Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti, has only been on sale in the UK for a few years and has yet to break through to the mainstream. But in the USA, where it was launched in 1989, Infiniti is a serious player in the luxury sector. Serious enough that it can offer an enormo-SUV with a perfectly straight face.
The Infiniti QX80 started out in life as a Nissan Patrol, a proper off-roader that keeps much of the developing world moving. To turn this body-on-frame behemoth into a luxury SUV, it’s been fitted with a new, uglier, nose, smothered in bling and loaded with every conceivable gadget.
Under the bonnet is a 395bhp, 5.6-litre V8 engine, driving either just the rear wheels (why?) or all four. Inside, there’s seating for seven and it’s so quiet, you could hear a church mouse whisper.
We have to talk about the sheer size of thing, as for us Brits, it’s hard to wrap your head around. The QX80 is nearly 17 and-a-half feet long, six-foot-six wide, six-foot-three tall and it weighs just shy of 2.7 tons. That makes it bigger in every dimension than even a long-wheelbase Range Rover.
But the QX80 is half the price of the big Rangie, at $60,000-odd, which is largely the point. I mean, yes, it’s ugly and doesn’t handle that well. But it’s hugely spacious, supremely comfortable, loaded with toys and can tow a boat without breaking a sweat.
That’s what a lot of Americans want from a car and until the QX80 came along, only the domestic Cadillac Escalade, GMC Denali and Lincoln Navigator it gave to them. Since none of the other ‘import’ luxury marques have anything to compete with the QX80, it gives Infiniti a crucial edge.
Much as it may seem slightly grotesque to British eyes, in a country with wide open spaces, and where big families with boats are surprisingly common, the Infiniti QX80 does make a certain kind of sense.