Not as hideous as it used to be – that is the general opinion about Infiniti’s behemoth, the new QX80. And while that could be damning with faint praise, it is certainly an accurate summary, because the outgoing iteration was, to the majority of eyes, a visual step too far.
Its bulbous nose profile and low-set headlamps gave it a porpoise face – fine if you are a cute, marine-dwelling mammal, but not so much if you are a full-size luxury SUV.
This mid-life refresh was given its world debut at the Dubai International Motor Show in November – something that made complete sense to anyone familiar with the brand in this region. The QX80 is a ubiquitous sight here. It takes the basic recipe of Nissan’s hugely successful Patrol and adds a dash of luxury, without adding very much in the way of price.
Little wonder that this is the model’s second-largest market after North America.
One thing Infiniti has never properly nailed, though, is its styling, and recently appointed head of design Karim Habib, formerly of BMW, has been responsible for designing the all-new QX80.
For now, the QX80’s overhaul is nothing more than minor cosmetic surgery. The nose job has been a success, with the headlamps moving north to a more natural position on the car’s face. A wide air intake has been incorporated under the main grille to give it more aggression and a lower stance while straighter, tauter edges have replaced swoopy panels.
The side profile has been subtly altered, but you would need to have a previous model parked next to it to see the differences, while the rear elevation continues the squatter aesthetic of the front, with new tail lamps joined by a chrome strip – a visual trick that makes everything look wider and more cohesive.
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Inside, there are new stitching patterns for the leather upholstery, new instrument lighting and trim colours, larger screens in the rears of the headrests and an updated infotainment system that now caters to 31 different languages.
Apart from some extra sound insulation, that is about it for updates. While Infiniti has been at pains to distance itself from its parent company and the reputation it has for supplying “posh Nissans”, the QX80 is perhaps the most obvious reminder of that connection, thanks to its ageing ergonomics and a side profile that is practically identical to the Patrol. So why would anyone buy this and not a spec’d-up Nissan alternative?
That all comes down to value for money, and in this, the Infiniti scores highly. It is positively loaded with standard kit and weighs in at roughly the middle pricing ground for the Patrol, in a move that may well tempt greater numbers to move upscale, at least brand-wise.
It remains a well-sorted family/load-lugger – it can seat up to eight occupants. And on the basis of my test drive around the wilds of Ras Al Khaimah, it can cope with some fairly rough terrain, while remaining smooth as silk on the road.
Capable, luxurious, good value and absolutely enormous – no wonder it is so successful here.
And there is no reason to think that will change any time soon.