The bigger, the better: That seems to be the mantra that drives the QX80. An all-new refresh now puts this Japanese player in contention for the top spot among other luxury SUVs.
It’s a wonderful time to be alive if you’re a car enthusiast: the automotive industry is now a diverse cosmos, jam-packed with cars of all scopes that can just about fulfill the needs of everyone… save for those tree-huggers from Greenpeace, perhaps. Though, today, even they’ve got plenty of options to choose from.
What they won’t be cross-shopping anytime soon, however, is the Infiniti QX80 – and for very good reason too. You see, there are full-sized cars, large cars, gargantuan cars, and then you have the QX80.
A gas-guzzler by nature, the all-new Infiniti comes with a redesigned fascia, a host of new features, and above all, bragging rights as to who drives the bigger car.
This is one of those times that size really does matter.
That aside, no body panel is disguised to hide the dimensions of the car. Even the newly-designed headlamps seem to have lost a few millimetres and moved up a notch or two to complement the sheer size of this thing. Then you’ve got the three-dimensional spindle grille, redesigned air intakes, and flared bumpers to add a touch of aggression.
The side profile remains largely the same although the chrome ornaments on either side of the car are new. Also, a first for the QX80 are the redone LED tail lamps and a one-piece strip that breaks up the bulky rear end. Still, we’re not completely sold on the turn signals being placed on the bottom portion of the bumper. This will inevitably raise repair costs, should you meet with a simple fender bender.
The redesign is completed by 20- and 22-inch wheel options – of which, our QX80 tester came fitted with the latter. Finished in a posh “liquid-metal” finish, the larger alloys fit the overall dimensions of the SUV.
Climbing into the vehicle is quite a task but, then again, so is hopping on board a luxury yacht yet you don’t see those party animals complaining. Either way, the interior is as spacious as it gets in an SUV, with ample room for eight full-size adults.
The interior sees minimal changes – and much of it is still swaddled in premium leather. And, boy, it looks and feels good. The seats also have contrast stitching and are diamond-quilted and perforated for a bit more cushioning. Wood veneer takes over much of the panels on the dashboard and the center console, and for most parts, it feels plush.
Rather surprisingly, the QX80 comes with the same 8-inch touchscreen from yesteryear but the animations are still smooth and quick, and don’t leave much to be desired. But if you do, you’ve got the Infiniti Controller for use with vehicle information systems, comfort and convenience features, and a crisp and clear 13-speaker Bose audio system just for good measure.
Rear seat passengers, meanwhile, will be treated to abundant leg and head room, and two individually controllable LCD television screens. Granted, the latter will see more Dora the Explorer and Teletubbies played on it than anything else, but hey, we’re just nitpicking.
Teens can feel at home too; there are three USB ports in the rear cabin, an HDMI auxiliary port, and McDonald’s-size cup holders for all, including the third-row seats. There’s copious boot space too – enough even to fit a small dirt bike, if you fold the seats flat.
To haul all of this is a task, and assigned the duty of pulling this 2.7 tonnes of metal and leather is an equally colossal 5.6-litre naturally-aspirated V8. The engine pumps out a meaty 400 horses and 560Nms of twist, which is then divided among all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic tranny.
The results are, frankly, staggering. Slamming the throttle awakens the reassuring muscle-car-like V8 burble that we’ve known and loved for years now, which then revs its way to about 6,000rpm. Zero to 100kph is achieved in about 7.3 seconds, though you’ll find rarely find yourself needing more torque.
What’s available on tap is enough to send all passengers flinging into the far corner of their seat at full blast. Even on highway speeds, the SUV’s gearbox steps down and channels just enough torque to the wheels for quick overtakes, despite an initial hesitation.
Ride comfort is at par – if not better – than some of the best SUVs in the business. The soft and floaty ride can be put down to the brilliant independent rear suspension, but it doesn’t hinder cornering by invoking much body roll. In fact, it remains composed for most parts… if you don’t give it the beans unnecessarily.
The steering is light – feather-light almost – which makes driving in the city a breeze. We expected this setup to unsettle the car at high speeds but really, it manages its bulk on the road like how Charlie Sheen (now) manages his on-screen interviews i.e. calm and composed.
As for the braking; well, as you’d expect, there are four ventilated disc brakes – and they do a darn good job stopping all the 2.7 tonnes. It’s some of the strongest brakes in the industry, but we’re not sure how it’ll age. Brake feel fluctuates between the stiff and soft, coming on at full blast after you tip in about 60 per cent of the pedal. But, at no point during our test did it require engine braking.
We’ve driven everything from Range Rover Vogues to X5s, and G-Wagens – all vehicles our tester vies against. And while there are several traits in the QX80 that we find appealing, what bowled us over was the overall robustness and solidity of the SUV. Every thingamabob is fit to last, be it while prowling around the Sultan Qaboos highway or camping at a beach outside Muscat.
The Infiniti QX80 exceeds all expectations you’ve had about Infiniti as a brand and the QX80 as its flagship vehicle. Sure, its mid-life refresh may just constitute a nip and tuck, but the final product sticks out among the lot with just the right amount of elegance and extravagance.
• Engine: 5.6-litre V8
• Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
• Power: 500hp
• Torque: 560Nms
• 13-speaker Bose audio system
• Radar-guided cruise control
• 8-inch infotainment system
• Infiniti Controller
• Lane-departure warning
• 22-inch alloy wheels
• Leather upholstery
• Selectable drive modes
• Parking sensors
• 360-degree backup camera
• Hydraulic Body Motion Control
• Heated and cooled front seats
• Dual rear DVD entertainment system