2015 Infiniti QX80 Review

Infiniti goes all-out to reintroduce flagship SUV with an epic drive through Oman

By Shahzad Sheikh

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

The 2015 Infiniti QX80 is not an all-new car, it is a new model year release with some revisions which I will come to in a bit. However Infiniti Middle East pulled out all the stops to stage an amazing press trip in neighbouring Oman of the scale and style normally reserved by most manufacturers for the launch of a brand new model. Generally with a model year revision we’re usually just informed that there’s a fresh one on the test fleet and would we like to try it out?

2015 Infiniti QX80 review Press trip

Epic Press Trip

But the ‘relaunch’ as it were for the QX80 involved… well you know what. Being one of the best regional press launches I did 2014, let’s review the trip as much as the car. It all started in style with an early AM meet up at the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina and a coach ride to the private jet terminal of the recently opened Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC).

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

An hour’s flight in a charter plane took us to Muscat International Airport – where the new terminal building can’t be completed soon enough really – and straight into the car park to be greeted by a gleaming fleet of QX80s.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

From there it was a three hour drive over more than 150km inland to an Army checkpoint at Bayt Ar Ridaydah, which marked the start of a challenging ascent up the stunning mountain road (accessible strictly to four-wheel drive SUVs only) of Jebel Akhdar (the Green Mountain), part of the Hajar Mountain range and one of the highest points in the region – nearby Jebel Shams is actually the peak at around 9800ft (3000m).

2015 Infiniti QX80 review Press trip

But Jebel Shams does not have an exquisite new luxury hotel sitting up there. Our drive ended at the truly gorgeous Alila Jabal Akhdar resort. The buildings forming the compound look like they’ve been constructed from traditional methods out of rock, but of course it’s all utterly modern and perched on a platform that affords breath-taking views of the rugged scenery. If you’re planning a getaway – I can’t recommend this place highly enough!

2015 Infiniti QX80 review Press trip

Next day it was an early start for a 250km drive that took us along a mixture of motorways and dual and single carriageways into a Wadi somewhere south, where much of the road was still being made. Eventually it gave up altogether and we ended up on the valley floor picking our way through dirt tracks and plunging through deep puddles and water streams – fortunately the QX80 is rather water proof!

2015 Infiniti QX80 review Press trip

Over four hours after leaving the hotel we finally arrived at a desert camp near Bidiyah for a splendid lunch and also to tick off the fact that we had pretty much covered all kinds of terrain in the QX80 in just half a day – from roads to wadi to sand – well a sand track anyway.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

This was pretty much the end of our ‘press drive’ but not quite the end of an extraordinary trip. The final treat was a helicopter ride in an Augusta Westland W139, from a nearby base back to Muscat airport.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review Press trip

But rather than taking a direct route it was an hour-long jaunt back over the top of mountains towards the sea and then hugging the coastline tightly for a sensational and very special flight back up to Muscat International Airport. We took in stunning and varied vistas from foreboding cliff-faces, inviting sandy beaches, beautiful enclaves and hideaways, amazing resorts and even a massive sinkhole – see gallery below!

2015 Infiniti QX80 review Press trip

What’s new about the QX80?

Well that’s just about enough of our tourism guide to Oman, now let’s focus back on the car itself. What’s actually new about the biggest SUV in the Infiniti range (an upmarket even more luxurious sibling to the Nissan Patrol)?

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

Apart from the name you mean, seeing as this was formally the QX56? Although that was actually changed last year – which is one of the things that annoys me about the whole rebadging that Infiniti did to its product range – if it wanted the 2015 model to stand out as significantly improved, why didn’t it just wait to change the badge for this new model year?

