The fact that Infiniti has pulled the wraps off their QX50 premium crossover is quite special for many reasons.
NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO – Aside from being a solid entry within its segment, the outgoing QX50 (reviewed here) was special because of its personality. Packing traditional hydraulic steering and a roaring VQ-series V6, the QX50 was effectively a G37 wearing a backpack. All of that is gone, in favour of new technology and a product that will ultimately contribute to the growth of the Infiniti brand. We were invited to partake in a drive to the Niagara region to sample the all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50 AWD.
Infiniti may not be an extremely high volume seller, but this is a brand that deserves credit for quite a few world first technologies. Tech such as lane keeping support, lane departure warning, rearview monitor, Direct Adaptive Steering, and now the VC-Turbo powertrain technology were all global firsts that started in Infiniti products. The Direct Adaptive Steering has been very controversial, but its capability is undeniable.
The QX50’s platform is new from the ground up; ditching a rear-drive based platform in favour of a front-drive-based transverse layout. The new model sits at 3,950 pounds, thanks to lightweight construction thanks to usage-high tensile steel and an overall compact engine. The new QX50 looks like a slightly taller Q50 (reviewed here) in station wagon form, which is a very good thing. The LED headlights are stunning, and the beautifully sculpted hood and bodylines contribute to a look that stands out from the sea of silver crossovers at your local Costco parking lot.
The biggest conversation piece here is the new VC-Turbo engine sitting under the hood, which is the world’s first variable compression turbo engine. It’s a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, but it’s unlike every other application the competition offers. It uses a wide-range turbocharger, a cylinder head integrated exhaust manifold, dual variable valve timing, direct and port injection, and multi-link variable compression ratio. Factor all of this in, along with a lack of a balancer shaft system, and you have an engine that maximizes performance.
This motor puts out 268 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 280 lb-ft. of torque at 4,400RPM, with a compression ratio that varies between 8:1 and 14:1. In the real world, the VC-Turbo is a responsive powertrain that does a good job at eliminating turbocharger lag and delivering power where it’s needed. In both city and driving applications, the motor does a good job keeping the QX50 moving along, and doesn’t feel like a downgrade coming from the previous model’s throaty V6. The seven-speed automatic is gone, and the only available gearbox is an Xtronic CVT with paddle shifters.
At first the VC-Turbo isn’t immediately noticeable, and there isn’t really any urgency off the line, but it builds power quickly and the added torque is definitely there. The car is very quiet overall, with good ride quality over a variety of road surfaces from the fixed dampers. The excellent steering feel of the outgoing model is gone, though the new Direct Adaptive Steering is quicker despite feeling far more artificial.
All of this technology means the new QX50, available only with all-wheel-drive in Canada will be considerably more efficient than its predecessor. It’s rated at 10.0L/100km in the city, 7.8L/100km on the highway, and rounds out an average of 9.0L/100km. It is rated on premium 91-octane fuel, and due to the VC-Turbo technology, that is the only gasoline it should be fed. The biggest challenge with the outgoing QX50 was fuel efficiency, so this is a vast improvement that consumers will appreciate in the real world.
By far, the interior is the new QX50’s most visually appealing attribute. The quilted leather seats are stunning to look at and very comfortable, and the dashboard layout is quite attractive. A space-saving electronic shifter has replaced the mechanical gear selector on the console. Materials are very nice, with leather, suede, and nice metallic finish everywhere. The cabin is also very roomy with plenty of head and legroom for front and rear passengers. The rear seat is adjustable as well, with fore/aft movement unavailable in most competitors’ vehicles. Cargo capacity is 880L with the rear seats upright and in the rear-most position, and this grows to 1822L with the rear seats folded.
The dual-screen infotainment setup we have seen in the Q50 and Q60 (reviewed here) is mildly refreshed for this application and now features Apple CarPlay, but it remains quite challenging to use. The lower screen has brilliant graphics, but tends to lag like an obsolete Pentium computer, and the upper screen that houses the map is rather low resolution and is in dire need of an update. The next generation of Nissan/Infiniti vehicles should have an all-new system, and that should round out the otherwise lovely interiors nicely.
Expected from almost every new vehicle is a suite of active driver aids, so Infiniti has predictably added their ProPilot Assist technology into the QX50. This adds blind spot warning and intervention, Distance Control Assist, forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, backup collision intervention, and predictive forward collision warning. A new 9.0” heads-up display is a first from Infiniti, and is one of the better examples we’ve seen. Additional tech worth mentioning is a new 16-speaker Bose premium audio system available in the ProACTIVE trim and up.
All QX50 models come equipped with LED headlights, a power lift gate, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote engine start, and forward emergency braking. As mentioned, all-wheel-drive is standard for all Canadian models as well. The base price is $44,490 for the base “Luxe” model. The “Essential” is the model most Canadians will buy, which adds leather seating, navigation, and more at $48,990. The top-trim “Autograph” model sits at $57,990, with the Sensory and ProACTIVE models sitting in the middle.
When it comes down to it, the crossover segment will continue to grow, reflective of the wants of the end consumer. The 2019 Infiniti QX50 is an excellent choice, stacking up well against the new Acura RDX (reviewed here) along with other rivals such as the Lexus NX 300. The new engine technology makes it a pioneer of sorts, but it also will sell based on its handsome looks and youthful character. This is one vehicle that is almost guaranteed to contribute significantly to sales increases for the Infiniti brand and is one step closer to bringing the brand’s glory days back.