsome Infiniti, however, the same level of change has not been made inside. Fit-and-finish of this Japanese-made model is exemplary, the licks of stitched-leather surrounding the centre dashboard stack and door grabhandles appear suitably upmarket, and virtually everything is standard, however this upper-large SUV is otherwise lacking in finesse.

The front seats are flat and overly spongey, while the touchscreen shares its graphics and (slow) response rate with the decade-old Nissan 370Z coupe at half the price. It lacks a digital radio or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone connectivity, although the navigation with live traffic is fine and the Bose audio sounds good.

The latter aspects might matter more to older demographics, but the lack of a digital speedometer or head-up display grates, as does the monochromatic trip computer screen.

Ultimately, both Lexus and Land Rover feel far more modern and detailed – even if the former is pricier and the latter lacks ‘big ticket’ standard equipment for the equivalent price.

The QX80 is at its best in the middle row. Although the cushy bench can’t slide – it can only tumble forward to allow rear entry – the backrest reclines and there’s acres of legroom and headroom. With a separate climate zone, roof-mounted vents, twin-rear screens and a litany of inputs (Blu-Ray DVD, USB, HDMI…) passengers three, four and five can truly indulge.

Moreover, in a five-seat format there is a truly epic 1405 litres of luggage space available, eclipsing the Discovery by 174L. Electrically-raise the third-row and boot volume may be reduced to 470L, but by this point it is 202L ahead of the dimensionally shorter Land Rover.

Of course it depends where a buyer’s priorities lie, because if the sixth and seventh seats are used frequently, then this Infiniti’s ordinary packaging efficiency is exposed. It may be enormous on the outside, but third-row legroom and headroom are average, with the seats being far too flat and positioned too close to the floor. At least there are roof vents, though.

Ultimately, the (big) bones of this QX80 are all right – it just needs a much more major mid-life update inside.


ON AND OFF THE ROAD | RATING: 3.0/5

Engine: 298kW/560Nm 5.6-litre petrol V8

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, AWD

Suspension: Independent front and rear

Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes

Steering: Hydraulically assisted mechanical steering

It is probably fair to say that upper-large SUV buyers prioritise touring range, cruising comfort, towing strength, and off-road ability above other performance or dynamic virtues, and in these regards the QX80 mostly excels.

The biggest issue is the lack of a diesel engine, but this is compounded by a 100-litre fuel tank that is 40L down on the Patrol, while claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 14.5 litres per 100 kilometres blew out to 16.9L/100km across mostly freeway or off-road driving. Add occupants or a caravan, and the 588km range (say 550km for safety) will plummet, too.

Selfishly, this tester would rather sin along with the soaring sonic goodness and rampantly responsive performance of this 5.6-litre V8 petrol engine than pick a saintly efficient, but gruff or grumbly diesel that makes 1000km from a tank. But outback-goers might disagree.

The trouble, too, is that Land Rover doesn’t make a gruff or grumbly diesel, but rather a smooth and sweet 3.0-litre turbo V6. Its 190kW and 8.1-second 0-100km/h claim can’t match the 298kW and 7.3sec equivalent of this Infiniti, but its 600Nm beats the QX80’s 560Nm while delivering 7.2L/100km claimed diesel usage for an 1181km fuel tank range.

That British SUV can match this Japanese SUV’s 3.5-tonne towing capacity, however the Discovery TD6 HSE Luxury’s air suspension can rise to deliver 283mm of ground clearance versus the QX80’s 246mm. Respectively, approach angles are 34 degrees versus 24.2deg, the ramp-overs are 27.5deg plays 23.6deg, and departure angles are 30deg against 24.5deg.

The Infiniti is far from an off-road duffer – with low-range gearing, a locking rear differential and multiple driver select modes making light work of one particularly tough test loop – but it is outclassed on measurements.

Perhaps most surprisingly, its HMBC suspension became more impressive the more time went on with it on-road. Recent time in a Patrol Ti-L reinforced that the unique set-up here delivers notable benefits, with significantly less pitching under brakes and far less lateral wobble being the two most obvious upgrades.

However, sadly, the steering remains far too slow when winding on lock and it is incredibly vague even when attempting to change lanes on the freeway, cementing its position as one of the least impressive set-ups of any vehicle on the market.

While its suspension delivers remarkably level progress, and decent isolation, the lack of dynamic ability in this 2783kg (!) SUV is only further emphasised by Bridgestone Dueller H/T tyres that make a horrible howl even at modest pace.

On-road handling certainly isn’t the focus of this type of vehicle, yet a Discovery feels three generations ahead for sharpness and poise, while feeling equally cushy and controlled.

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: Not tested.

Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, forward collision warning with forward/reverse autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, and a 360-degree camera with surround parking sensors.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Four years/100,000 kilometres.

Servicing: An Infiniti Service Assure pricing plan costs $374, $598.40 and $374 for each of the first trio of annual or 10,000km check-ups.

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

Some won’t trust Land Rover, given its patchy reliability reputation, but the Discovery TD6 HSE Luxury blends superb detail with intelligent packaging, a smooth and efficient six-cylinder engine, and benchmark on- and off-road performance – it’s as simple as that.

The LX570 offers a more authentically luxurious cabin, but for a price, while its suspension doesn’t feel as resolved as this QX80’s does and the diesel is five-seat-only.

Conversely the LandCruiser Sahara simply feels overpriced for what is an ageing interior, though diesel efficiency and respected reliability are all that some will need – to drive, though, it’s not as inspired as this Infiniti.

  • Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE Luxury
  • Lexus LX570
  • Toyota LandCruiser Sahara

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 3.0/5

Perhaps surprisingly for a luxurious upper-large SUV, this QX80 mostly delivers on the simple pleasures. Its engine is inspiring, its transmission smart, the suspension is decently controlled, it is huge inside, plus it can venture well off-road.

Yet for its $100K-plus pricetag, it is also flawed and outclassed.

Back to that baby boomer buyer, and the V8 simply doesn’t have the efficiency and touring range to shine, especially when Land Rover packages those virtues with height-adjustable suspension missing here, which literally gives the Discovery a leg-up off-road. From the interior design to the ponderous steering, far greater detail and finesse is required at this level.

It leaves the Infiniti to appeal to a very specific type of buyer, one for whom sonorous V8 responsiveness, middle-row indulgence and unmatched boot space rates above all else.

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