The 2019 Isle of Man TT Senior winner loves big engines and old vans. Good lad
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Good grief, what is it? An Infiniti QX80. Infiniti’s biggest, weightiest offering in America. It’s not a car we’re ever going to get in Britain. So, er, why? Two reasons. Firstly to show Infiniti’s breadth outside of Europe, and secondly, because it was there. Where?
Atlanta airport. Photographer Greg Pajo and I had flown out to America to see Nissan’s GT-R LM car in action. We were at the hire car desk and I was offered an upgrade. It was $10 a day and the lady at the counter told me that since it was a quiet time of year, that basically allowed me to pick whatever I liked when I got out to the car park. That in itself was worth ten bucks a day. So why the QX80? We’d just got off a long haul flight and had a three hour night time drive ahead of us. I wanted something comfy. I wanted something with satnav and a lazy engine. So I looked around the car park and since the QX80 was about the biggest thing out there, it was hard to see past. It was also odd looking and made me curious. And new. Brand new. Just 60 miles on the odo. Better still it had a 5.6-litre V8 with 400bhp, a seven speed auto gearbox and a cabin you had to hoist yourself up to like a chunky trucker. And did it get you where you needed to go easily? It did. The satnav was easy to programme once I’d worked out the useful-looking rotary dial behind the gearlever had precisely nothing to do with the touchscreen system and instead only handled 4wd matters, and tugging the gearlever back to Drive took even less effort than releasing the foot-operated handbrake. After that I took little notice, because it was late and Greg and I were too busy talking about Nissan’s LMP1 car, his draughty house and my tearaway kids. It was only the next day I took proper notice. And..? Not good. Turns out that despite its grand, faux-Georgian looks, underneath, the QX80 is based on a Nissan Patrol. So yes, with 400bhp it has enough get-up and go, and the gearbox is smooth and snappy enough, but the Patrol is a rough ‘n’ rugged utility vehicle, while this is trying to be something much more sophisticated. OK, it draws a veil over the worst of the Patrol’s bad road habits, but the steering is hopelessly slow witted and hit any roughness and the suspension jitters and shakes. You can feel its agricultural roots coming back to haunt it. A Range Rover this is not. There must be a ‘but…’ coming? There is. It only cost me £30 a day and I got to hand it back after three days. Also, in America, it costs $63,250, which works out at £43,125, about the same as a fully loaded Land Rover Discovery Sport, which won’t be half as loaded with kit as the Infiniti, or half as big. Tell me about the kit. It had everything from radar cruise and ventilated chairs to a third row of seats that fold themselves out the way electrically. Very slowly, frustratingly slowly, but electrically nonetheless. Same goes for the tailgate. In fact, such was the hassle of pushing-button-and-waiting that we ended up stowing most of our gear on the back seats. The back doors opened manually. In fact that looked like the place to be - the two big seats separated by a huge console. To be fair there’s a giant amount of space inside and the seats are comfortable, but much like the exterior a feeling of faux-ness pervades. The leather is that overly-perfect shiny stuff and I thought questionably lacquered wood veneers had gone out of fashion in the Nineties. Apparently I was wrong. Anything else you’d like to share with the group? Visually, it’s the car that taste forgot. Look at that front end, just look at it. It’ll put you right off your dinner. It did sit well on Interstates, chunking through the miles in high gears at minimal revs. Still only managed 23mpg, though - and that’s with the UK gallon conversion applied. I can see why people buy them, but it’s a façade of a car - there’s no depth or personality to it, no intrinsic or identifiable Infiniti traits. They’ve done a reasonable job of gussying up a Patrol so’s most buyers won’t notice or care where it’s come from, but it still doesn’t help me know what Infiniti is or what it stands for. Posh Nissan is still about as far as I can get with it.