ANDREW MHIZAMINDO : ANALYST
INFINITI buyers are after quality of workmanship, reliability and they do not like high maintenance costs. Another consideration on QX50 buyer’s shopping list is responsive handling and powerful acceleration. QX50 buyers also like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd. Put that together, you have a QX50 Infiniti.
The 2020 Infiniti QX50 continues with its dominant but tasteful twin arch grille. At the rear, the brand’s signature Crescent-cut roof pillars, a sloping roofline with an integrated spoiler, horizontally banded tail lamps and dual chrome-tipped exhaust outlets add dynamism. The QX50 rides on 19- or 20-inch alloy wheels. From any angle, the compact Infiniti SUV is easy on the eyes and conveys a premium, sporty appearance worthy of the luxury brand.
The interior is striking in top-of-the-line Autograph trim with semi-aniline leather and suede trim in complimentary white, brown and blue colors, the QX50’s cabin looks like something you might find in a more expensive luxury vehicle. As if lifted almost directly from concept to production, the instrument panel artfully flows into the doors as does the center console into the dash. Soft-touch and padded surfaces on the dash, console and doors add to the feeling of craftsmanship.
Its panoramic sunroof will give you the summer feel, cheerfulness and brightness.
Moving from a rear-drive-based design with a longitudinal drivetrain to a front-drive-based layout with a transverse-mounted engine as the QX50 did entering the 2019 model meant more of the SUV’s overall length could be dedicated to passenger and cargo space.
Despite the QX50’s compact overall size, interior space is ample for four passengers, five in a pinch. The standard power-operated front buckets are supportive but prioritize comfort, with heating and cooling as well as driver’s auto entry assist available in topline Sensory and Autograph trims.
QX50 rear seat room and comfort allow ease of getting in and out of both the front and rear seats as top strengths of the vehicle.
It has automatic temperature control with dual-zone controls for driver and front passenger. Rear seat passengers get standard floor heating ducts, as well as A/C vents. The quietness of the climate control fan will amaze you.
It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring. Infiniti had lagged behind other car brands in offering these popular features for integrating cellphone apps into the QX50’s 8-inch lower screen, but now the features are up and running.
QX50 has a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with SiriusXM satellite radio, with rich-sounding 16-speaker The infotainment system can be operated with touchscreen controls, hard buttons and knobs along the screens lower edge or a center console controller. The vehicle is WiFi enabled as well.
In the passenger area, aside from the glovebox and deep center console bin, there’s additional storage in the doors. Access to the cargo area is via a power operated liftgate. On the topline Autograph trim, the liftgate can be opened with a foot wave under the rear bumper.
The QX50’s visibility and safety systems are spot on. For 2020, the QX50 pads its good rankings in safety by making more items, such as rear blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, often extra cost in other vehicles, standard equipment across all trims. It also adds standard rear automatic braking to forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection and makes lane departure warning standard on all models.
The QX50’s basic backup camera is upgraded to a 360-degree surround-view monitor, which gives a very useful overhead view of the vehicle and its immediate surroundings in Essential, Sensory and Autograph trims.
The standard and only powertrain offering for the Infiniti QX50 is a turbocharged variable-compression 4-cylinder mated with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Dubbed the VC Turbo, the engine can infinitely vary its piston stroke and effective compression ratio between 8:1 and 14:1. The low-compression mode is for high power demand and the high-compression mode for cruising at light loads. The rationale is good power when you need it, good fuel economy when you are just cruising around. Nissan is the first automaker to put this technology in production, but its benefits may be lost on some consumers.
The VC Turbo generates 268 hp, competitive for the segment that includes offerings such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Lexus NX 300 and others. Torque is healthy enough at 380 Newton-Meter arriving at just 1600 rpm, giving the QX50 a strong midrange response.
On the steering wheel are paddle shifters that enable the driver to shift between eight simulated fixed gear ratios. Otherwise, the Xtronic CVT chooses between a wide range of ratios with no driver involvement. There are four selectable driving modes from standard, sport, eco to personal.
Nissan/Infiniti went to a lot of trouble and cost over a decade or more to develop the variable compression engine with a goal of good fuel economy. Keeping in mind that the QX50 tips the scales at around two tons, par for the course with most compact premium SUVs, the Infiniti’s EPA fuel economy estimates clock in at 1 litre per 9,7km. That’s no better or worse than competing 4-cylinder turbo luxury SUVs in the segment without the variable compression feature. So this is not for those who are always complaining about fuel consumption.
The QX50 with the VC Turbo has a sporty, higher pitched exhaust note emanating the dual pipes in the upper rev range, during brisk acceleration. Inside the cabin, the engine sound is managed with active noise cancellation working through the audio speakers to counteract annoying rumbles when cruising at low engine speeds and an active sound enhancement system to amplify the aspirational ones.
All-wheel drive for the QX50 is an on-demand system, operating as a front-wheel-drive vehicle unless a loss of traction occurs, whereupon the SUV can send up to 50 percent of drive torque to the rear wheels. It’s geared to all-weather on-pavement operation, not off-road exploration as the QX50 has neither the ground clearance nor the underbody cladding to handle the rough stuff.
Overall, the 2020 Infiniti QX50 is a right-sized 5-passenger luxury SUV with sharp exterior design and an even sharper interior. It’s roomy inside for its overall size. And the QX50 is packed with a full roster of standard comfort and convenience equipment, updated infotainment which finally includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a comprehensive array of safety and driver-assistive technology. As for the innovative VC Turbo 4-cylinder engine, it’s a shame the driver can’t see the inner workings of this elegantly simple variable-compression powerplant in action.
It’s missing a couple of upscale features, but it lives up to its premium credentials on looks and feel. Its infotainment system and some interesting technologies make it compete favourably. However, for the combination of luxury brand and quality of finish that the QX50 offers, along with the mostly enjoyable drive feel and excellent usability, the people looking for this type of vehicle will feel that they’re getting their money’s worth.