2015 Infiniti QX80 | First Drive
* Luxurious and well-appointed cabin
* Abundant space - call it a Studio apartment on wheels
* Priced well in comparison to its rival top end luxury SUVs
* Missing ride height adjustment system
* Lack of terrain management system
Us auto journos are a spoilt lot and I will conveniently pass the buck onto the car makers for our state of affairs. Usually they fly us nothing short of Business Class, host in top hotels, foot all our bills and give out generous gifts (read as bribes) to do what we do – drive brand new cars before they are launched and pen in our opinions about it for you folks.
The 2015 Infiniti QX80 launch event was by far the most ‘over the top’ activity in Oman that I have attended in my 14 years of auto journalism in this part of the world. As if the private charter flights to and from Dubai were not enough, the automaker threw in a rather long but very scenic helicopter ride in Royal Oman Police helicopters too. I’m not complaining, am I?
That aside, if I was asked to list preferred driving destinations in GCC, Oman would certainly rank high on the score card. This was a reason alone to say ‘Yes’ to the invite. The other bits, I was to find out only later.
For 2015, Infiniti has refreshed its flagship QX80 SUV. No matter how consistently the marketing presentations and speeches served us the notion of this being a ‘New’ car, I will stand by my grounds of it being a refresh only, and the rationale thereof will hopefully be clear as you read on.
Infiniti’s QX80 has never quite grasped the art of capturing hearts with its beauty. When put alongside the comely Nissan Patrol that it’s based on, the bulbous QX80 has always come off as banal and a little out of proportion… up until now.
Welcoming a generous splash of chrome around its softly defined visage, along with redesigned bumpers and headlamps, the 2015 Infiniti QX80 has done away with the droopy, drugged look of its predecessor and looks smarter than it ever has.
Inside, the updates are of a far more subtle flavour. The Tuscan Burl trim that made its way into previous models has been replaced with Mocha Burl for a richer red tinge. Wheat or Graphite shades of leather are offered on the choice platter.
Depending on your preference, the cabin can be kitted out with Captain’s seats or a bench in the second row, making for seating space that will suffice for seven or eight respectively. Don’t think opting for the latter will make it all cramped. A thought worth pondering is if an intercom system between the driver and third-row passengers inside its cavernous cabin should also be a part of the extensive feature list?
Cocooned in the lap of luxury, the QX80 ensures its occupants are well taken care of. With a DVD player and dual 7 inch displays in the headrests, matched to a spectacular 13 speaker Bose surround sound system, the possibility of throwing a birthday party in the back of the QX80 is something that can’t be ruled out easily.
Equipped with a myriad of safety features, the QX80 safety net includes Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) and Front Emergency Braking systems. This in addition to front, roof-mounted, and seat-mounted airbags.
Covering tarmac, gravel, wadi crossings and Wahiba sands, the 400 horsepower and 560 Nm of torque that lay at the disposal of our right foot, never allowed the 2.7 tonne QX80 to feel underpowered. On the winding roads that snaked through the mountains and up to the Alila Jabal Akhdar Hotel, the 7 speed automatic transmission with Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) proved to be worthy of a mention too.
The suspension set-up, which lays on the stiffer side of the spectrum, played its part in curtailing the 5,290mm long body from rolling and pitching when carving the twisties. The QX80 rides on the same four-wheel independent suspension setup that one finds in the Nissan Patrol LE grades – a time-tested system.
Mapped to an All Wheel Drive layout, it was also rather surprising to discover that the QX80 hadn’t carried over the Patrol’s fantastic terrain management system. Meaning, adjusting the ride response or height for the terrain being challenged was not an option.
For its dimensions, steering the QX80 did not require strong, well-built biceps. On the contrary, the steering felt featherweight at times. Built for comfort, one expects very little feedback and that was the case as well. Not that we encountered any untoward situations, but the overall feel of brakes was confidence inspiring.
The Japanese SUV is a hefty, yet potent behemoth. Ranging from AED 299,000 – 335,000, the Infiniti QX80 has carved out its own niche in the market, one where it sits under the segment-leading Lexus LX in terms of price. Surpassing expectations all along our casual Tour de Oman, it also proved its worth. Though it’s merely been through a midlife refresh as opposed to a complete overhaul, it’s at the pinnacle of its life – the best it’s ever been.