It aint pretty but Infinitis QX80 will take you anywhere. Picture: Denis Droppa
It aint pretty but Infinitis QX80 will take you anywhere. Picture: Denis Droppa
Stump pulling torque enables the Infiniti with its huge 22 inch wheels and 233mm of ground clearance to cruise over obstacles and up climbs that would make lesser vehicles blanch. Picture: Denis Droppa
Stump pulling torque enables the Infiniti with its huge 22 inch wheels and 233mm of ground clearance to cruise over obstacles and up climbs that would make lesser vehicles blanch. Picture: Denis Droppa
Cabin has all the bells and whistles. Picture: Denis Droppa
Cabin has all the bells and whistles. Picture: Denis Droppa

ROAD TEST

Infiniti QX80 5.6 V8

Pretoria - Cleopatra’s 100 metre long royal barge, in which she cruised the Nile with Julius Caesar in 47 BC, and in which she seduced him and was impregnated, was reputed to be the last word in decadent splendour.

It was large and ostentatious, and as a royal barge, rightly so. The new Infiniti QX80 could easily be the landlubber’s equivalent of the royal barge. The QX has it all: size, power and luxury levels that border on decadent.

An eight-seater with three rows of seats, enormous girth and 5.3 metre length, it dwarfs a BMW X5 and is even larger than super-sized SUV rivals such as the Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX570. Beautiful it isn’t, but who cares when you’re driving a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle all the while cosseted in every imaginable comfort.

At a time when cars are moving to smaller, fuel-efficient turbocharged engines, the 5.6-litre normally-aspirated petrol V8 in this brute unashamedly downs 18.5 litres per 100km of fuel as it makes small work of anything the unforgiving South African environment can throw at it. Potholes, pff! Dongas, pah! Rock clambering, humbug!

And provided you have an uncle with the word Sheikh or Prince in front of his name to bankroll your adventures this fuel guzzler can cover a fair distance, thanks to its 100-litre fuel tank.

V8-POWERED LAZY-BOY

The price tag is an eye-watering R1 265 000, yet it falls roughly midway between the Toyota Land Cruiser 200 4.6 V8 VX (R1 079 800) and the Lexus LX 570SE (R1 364 400). So what do you get for a nillion and change? A lot in fact.

Plush is an overused word, but it best sums up the interior with its acres of wooden panelling and leather.

Seated behind the leather-wrapped steering you could be lounging in a lazy-boy chair hooked up to a V8 churning out 298kW and 560Nm. These are big numbers and propel this 2.8-ton beast to a claimed top speed of 210km/h. However, more important is the stump pulling torque that enables the Infiniti with its huge 22 inch wheels and 233mm of ground clearance to cruise over obstacles and up climbs that would make lesser vehicles blanch.

We were fortunate to have had some early morning rain just before taking the QX80 around the 4x4 track at the Gerotek testing facility outside Pretoria. With grip-enhancing features such as four-wheel-drive, rear differential lock, low-range gear as well as additional options of selecting pre-programmed modes for driving on road, sand or rocks, it didn’t require much driver skill to coax the Infiniti around the course. Except for some sideways slip on the muddy surface the QX80 tackles climbs with gusto with particularly good axle articulation. The only drawback was the width of the vehicle on the narrow track.

Back on the bumpy tar the QX80 was very composed. The suspension is pleasingly comfortable and soaks up the ripples and bumps without being soggy. The seven-speed auto gearbox with Adaptive Shift Control is slick and smooth and with bags of power on hand doesn’t need to hunt for gears.

The drivetrain is also rugged enough to tow boats or trailers with a towing capacity of 3500kg making it perfect for outdoor leisure and adventure activities.

FAVOURITE FEATURES

Whether you are a dwarf or giant, or any size between, the driving position with 10-way power-adjustable seat settings ensures a perfect ergonomical driving position. The list of features, all standard at no extra cost, runs to several pages and includes an eight inch colour touchscreen display to manage the vehicle’s information and navigation system.

Some of our favourite features are the climate-controlled seats with the front seats having both heating and cooling settings. Even the second row of seats has heat seatings, although not the cooling facility.

Parking and manoeuvring a vehicle of this size can be challenging, but the Around View Monitor with four small super-wide-angle lenses mounted on the front, side and rear of the QX80 provide an almost 360 degree view of potentially dangerous objects around the vehicle.

Making rush-hour traffic more pleasant and safer is the blind-spot warning system, and also a lane-departure warning system.

Passengers share in the creature comforts, with dual seven inch colour screens mounted on the rear of the front head restraints with two pairs of wireless headphones to ensure they can watch their favourite DVDs without distracting the driver. A nifty feature is the auto-bright system that adjusts the screen for daytime/evening driving.

Boot space is ample at 470 litres with all the seats in place, and this can be enlarged to 2692 litres by lowering the 60/40 rear seat-backs. But no scrabbling around in the rear, tugging and pulling at straps is required. Instead a press of a button on the dash by the driver makes the rear seats flip forward and fold down.

The QX80 comes with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.

VERDICT

If God is on the side of the big bataillons then the Inifiniti QX80 wins the SUV war hands down.

But other than its sheer size it is a supremely capable vehicle with a host of safety and pamper features. It may not be the best looking SUV, but it has a charm of its own.

FACTS

Infiniti QX80 5.6 V8

Engine: 5.6-litre, V8 petrol

Gearbox: 7-speed automatic

Power: 298kW @ 5800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 4000rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 7.5 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 210km/h

Consumption (claimed): 14.8 litres per 100km

Price: R1 265 000

Warranty: 3-year/100 000km

Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km

INFINITI QX80 V8 VS THE RIVALS:

BMW X5 xDrive50i - 330kW/650Nm - R1 157 670

Lexus LX 570SE - 270kW/530Nm - R1 364 400

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 4.6 V8 VX - 227kW/439Nm - R1 079 800