In what can be considered a sign of the times Infiniti now offers more crossovers than cars in America. Nissan’s luxury arm, which has been up and running for close to 30 years here, jumped into the SUV game more than 20 years ago with the Pathfinder-based QX4. Since then, the marque has had its share of interesting models, most notably the super fast V-8 powered FX45 with its “bionic-cheetah” stance.
Today, though there are sadly no longer any cheetah-based models to be had, the Infiniti lineup consists of several solid, competitive crossovers and even an old-school SUV designed to meet all your haute hauling needs, with sizes ranging from a compact hatch (QX30) to a body-on-frame, XXL beast (QX80). We recently wrapped up a year with a QX30 Sport sprayed in Infiniti’s polarizing pinkish-metallic hue, and we greatly enjoyed our trouble-free time with it. But given that the QX30 is a Mercedes-Nissan mashup, we wanted to see what Infiniti has been up to on its own. So as one of the latest additions to our Four Seasons fleet, we chose the thoroughly updated second-generation 2019 Infiniti QX50. It’s a model that in many ways is serving as a vanguard vehicle for Infiniti, and it all starts with what’s under the hood.
Arguably the biggest reason why the QX50 piqued our interest (or, to use senior editor and techno-geek Nelson Ireson’s words, has us freaking excited) is that it’s the first vehicle to employ Nissan/Infiniti’s new VC-Turbo engine. VC stands for Variable Compression, and it uses a complex mechanical linkage that alters each piston’s stroke length while the engine is running. Boot the throttle and the stroke lengthens, lowering the compression ratio to 8:1; ease off the gas and the stroke shortens, increasing the compression ratio to as high as 14:1 and (supposedly) maximizing economy. In an age where most technological updates are software related, it’s cool to see something so novel and mechanical make it to market. We wanted to understand how well it works—and, more importantly, if it holds up to a year’s worth of spirited thrashing.
The VC-Turbo delivers 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque from just 2.0 liters (give or take, depending on what the variable-compression system is doing), and is paired with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). We’ve never been big fans of CVTs, but they continue to improve and we’re eager to find out how well it meshes with the new engine.
As far as the trim level goes, we opted for the top-of-the-line QX50 Essential AWD model, and we didn’t stop there. The just-shy-of-$60k price tag includes nearly $13,500 worth of options, the biggest of which is the $7,500 Sensory Package. It bundles up a sensory overload of features, including a 16-speaker Bose stereo system, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 20-inch rims, and special cube LED headlights—some 19 different upgrades in all.
Then there are the Pro packages, the $2,000 ProActive and $550 ProAssist, with the operative words being Active and Assist. The ProActive package features ProPilot Assist (not to be confused with the ProAssist package), a combination of adaptive cruise and lane guidance that essentially lets the QX50 kinda-sorta drive itself (though unlike older iterations found in the Q50 and Q60, the QX50 requires a hand on the wheel). ProPilot Assist can also apply the brakes when cruise is not engaged. The system serves as an electronic co-pilot of sorts that senior editor Aaron Gold has dubbed the QX50’s “force field.” Checking the ProActive box also nets you Infiniti’s “steer-by-wire” Direct Adaptive Steering system, a head up display, and lane departure and blind spot warning features. The ProAssist package’s primary systems are rear cross traffic and backup collision safety nannies.
Also worthy of note is the $2,000 Autograph Package, an interior design bundle that the Infiniti press pack likens to a tropical vacation: “The rich chocolate brown replicates wood applications in the resort and the surrounding trees, followed by a creamy off-white representing the sand on the beach. The highlights of a cooler dark navy blue on the center console, reminiscent of the ocean water, strike the proper balance between warm and cool, creating a comfortable yet invigorating environment.” Marketing-speak aside, we’re most concerned with how those off-white quilted leather seats will hold up to normal wear and tear and the occasional kid and dog.
We’re also curious to get more reaction from the staff about the wild combination of the seats with the brown leather and blue suede on the dash and center stack. Editor-in-chief Mike Floyd for one digs the QX50’s digs: “I love this color and materials combination, it’s one of the more interesting interior executions I’ve seen in a long time.”
Almost as soon as it arrived, senior editor Gold swiped the QX50 for a drive from L.A. to Phoenix and back. “I didn’t like this thing much when I first reviewed it,” he wrote in the logbook. “To me, it seemed like a shadow of the old QX50/EX35. But the more I drive our Four Seasons car, the more I like it. No, let me put that a different way—the more I drive everything else, the more I like the QX50. I’ve recently spent time in Jag’s F- and E-Pace, BMW X3, Volvo XC60, and a well-heeled Range Rover Supercharged LWB. The QX50 compares favorably to all: It drives well, it’s quiet, it’s solidly built, and it’s supremely comfortable.”
Gold also noted that his stepmother’s poodle, Bounty, spent the hour-long drive from Sun City West to Mesa licking the blue suede on the center console. “Maybe he’s an Elvis fan,” Gold surmised. (Ewwww, we don’t care who he’s a fan of, please get that dog slobber cleaned off the suede, pronto.) As for the QX50’s interior room, so far it seems more than adequate for a midsize, two-row crossover in its segment, and it looks as though rear seat occupants won’t be doing any complaining. When carrying stuff is required, its 60/40 split rear seats easily plop down and fold flat at the pull of a tab from the cargo area to open up 64.4 cu-ft of space with them down (31.1 cubes with them up). Further amplifying the openness of the cabin is a massive panoramic and sliding tinted glass moonroof.
According to the EPA, the 2019 QX50 gets an estimated 24/30 mpg city/highway with a combined estimate of 26 mpg. So far we’ve only averaged 21.8 mpg, but it’s early days yet and we hope the QX50 will prove more efficient as we pile on the miles. Given that one of the supposed benefits of the VC engine is to better take advantage of situations where fuel can be saved, we sort of expect it quite frankly, even from a four-cylinder powertrain pulling around a not insignificant 3,857 lb.
Will the QX50 win our hearts like our last Four Seasons Infiniti? Will the VC engine be everything it’s compressed, er, cracked up, to be? Will more dogs like to lick the blue suede? Watch this space for more adventures and updates to come.
Our 2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential AWD
$46,145/$59,585 (base/as tested)
2.0-liter VC-turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/268 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 280 lb-ft @ 1,600 – 4,800 rpm
4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
Engine-speed-sensitive variable assist
Direct Adaptive Steering
All-Season, run-flat, Front: P255/45R20, Rear: P255/45R20
L X W X H
184.7 x 74.9 x 66 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R
CARGO CAPACITY (SEATS UP/DOWN)
31.1/64.4 cu ft
WEIGHT DIST F/R
399 miles (est)
Power-adjustable steering column
8-way power-adjustable front seats w/ driver power lumbar
LED fog lights
Adaptive cruise control
LED ambient lighting
Lane-departure warning and correction
Forward-collision warning and avoidance
Blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert
Electronic parking brake
Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection
Predictive Forward Collision Warning
Rear seats with slide, recline, and fold flat function
Sensory Package: $7,500—20-inch wheels with P255/45R20 tires, Semi-anline leather appointed seats, heated/cooled front seats, Advanced Climate Control System, 2-way passenger power lumbar, Motion activated liftgate, rear side window sunshades, LED headlights, adaptive front lighting system, ambient interior lighting, Bose premium audio w/16-speakers, Ultrasuede headliner, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, heated steering wheel, Maple wood interior trim