First drive: 2018 Infiniti QX80 in the UAE
Infiniti chose the 2017 Dubai Motor Show to debut its facelifted 2018 QX80 a couple of months ago. It wasn’t just a fluke. The Middle East is apparently the QX80’s second-largest market after the United States. No time was wasted in bringing the new model to the streets either. We took it for a spin around Ras Al Khaimah, after flying there from Dubai by helicopter, courtesy of Infiniti.
The 2018 Infiniti QX80 is still based on the outgoing model, which itself is based on the Nissan Patrol, as evidenced by the main body structure. But the QX80 gets several new body panels that includes a completely redesigned front end as well as a redone rear, aside from new designs for the 20-inch and 22-inch wheel options. The new look addresses some of the design criticisms of the older model by moving the headlights higher and changing the front-fender vents, while adding a chrome strip on the tailgate between the new LED tail lights to break up the bulky rear. Moving the rear indicators to the rear bumper was an eccentric move though. The 22-inch wheels can be had in a pretty “liquid-metal” paint finish.
The spacious interior features minimal changes, the most prominent being the new leather materials (including a new saddle-brown colour aside from the usual black and beige options), quilted upholstery, extra stitching on the wheel and dash, and wood veneer choices. The multimedia systems have now been upgraded, especially the rear entertainment system with larger 8-inch higher-res rear screens that can play individual content, while also adding an HDMI auxiliary port and three USB ports to the rear cabin. However, from behind the wheel, the view remains mostly the same as the older model, since the gauge cluster and cabin panels are all carried over.
Notable features include navigation (now with 3 years of free map updates), power-folding third row, optional power-folding second row, adaptive cruise control with emergency braking, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and prevention, forward collision warning and a “smart” rear-view camera that provides a wide-angle obstruction-free view in the center mirror at the flick of a switch.
Still powered by the excellent 400 hp 5.6-litre direct-injection V8 that we’re intimately familiar with, it doesn’t punch as hard as it does in the Patrol LE due to a slightly-lower final drive ratio, which is intended to make the QX80 smoother on acceleration while even improving fuel economy. It’s plenty quick for a big 4×4, and the 7-speed automatic behaves perfectly well in tandem with the motor.
In terms of drive, it seems the latest suspension tuning finally eliminates the slightly-jarring ride created by the low-profile tyres, as this new model rides smoother than ever before (and still using their unique hydraulic body-motion control system without resorting to a typical air suspension setup). It is also a bit more quiet at highway speeds, with moderate wind noise above 120 kph. It remains stable and composed even at speeds approaching 170 kph, as we found out on a private road.
The handling is decent when driven at sane speeds, with limited body roll and fair grip. The steering is on the light side, with almost no feedback, but it allows for easy manoeuvring in tight spaces. Parking is also made easy with a 360-degree camera system and front/rear parking sensors, as long as there is enough space — it’s a pretty big car.
We drove the QX80 on wadi gravel trails, up steep mountain passes and in a desert nature reserve. Unlike many of its rivals, the QX80 is also very good offroad, and comes with low-range gearing. Ground clearance is good for moderate dunes, and just leaving the four-wheel-drive system in “Auto” with the ESP off is enough to traverse on soft sand, with tons of power to push through more stubborn terrain, without needing the tyres to be deflated. It’s not going to do serious dune bashing on account of its long bumpers and fancy wheels, but it is a far more durable vehicle to go camping with than anything British, German or American.
The Infiniti QX80 hasn’t changed much beyond the skin, but what has changed definitely improves this long-running Japanese alternative to typical luxury SUVs.
For prices and specs, visit the Infiniti buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.