The 2015 Infiniti QX80 comes as part of a fascinating attempt by Renault-Nissan to pick its luxury arm up, dust it off and send it on another run.
Put simply, the QX80 is a Nissan Patrol loaded to the hilt with luxo items and a $110,900 price tag, described by Infiniti as a “hamburger with the lot”.
It's rolling into the neighbourhood of the Lexus LX570 and it wants soccer mums, small business owners and those who see a three-tonne truck with tinsel as good value.
There's one model, and it comes with the 5.6-litre VK56VD petrol V8 and 7-speed auto that's been offered in the Patrol since 2013, with identical 298kW and 560Nm torque figures.
What has changed significantly is the outside: in what must be the most notable automotive tribute to the rhinoceros, the QX80 looks like it has a massive growth under its bonnet, fronted by a massive trapezoidal corporate grille and adaptive LEDs.
It's longer, wider and higher than Patrol, making it super tall and imposing: even the rear windscreen is super upright.
So too the driving position: for such a large truck, there's not much room for the driver. Headroom, yes, but elbow, knee and legroom is adequate, not spacious.
As the “Hamburger with the lot” there's not only a second row of electrically folding seats − with loads of legroom and headroom − but also a third, compete with cup-holders, to match arch rival Lexus LX570 as an eight seater.
There’s also a heap of gear including a heated steering wheel, rear DVD screens and a four-year warranty instead of the Patrol’s three.
Infiniti says 'sportiness' is in its DNA, but there's nothing sporty about the QX80.
Riding on 22-inch Bridgestone-shod alloys, its ride is jiggley, compromised and delivers an annoying patina over pock-marked surfaces.
It's better at speed, and handles huge potholes well, even though the hydraulic suspension is around 10% stiffer than in Patrol.
That's the extent of the mechanical changes over the Nissan off-roader, which is unfortunate because the Y62 Patrol is hardly a dynamic inspiration.
It means that the QX80 is as far from driving pleasure as they come. While the V8 sounds grunty and tough, the throttle is hardly responsive and lacks progression.
A light push sees a delayed rise in revs too late out of a corner, slow kickback reducing its ability to get up and go.
The 2.8-tone mass makes the QX80 feel clumsy, cumbersome and difficult to manage.
It’s upset by mid-corner bumps and has lifeless steering that feels completely disconnected from the vast postcodes of vehicle around you.
With a slow turn in, that steering − which is unchanged from Patrol, by the way − fails to feed back what's going on.
It's not until the mass tells you through the body roll as you slide off the inadequately flat (and overly hard) seats that you know it's time to turn.
A win for the Infiniti over the Nissan is in refinement: there's more noise-filtering foam in the pillars, and thicker window glass for an impressive quiet cabin.
But does this make it worth $23k more, even if it's significantly cheaper than the Lexus and rivals with similar power from brands like Mercedes and Range Rover? No. The cabin, with its simple non-texture leather, ’90s woodgrain and ambience is inoffensive yet hardly elegant. It has to woo buyers who have the cash for cars such as the new Audi Q7.
In this class, the Infiniti looks like a nice try, but offers superficial luxury as opposed to genuine depth and craftsmanship.
If a hamburger with the lot is your preference over Wagyu beef, then the QX80 will hit the spot. Yet we think a steak and some left over cash is far, far more convincing.
Model: Infiniti QX80 S Premium
Engine: 5552cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 14.8L/100km
On sale: Now
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