The skinny: Big, it’s huge; balls, they’re immense, and presence? Like a rhino in an innercity shopping centre. Yes, the new Infiniti QX80 Premium is certainly confronting, and, equally certain, it’s not for everyone.
But you wouldn’t be so shallow as to dismiss it on confronting style alone, would you? Because, if you did, you would be sorely underestimating this immensely strong, luxurious and comfortable heavy-duty 4X4 eight-seat SUV.
Vehicle style: Large Premium 4X4 SUV
Price: $110,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/transmission: 5.6 litre alloy petrol V8/7-spd automatic (with adaptive shift control)
Fuel consumption: (claimed) 14.8 l/100km; (tested) 18.1 l/100km
Clive James once described Arnold Schwarzenegger as a “condom stuffed with walnuts”. True, the ex-governator’s absurdly sculpted physique was a parody of a body – inflated muscle and sinew, and bumps where bumps shouldn’t aughta be.
This is the new Infiniti QX80 Premium. Absolutely non-conformist, its lumps and bumps and rudely robust lines command attention in every way.
Rhino-esque, a brick with eyes, the QX80 is the methuselah of SUVs.
But it is also more. Because underneath those confronting lines is an immensely powerful petrol 5.6 litre V8 engine and an immensely capable heavy-duty 4X4 drivetrain (shared with the V8 Patrol)
We drove it up through the guts of Tasmania, on gravel and tarmac to the highland lakes then back down to Launceston.
The tidal-wave of torque nestled under the toe merely hints at its capability. Tow a horse float, you ask? You somehow feel that you could hitch the entire field of the Melbourne Cup to its tow-ball and drag it across the Nullabor.
Big, gutsy US-style 4X4 SUVs don’t get much bigger nor gutsier than Infiniti’s QX80 – that is, of course, overlooking its near cousin, the V8 Nissan Patrol Ti-L.
But the Infiniti is vastly more sumptuous, and much more the premium purchase than the Nissan.
Its size, luxo features and dual-range off-road capability leave it with only three real competitors here – that’s Toyota’s V8 Landcruiser 200, $114,165, the Range Rover, $179,800, and the Lexus LX570, $139,575 - each more expensive than the big, luxurious, Infiniti.
Key standard features:
- 5.1 Bose 15-speaker surround-sound system
- CD/MP3/WMA compatible, iPod connection, aux-in audio and video
- Bluetooth with audio streaming
- Satellite navigation with traffic message channel
- Infiniti controller for sat-nav, climate control
- Dual 7-inch colour monitors in front headrests (for multimedia playback)
- Around-view monitor, reversing camera, front and rear sensors
- Tri-zone temperature control, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats
- Rear-seat heater ducts
- Keyless ignition, intelligent key with valet function and lock-out
- Leather-faced, semi-aniline seats, heated wheel and power sliding sunroof (among a host of standard premium features)
Within the immense metal skin of the QX80, is an equally immense interior.
It’s an eight-seater, and, at the wheel, you will only fully realise its dimensions when you turn and look from the front to the back, to the third row.
That brick-like wagon shape provides generous headroom – your Sikh friends will have ample room for their turbans – and even in the third row, shoulder-room can easily accommodate two abreast, and even ok for three for shorter trips. (We tried it, but we’re on the shorter side of average.)
The front seats, infinitely adjustable and both heated and cooled (even the second-row seats are heated), are generously padded if a little flat, in that American way.
But they are superbly comfortable; and this is ‘first class’ travel.
The quality of the trim and the fittings, and the fastidious way everything aligns and fits, is the equal of Lexus.
And there is an absolute premium quality feel to the touchpoints, controls and switchgear. There is a jewel-like quality to the analogue clock face, and the metal garnishes of stainless steel and chrome – and the subdued feature-lighting – create a perfect premium ambience.
The satin mahogany wood-finishes work ok, in an over-the-top American way, and the thumping Bose sound system with 15 speakers and two sub-woofers will have any neighbourhood jumping should you choose to really crank it up.
