QX50: Infiniti’s Strong Representative in The Compact Class
Compact SUV’s both in luxury and non-luxury segments make up the hottest automobile market in Canada and on most markets worldwide. Each major brand keeps a close eye on this segment and works to make sure to have a strong product in its portfolio.
Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand is no exception. QX50 is Infiniti’s best-selling compact crossover and had been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year. In this model year, it is still a brand-new and sought-after model. We tested a 2020 QX50 with the Sensory trim level with standard all-wheel drive.
Packed with an attractive style (somewhat subjectively speaking), the QX50 is a strong contender is the busy and very competitive segment of luxury SUV’s consisting of the brand-new Lincoln Corsair, Lexus NX, Acura RDX, GMC Terrain, Cadillac XT5, Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5, and BMW X3 and more.
The timing was perfect as our one-week test drive started almost at the same time with Toronto’s first snowfall around mid of November.
As soon as I sat behind the steering wheel of the QX50, I immersed into the congested evening traffic of the GTA.
Engine and Powertrain
We were also curious about QX50’s new high-tech variable compression (VC) turbo engine developed in-house by Nissan, the mother company. Despite all the excitement and publicity about the EV’s and alternative powertrains, the internal combustion engine is not only still alive, but also to stay with us for about another two decades or more. Infiniti’s VC engine is an industry first and looks like a milestone of innovation for a conventional powertrain. You do not notice much (if not at all) difference while driving this vehicle.
Nissan engineers used a special multi-link between the connecting rod and crankshaft, and a small electric motor, that changes the compression ratio of the engine seamlessly between 8:1 on the low side and 14:1 on the high side. This is a very good compromise between power and torque (on demand) while keeping very low consumption when you do not need too much power.
The 2.0L, 4-cylinder turbo engine delivers 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque coming at as low as 1600 rpm. It generates enough torque to make you feel driving a powerful vehicle. Mated to a CVT transmission, which doesn’t look like a CVT. “Predefined” steps lock the gears at certain points thus mimicking a traditional planetary gearbox.
Except for the white quilted leather seats and some other minor features, the Sensory version is well-equipped and deserves to be a luxury vehicle except the heated rear seats which are not available even as an option. I assume that Infiniti will take care of this during the mid-cycle model refresh in two or three years.
The cabin is comfortable and feels luxurious. The rear passenger legroom is one of the best in this class. The cargo area has grown significantly over the previous generation. If offers now 881 liters of space and because the sliding rear seats and can be expanded to 1048 liters.
Designing the appearance and functionality of infotainment systems in modern cars turns more and more to a challenge. Drivers want to access the information on the screen quickly and easily with minimal distraction. Infiniti’s InTouch Dual display infotainment system splits duties between two touch screens presumably to keep it simple. The upper screen handles the navigation map and phone functions, but inputs are made on the lower touchscreen. There’s also a small rotary controller. However, it has limited functionality and use. Here, Infiniti must revisit this topic and better have a look at competitors, such as BMW’s i-Drive. The graphic designs ad resolutions of the two screens are different too. They do not look like parts of the same whole. Furthermore, neither Carplay nor Android are available, features that become more widely available even in non-luxury brands, such as Nissan Altima of the same group. This is another area Infiniti needs to look at for the next model refresh.
In general, we loved both the interior and exterior design of the QX50. Naturally flowing lines from the hood to the slim LED headlights, elegant use of chrome, the signature double-arch grille and distinctive D-pillar kink.
On the road, the ride was well-balanced between firm road-holding and comfortable cruising. I drove with winter tires on snowy or icy roads most of the time. And you can assume that in summer on the dry surface, the ride quality would increase further. This feature is a must when you pay a price north of 60 grand for a compact SUV and Infiniti did a very good job in this area
Unfortunately, the same perfect calibration does not apply to the steering. You expect a stronger connection between the driver and the front wheels. This is probably due to Infiniti’s steer-by-wire system, with a computer between you and the road. Human beings are not satisfied easily. Even if this system is continuously developed and now in its fourth generation, more direct steering would add to the sportiness and the driving pleasure of the QX50. It works seamlessly with driver assistance and semi-autonomous driving technologies like the ProPilot Assist system that comes standard on Proactive and higher trims.
ProPilot system, as we had extensively tested during our long-range test drive with the Altima, uses a myriad of sensors including the blindspot monitors and forward cameras to maintain a pre-selected distance from the car in front of you while simultaneously keeping you centered within the lane.
After about six hundred kilometers of driving on the highway and the city, we reached an average of 9.7L per 100 km in wintry conditions and winter tires. I think that the modern, VC turbo engine deserves most credits for the impressive fuel economy. (NRC measurements are (Premium Gasoline ) 10L/100 km city, 7.8 L/100 km highway, 9.0 L/100 km combined)
With prices starting at just over $44K the QX50 comes standard with quite a lot of kit including AWD, 19-inch wheels, LED lighting, a huge panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, blind-spot monitors, forward collision warning, and a remote engine starter.
Our tester had Sensory (second to the range-topping Autograph) trim level with an MSRP of $57,098. Add to this $1,200 for optional triple clear coat paint, and $2,095 for freight and PDI, the full price reaches $60,393.
If you target a luxury, compact crossover, QX50 is definitely a wise choice with a powerful yer fuel-sipping engine, impressive road-holding and long-term reliability of Japanese engineering and product quality.
Article and Pictures By Varol McKars
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