The 2019 Infiniti QX50 is fresh start with striking exterior styling, a more luxurious presentation, Level 2 semi-autonomous driving and a first-of-its-kind engine with variable compression.
There are a lot of moving parts to the redesigned QX50, the brand’s midsize five-passenger SUV crossover. Its new 2.0-liter VC-Turbo four-cylinder engine is getting much attention in advertising and in road-test evaluations, but not all of it is progressive.
Infiniti says the engine’s variable compression ratio technology is a breakthrough in combustion-engine design. But it is a complex engineering design that took about 20 years to exorcise the demons for mainstream application.
The once-simple engine piston gets sophisticated bottom-end internals, with a multi-link connector at the crankshaft that connects with another control shaft then an actuator arm and an electric motor-controlled rotating unit called the Harmonic Drive.
The movement is robotic-like syncopation to continually adjust the engine’s compression ratio by raising or lowering the reach of the pistons. The consumer benefit is more power and fuel efficiency from a four-cylinder engine — and it does have impressive power numbers.
The 2.0-liter VC-Turbo replaces a 3.7-liter V-6 with 325-hp and 267 foot-pounds of torque at 5,200 rpm. With a seven-speed transmission, it had mileage of 17/24/20 mpg city/hwy/combined.
The VC-Turbo, with direct-and-port injection, has 268 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. torque from 1,600-4,800 rpm. All-wheel-drive fuel economy ratings are 24 mpg city, 30 highway and 26 mpg combined on the recommended premium fuel. I was averaging just 16.9 mpg in a week with little freeway driving and much use of Sport mode. Oddly, there was no auto stop-start at idle, but I don’t think there’s much mileage benefit for the driver with that feature.
The efficiency gains are apparent on paper, but my driving experience was variable and made somewhat annoying by the continuously variable automatic transmission. At times the power delivery was quick and assertive, mostly around town, and at times the spooling of the turbo (as the engine reached 1,600 rpm) and the rubberbanding uptake of the CVT had the feel of a small powertrain trying to move a heavy vehicle. But the QX50 is not heavy at 3,857 pounds. At speed, the engine response is quicker and almost frenzied.
Only AWD models are recommended for towing and have a 3,000-pound rating.
The steering weight is very light, which I like when tooling the city, and the overall drivability is comfortable, not sporty, particularly with the Bridgestone Ecopia 19-inch runflat tires. There is noticeable road noise on concrete Interstate despite a well-soundproofed cabin.
The QX50 is sold in three trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive. Pricing starts at $38,540 and ranges to $46,145 for the top-line Essential AWD; pricing includes the $995 freight charge from Aguascalientes, Mexico. The Essential tester was $59,585 with four major packages and three stand-alone options for premium paint ($500); illuminated kick plates ($465); and welcome lighting ($425), which shines at the ground from below the door opening.
Competitors include the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5 or XT4, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Porsche Macan.
The traditional cabin layout does not set any new standards for functionality or creativity, but Infiniti is a master tailor at high-luxury interiors. The tester’s three-tone cabin was neatly dressed in white perforated and quilted leather upholstery, etched metallic trim and a brown Ultrasuede headliner with accent swaths of blue Ultrasuede across the instrument panel and upper doors. All of the plastic pieces felt sturdy with spot-on panel fit.
The tight turning circle of 36.4 feet is empowering, as is the around-view monitor, which shows all sides of the vehicle. Braking is confident with light pedal pressure from vented four-wheel disc brakes, 13-inch discs front and 12.1-inch rear.
The ride height is ideal for command of road visibility without a big step-up to the cabin. Sightlines are open over the shoulder, but the wide base of the windshield pillars at the side mirrors can block views of pedestrians in crosswalks. Eight-way power front seats are firmly supportive and not overly bolstered; but only the driver gets two-way lumbar adjustment.
Headroom is tall at 40 inches with the panoramic roof. Driver controls are reasonably intuitive, but the dual stacked screens in the center console are low and not conducive for parallel eye movement from screen to road. The 8.8-inch navigation screen is at the top but there is no ability to swap the screen functions to have the more used 7-inch infotainment screen in the upper position.
The back seat is quite functional with fore-aft slide and a reclining seatback. There is almost adult-class thigh support and the low center exhaust tunnel improves center-seat footroom. Extra features include temperature control (but no fan speed), a charging USB and 12-volt plug and a fold-down padded center armrest with cup holders.
The cargo area is deep and wide with 31.1 cubic feet of storage that will fit three golf bags. Or fold the seats for about six feet of length and up to 64.4 cubic feet. Extras include usable basement storage, two lights, dual seatback releases and a bag hook.
The QX50 has glints of engineering brilliance in a setting rich in luxury. The next evolution should include a brilliant transmission.
2019 Infiniti QX70 Essential AWD
- Body style: midsize, 5-passenger, AWD SUV crossover
- Engine: 268-hp, turbocharged and direct-and-port injection 2.0-liter 4-cylinder; 280 lb.-ft. torque from 1,600-4,800 rpm
- Transmission: CVT w/manual shift mode and rev-matching downshifts
- Fuel economy: 24/30/26 city/hwy/combined; premium fuel
- 0-60 mph: 6.2 secs
- Fuel tank: 16 gal.
- Cargo space: 31.4-65.1 cu. ft.
- Front head/leg room: 40*/39.6 in. *41 in. w/o moonroof
- Rear head/leg room: 38.4/38.7 in.
- Length/wheelbase: 184.7/110.2 in.
- Curb weight: 3,857 lbs.
- Turning circle: 36.4 ft.
- Standard equipment includes: smartkey locking and push-button ignition, around-view monitor, power panoramic roof with sunshade, LED headlights, leather-trimmed upholstery, 8-way power adjustable front seats, 2-way power lumbar for driver, electric parking brake, around-view camera, navigation and infotainment apps, 4 USB ports, 19-inch runflat Bridgestone Ecopia tires
- Safety features include: 8 air bags, forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, hill-start assist
- Base price: $46,145, including $995 freight charge; price as tested $59,585
- Options on test vehicle: lighted kick plates $465; premium paint $500; welcome lighting $425; ProASSIST package, $550, includes backup collision Intervention, distance control assist, intelligent cruise control, rear cross traffic alert;
ProASSIST Package, $2,000, adds ProPILOT Assist with steering assist and intelligent cruise control with full-speed range, blind-spot intervention, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, high-beam control;
Autograph package, $2,000, adds, white, quilted semi-aniline leather upholstery, blue Ultrasuede upper door, upper instrument panel and center console lid accents, seat quilting stitch; blue piping between white leather and blue Ultrasuede;
Sensory package, $7,500, adds 20-inch dark painted wheels with 255/45R20 all-season run-flat tires, climate-control seats; 2-way passenger power lumbar, motion-activated liftgate, rear side window sunshades, advanced climate control system, cube design LED headlamps (LED high-low beam), adaptive front lighting system, open pore maple wood trim, black Ultrasuede upper door, upper instrument panel and center console lid accents, Ultrasuede headliner, metallic cargo-area finishers
- Where assembled: Aguascalientes, Mexico
- Warranty: 4-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside service and a free loaner car for scheduled service;6-years/70,000-miles powertrain