2018 Infiniti QX80 first drive

IT’S EASY to relate to the QX80: it’s big and bulky from the outside, and a little chaotic on the inside. Despite its reputation for being luxurious, its willingness and competency to kick up some dust gives it extra kudos.

The 2018 refresh of Infiniti’s off-roading SUV doesn’t offer much more than a facelift, doing away with its Beluga-styled nose and replacing it with a larger grille and LED headlamps that’ve had a slight lift. Its backside went under the knife as well, with a new tailgate, tail-lamps and bumper.

The inside has also been tweaked for a more luxurious feel, with quilted leather seats, larger 8.0-inch DVD screens in the back seats, and wooden trims. Still, the infotainment system isn’t great, with a busy-button facade letting it down.

The biggest change here is sound insulation, which provides a quieter ride – on- and off-road – than you’d expect of a vehicle this size. Even when rolling with hill-descent control, the crunch and grinding is calmer than many other 4x4s.

There’s only one model available and, with a price-tag of $110,900, you’d expect some pretty decent tech.

New to this model is the Intelligent Rear View Mirror, which is fed via a camera mounted to the top of the rear window. The footage provides drivers with clear views when the back window is blocked by people, ice, dust or cargo. But that’s where it ends for tech – despite its price tag, the QX80 feels lacking in the nerd department, missing out on standard features like smartphone mirroring and touchscreen control.

For some, the QX80’s size might be its biggest deterrent, but with its 5.6-litre VK56 V8 engine, which produces 298kW and 560Nm, the 2783kg SUV takes to the road with an elegance rare of a car its size.

On-road, the graceful giant glides through its seven-speed automatic transmission effortlessly, and, once it gets off-road, its full-time 4WD system shines. At the Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground it took to inclines, declines and water crossings without so much as a flinch, even with its stock 22-inch wheels. Offering further confidence is its locking rear diff and multiple drive modes: Rock, Sand, Dirt and Road.

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It’s not all good news, though. The SUV’s flat and unsupportive seats lose it points for long-distance journeys, as does its thirsty 100-litre fuel tank which guzzles an uncomfortable 14.5L/100km to offer just 690km.

When it comes down to it, there wasn’t much we didn’t like during our soft drive to Mount Macedon and at the proving ground, and there’s no question the QX80 has dusted off its ugly-duckling feathers and started its transformation into a swan. However, although capable, it’s yet to prove itself as a long-haul off-roader.

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