There are premium features everywhere, the powered sunroof, the monitors in the headrests, the generous padding to the armrests, everywhere is a faintly uncomfortable feeling of excess.
And when the doors close and the rude intrusions of the outside world disappear, there is nothing to unsettle the sense of cocooned luxury in the QX80’s amazingly snug and isolated cabin.
ON THE ROAD
- 298kW/560Nm 5.6 litre 32-valve direct-injection petrol V8
- Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive with low-range
- Towing capacity: 3.5 tonne (braked), 750kg (unbraked)
- Independent double wishbone front and rear suspension (with hydraulic 'Body Motion Control')
- 22-inch forged alloy wheels with 275/50 R22 all-season tyres
- Ventilated disc-brakes front and rear
There is no way around it – the QX80’s fuel consumption is pretty terrible. In this age where these things are important, that marks it down.
It’s to do with Newton’s ‘Second Law’, and the elemental rules governing mass over distance. A non-conformist everywhere else you look, here, the QX80 simply cannot defy physics.
It’s heavy, like 2.8 tonne, and it’s powerful; more, it will unleash that power with eager abandon – bury the shoe and the QX80 will explode into a gallop like Israel Folau.
The result, in our hands, when giving it the beans over some long stretches of winding mountain roads, was an average fuel consumption of 18.1 l/100km.
We concede that this is not a ‘real world’ result from a ‘real world’ test, but it’s a guide – perhaps a worse-case scenario that you might keep in mind if you’re thinking of doing a lot of towing.
And it doesn't half mind a rev; the 298kW find full-voice at a high 5800rpm, the 560Nm at 4000rpm. With those numbers at work, for the first few seconds after lift-off, the immense weight of the QX80 vanishes momentarily.
That's until you find the first turn. Then, despite a suspension system that firms the dampers to the outside of the curve, there is simply no disguising the weight and higher centre of gravity of the QX80.
It corners well enough, for what it is - a somewhat brick-like SUV - but this is no sports car. (It perhaps has higher levels of adhesion than we were prepared to test, but you would scare the living crap out of your rear seat passengers if you really pushed things.)
The feel through the wheel is also a little compromised; the big boots below can occasionally tug at the steering.
The most noticeable quality of the QX80's on-highway and on-gravel drive, however, is the almost eerie quiet of the cabin.
Mechanical noise, there is none. And despite those immense 22-inch alloys down below, road noise is also as good as non-existent.
Combined with the sumptuous comfort of the seating, the church-like silence of the interior reinforces the sense of 'first class' travel.
The seven-speed automatic is smooth on upshifts, but can be a little slow to kick-down if looking for a burst out of a corner. Once again, it is horses for courses... this is a robust 4X4 drivetrain, with a genuine low range for hard graft on a wilderness trail, not a twin-clutch hot hatch.
We didn't get the chance to try out the low-range performance; snow, icy roads and mud meant discretion was the better part of valour. We'll put it through its paces off-road on a longer test.
If we were to head off-road, we'd perhaps look at changing the wheels. Those 22-inch alloys don't look like they're cut-out for a fire-trail or a gibber desert crossing. (But there's a full-sized spare in case you're wondering.)
Lastly, with a 3.5 tonne towing capacity, there won't be much in the way of caravans or horse floats that can't be hitched safely to the QX80.
But hitch a couple of tonne behind, and that fuel figure might scare the family exchequer.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Sure as eggs, there will be a howl of comments following this review about the QX80's styling. Me, I don't mind that it looks like it swallowed a jar of steriods.
And I suspect a lot of buyers will similarly be drawn to its non-conformist rhino charm and 'in-your-face' carpark presence.
It has a kind-of reverse appeal that makes a virtue of its tough, lumpy lines.
And there is no question that Infiniti's big off-road warrior offers the very best in luxurious premium travel.
If you want to be totally cossetted on that 'big drive' around Australia, have a look at Infiniti's QX80.
You will arrive back with an entrenched sense of superiority, but, if you're paying for the fuel, also unusually poor.