From a space perspective the QX50 is the perfect size for a lot of young or small families.
Now that we’re firmly in winter’s grip, a parade of crossovers has started to roll through our roster here at DoubleClutch.ca. This time of year we’re grateful for the extra foul-weather confidence and comfort that these popular machines deliver. Beauty however, is not typically high on the list when it comes to utility vehicles, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. We spent a week with one of the prettiest crossovers out there, the 2020 Infiniti QX50 Sensory AWD to see if it has enough brawn to back its beauty.
With the smallest QX30 (reviewed here) now departed from Infiniti’s lineup, the QX50 is the smallest of the Infiniti crossovers, and given that it was all new last year, it’s still very fresh on the streets and draws a surprising amount of attention. That’s likely because it is, in my opinion, one of the best styled crossovers on the market. The heavily sculpted hood, which provides a nice Corvette-like view of the road, pairs well with the QX50’s aggressive and muscular stance. Our tester was in Dynamic Sunstone Red, which really suits the styling well and garnered admiring looks everywhere I took it. Paired with the dark charcoal 20-inch wheels equipped as part of the Sensory trim, our tester certainly stood out in the crowd.
The interior of the QX50 is just about as special as the exterior thanks to abundant use of quality materials, and top-notch fit and finish. Infiniti crossovers and SUVs typically do have very well appointed cabins and despite now being the baby of the family, the QX50 is no exception. The top-tier Autograph trim level really puts the interior over the top with unique color options and lots of quilted leather, but our Sensory trim level, which is one step down, is still equipped with lots of soft black leather, black suede and silver birch wood accents.
The interior quality provides a sense of luxury that is enhanced by the long list of features found in our tester including heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a massive panoramic sunroof, 16-speaker Bose Performance series sound system, and the full gamut of the latest safety and driving aids as part of Infiniti’s ProPILOT driving assistance package. The interior really does support the QX50’s status as a true luxury vehicle and not just a pretender.
One big upgrade the QX50 has received since its launch is that the 2020 model now comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, something that was missing in a big way last year. Beyond that, I am still not a huge fan of the infotainment setup. It runs dual screens, but the upper screen is reserved strictly for a low-resolution navigation system that looks and feels many years outdated. The lower touchscreen does everything else, and it’s slicker looking, responsive and easy to navigate, though it would benefit from more real estate and faster operation. Especially now that Infiniti has smartphone compatibility, the proprietary navigation system is pointless – ditch it and make the primary screen larger.
From a space perspective the QX50 is the perfect size for a lot of young or small families. There is loads of convenient storage up front, and the rear seats are comfortable for two adults or even three children if need be. The rear seats can be adjusted back and fourth, reclined for extra passenger comfort, and of course the 60/40 split rear bench folds relatively flat to allow for bulkier cargo.
The QX50 only comes with one engine option, but it is an interesting one. Infiniti calls it the “VC-Turbo”, variable compression and turbocharged. The first of its kind widely available, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine adjusts its compression ratio from an efficient 14:1 to a powerful 8:1 ratio by altering how far the pistons move within the cylinders. The idea is that the engine’s ability to change compression characteristics based on conditions and driving style will maximize both efficiency and power output, making for the perfect no-compromise engine.
In reality, there is a fair bit of compromise involved, mostly in the way of refinement, but we’ll get to that. The 2.0-liter delivers 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque at 1600RPM. These are impressive numbers and very comparable to what you might expect from a naturally aspirated V6, including Infiniti’s own 3.5-liter V6 used in the larger QX60 (reviewed here). The innovative engine is mated to a CVT, and typical of Nissan and Infiniti CVTs, it sucks a lot of the fun out of an otherwise spry little engine.
While the VC-Turbo is surprisingly smooth in its ability to deliver large amounts of power and gain or drop revs, which is an impressive feat for such a complex motor. The CVT on the other hand, can’t keep up with the snappy response from the engine, which means hard acceleration is met with lots of revving and noise, but very delayed action. Additionally, throttle response at low speed is dismally slow, which means executing quick maneuvers in city traffic requires some additional planning.
The excess revving generated by the CVTs slow response and the non-existent throttle response in the city makes the VC-Turbo feel a lot less refined than it really could be. Beyond those two significant issues, it delivers a fairly positive driving experience. It packs plenty of power for highway passing, and once up to speed, the four-cylinder really does hum along quiet and smoothly. We even towed a 2000-pound trailer with a QX50 last year and it did an admirable job.
Drivetrain aside, the QX50 delivers is comfortable and refined. Continuing to use Infiniti’s electric steer-by-wire system, the steering is extremely light and even a bit vague. In the case of the QX50, engineers have made a conscious effort to reduce harshness from the road travelling through the wheel. This makes for a very disconnected and relaxing driving experience. The suspension is softly sprung which compliments the light steering, and the QX50 is well insulated from road noise. We observed a problem with wind noise on the highway; quite loud around both passenger and driver doors, though this might be an isolated issue with our particular vehicle. Regardless, the QX50 is a relaxing and luxurious place to spend lots of time behind the wheel.
The fancy variable-compression turbocharged four cylinder does pay some dividends in the form of fuel savings when driven conservatively. If your right foot gets a bit heavy, though the CVT will have the little four winding up frequently, and any fuel saved is quickly burnt off. After commuting into the city at rush hour for a week, my average consumption sat at 10.6L/100km, which is a good result for an all-wheel-drive crossover with this performance and capability. It’s worth noting than the QX50 does require premium fuel.
A base Pure trim level QX50 starts at $44,450, and at that price you’re missing out on some of the luxury options such as the panoramic sunroof and navigation. A ProAssist trim at $52,990 and gets the driver assistance package, real leather appointed seats, Bose 16-speaker sound and more. Then comes our Sensory trim tester at $56,490 which gets the dark grey 20-inch wheels, heads-up display, premium interior and exterior accents, and more. Lastly, the fully loaded Autograph at $57,990 comes with everything available plus the ultra luxurious semi-aniline quilted leather interior.
The 2020 Infiniti QX50 Sensory is an interesting option in the luxury mid-size crossover segment because it offers a full-blown luxury experience for significantly less than any of the German luxury competition. However, the driveline is not nearly as refined as it could be, and it does distract from the overall experience. If your focus is away from the powertrain and on overall comfort and value, the QX50 offers a lot of steam as a capable and comfortable family work horse with more luxury than you’d find at this price point.