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

Except that the changes really aren’t that significant. Not that that’s wholly a bad thing, because like the Patrol, the QX-whatever remains a very good vehicle indeed. But for the sake of this discourse, the changes include a completely new front grille and added lower section, with revised LED headlights, fogs and indicators as well as a tweaked bumper.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

At the back there’s a bumper protector to avoid scratches when you’re heaving luggage into the ample cargo area of this 7/8-seater. You get three new colours: Hermosa Blue, Graphite Shadow and Majestic White, as well as a new 14-spoke 22-inch alloy wheel. Plus two colour have been added for the interior trim, Wheat or Graphite, in addition to slight changes to the trim and the wood panelling has been improved.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

There’s also now an array of safety tech that’s been added including high beam assist (auto dips and engages the high beams), collision warning systems which not only monitors the vehicle ahead, but the one ahead of that too! And obviously you get alerts for blind spots and lane departures.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

How was it to drive?

The deep chested and surprisingly sporty-sounding 5.6-litre V8 remains and the 400bhp and 413lb ft of torque provides ample grunt to move this beast along. In fact, I was fortunate enough to find myself in the driver’s seat for the uphill run to Alila, and we broke away and ahead of the main convoy to blast up the hill using all of those horses and working the 7-speed transmission hard – holding it in lower gears manually to keep the torque on call.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

The engine more than compensates for a transmission set up for smoother cruising, but what was more astonishing – apart from the fact that it didn’t let up or overheat once during our aggressive run to the top – was that it handled the corners with such aplomb and composure. The superb grip from the roaring tyres held tight despite the aural shrieks, but the real surprise was how well the Hydraulic Body Motion Control system kept everything relatively stable.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

At the pace we were attacking the corners we should have had this thing on its door-handles, but it didn’t lean alarmingly, threaten to throw us out of our seats or punish our over-exuberance with a bout of motion-sickness inducing wallowiness. Admittedly it’s not a sports car, but it was rather enjoyable and remarkably competent – frankly I was tempted to go back down and do the 50km run again!

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

The next day the drive back down should have been punishing on the brakes as indicated by the massive run-off roads provided on some of the more treacherous corners. Especially since they already have to work hard on this 2800kg behemoth, even with the prudent speeds, but there was never a hint of the anchors struggling to contain momentum.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

As good as it was on Jebal Akhdar, it was in its real realm when devouring the distances on the long tarmac cruise in supreme comfort, cosseting its passengers, isolating us from the wind, road-roar and the outside world, as well as entertaining us through the excellent in-car Bose 15-speaker (13 as standard) sound system once I Bluetoothed my 70s and 80s tunes to it!

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

Nor did it disappoint when the going got rough in the wadi, making short work of the broken surfaces and easily negotiating the splash-throughs. Surfing over the sand track it arrived at the camp in a state you won’t be accustomed to seeing these luxury 4x4s in – covered in dirt and muck. Yet it remained calm, collected and unruffled throughout – both us and the car!

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

Verdict

Stunning landscapes, lovely people, amazing places to explore and beautiful hotels, I thoroughly recommend Oman as a holiday destination and you should definitely try to take in Jebal Akhdar whilst you’re there – just make sure you go in a 4×4 or they won’t let you up the hill.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

Oh. Sorry, you mean the car?

Right, well, quite frankly it’s as good as it always ways, only slightly moreso. The opportunity to drive it so far over such varied terrain just confirmed not only its astonishing depth of ability but the ease with which it can handle anything you throw at it.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

But of course you won’t. This is not the car you’re going to be taking off-road much, its fractionally lesser sibling from Nissan is the one for those chores and duties. It’s just good to know that you can if you need it to. They also appear to have dropped the price a little – it’s now listed as starting from AED288,000 which brings it much closer to the starting price of the 400bhp version of the Patrol (AED235k) putting it tantalising within reach if you were contemplating the Nissan.

2015 Infiniti QX80 review

2015 Infiniti QX80 Review – The Specs

Price: AED288,000 ($78k)
Engine: 5.6-litre, V8, 400bhp @ 5800rpm, 413lb ft @ 4000rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 6.5seconds, 210kph, 12.5L/100km
Transmission: seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Weight: 2767kg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *