By: Denis Droppa
Johannesburg - “The Infiniti QX80 exterior is designed to attract and hold viewers’ attention,” says the press release, and that’s no lie. Some would call it downright ugly, and they’d probably be right.
But the Infiniti QX80 launched in South Africa this week to take on the likes of the Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX570 in the full-sized luxury SUV market, is unrepentant about its intentions.
Nissan’s luxury division has created a vehicle that’s big and brash and anything but subtle. For starters, it’s super-sized, and has an eight-seater cabin that’s just about large enough to swing a German Shepherd in. At 5.3 metres long and weighing 2.8 tons the QX80 dwarfs a BMW X5. It’s so large that the size 22 wheels just barely manage to avoid looking lost in the wheelarches, and it’s so high off the ground that passengers need to hoik themselves up into the cabin.
Secondly, you need to be an oil baron to afford the fuel bills. Shifting this big hulk along is a burly 5.6-litre normally-aspirated V8 petrol engine, a fuel-guzzler with a 100 litre fuel tank and an officially-quoted fuel consumption of 14.8 litres per 100km but a real-world figure closer to 17 litres – even more if you take it offroading. In a world where smaller turbocharged engines are starting to take hold for their combination of big power with decent fuel economy, the QX80 sticks to the theory of no-replacement-for-displacement.
This old-school approach has not surprisingly made the QX80 popular in the USA, and also in the Middle East where SUV owners like to go dune-climbing in the desert.
The three golden rules of climbing dunes are momentum, momentum, and (you guessed it) momentum - and the QX80 generates heaps of the stuff courtesy of its 298kW and 560Nm outputs, fed through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The official figures are a 0-100km/h in 7.5 secs and a 210km/h top speed.
Part of the vehicle’s South African media launch earlier this week took place in the dunes of the Vleesbaai 4x4 trail near Mossel Bay in the Western Cape, one of a few coastal off-road trails where dune driving is permitted so close to the beach.
With its big V8 heart this Infiniti rushed up those tall sandy slopes with ease, and the QX80 makes it onto a shortlist of vehicles you’d choose for an expedition through the Kalahari or Namib deserts. It’s a proper offroader with a towering 233mm ground clearance and all the necessary grip-enhancing hardware including four-wheel-drive, a rear diff lock, and a low-range gear. It also has pre-programmed modes for driving on road, rocks and sand.
En route to the dunes this behemoth proved to be just as capable on a mixture of tar and gravel roads, displaying a notably silky ride over the bumpy bits.
It also felt admirably agile for its size on twisty tar, thanks to a hydraulic body-roll-reducing system that prevents it from feeling too wallowy.
The big SUV cruises with soft-spoken refinement but if you give it some gas the V8 awakens with a hearty-sounding rumble.
FIRST CLASS CABIN
Like the exterior, there’s nothing subtle about the cabin and it lays on the first-class comfort with leather-bedecked luxury and seemingly enough wooden panelling to make up a small coffee table.
The standard features list includes items like electrically-adjustable seats, active cruise control, heated steering wheel, premium Bose15-speaker audio system, rear DVD screens with wireless headphones, and navigation, to mention a few. One of my favourite features was being able to flip the rear seats forward and expand the boot size at the press of a dashboard button.
The safety aspect’s taken care of by Blind Spot Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Front Lighting System, stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring, and a full house of airbags among others.
The QX80 sells in a single, fully-equipped model with all the bells and whistles priced at R1 238 000. You can also have it armour-plated for roughly double the price, although this depends on the level of protection.
Like all Infinitis the QX80 is sold with a three-year/100 000km warranty and five-year/100 000km maintenance plan.