The QX50 enters its second generation almost unrecognizable from its predecessor. No longer confused it’s a wagon, the QX50 adopts a more chiseled, upright appearance, and I’d argue it looks fresher than comparable crossovers from BMW and Mercedes right now. Perhaps a little overeager to flaunt its new design, a massive Infiniti badge adorns the front grille. It looks enormous in person.
That’s just one sign it’s not business as usual with the QX50. Design aside, the QX50 takes other risks in the name of progress. It receives Infiniti’s steer-by-wire technology, which we have criticized in the past for its lack of feedback in the Q50 and other models. But in this SUV, it feels responsive. The model tackles corners without the wavering you’d expect on an SUV of this size. Although the steering is not completely natural, its grip is satisfying.
Another big change underlies the QX50’s comely new proportions. The QX50 shifts from a rear-drive setup to a front-drive, transverse-engine layout. Notably, it gets the world’s first variable-compression engine for a production vehicle. Infiniti was the first to master how to change an engine’s compression ratio on the fly in response to different driving situations, boosting either power or fuel efficiency depending on what is needed.
To change compression, the range of motion of each piston moves up and down within the cylinder. The compression ratio varies with the lowest at 8:1 and the highest at 14:1. As technical director Frank Markus wrote in one of his many pieces on this engine, “Low compression is desirable during periods of peak boost and engine output, and the high ratio (along with Atkinson cycle operation that closes the intake valves partway up the compression stroke) greatly improves efficiency during low-load steady-state operation.” If you want to read a treasure trove of information about the new engine dubbed VC-Turbo, click here, here, and here.
Although it’s the first production engine of its kind, the Infiniti QX50 drives much like any other worthwhile luxury crossover. The QX50 rides quietly with little road or wind noise seeping into the cabin on the highway. But the VC-Turbo can get loud when you really press on the accelerator. And you won’t necessarily be blown away by initial acceleration.
“Very soft launcher, but once underway, it wakes up rather quickly,” road test editor Chris Walton noted, also praising the smooth “upshift” feeling from the CVT.
The new model has less power than the old QX50, which carried a 3.7-liter V-6 good for 325 hp and a 0–60 time of 5.5 seconds. With the new VC-Turbo, Infiniti downsizes to a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 268 hp, resulting in a 0–60 time that is nearly a second slower. Torque, however, is up from 267 lb-ft to 280. Completing the run in 6.4 seconds, the new model joins good company.
The Infiniti becomes more competitive by offering a smaller engine like many key competitors we’ve tested, and it’s in the middle of the pack in terms of quickness. A 2018 Audi Q5 hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and a 2018 BMW X3 xDrive 30i took 6.3 seconds; both have less hp and torque than the Infiniti. We also tested a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 with 241 hp at 6.7 seconds. Different driving modes change the acceleration feel. Eco mode halts the throttle response considerably to the point where I avoid it, and Sport makes the QX50 feel a touch quicker. When it’s time to slow down, the solid brakes are neither sensitive nor mushy.
Despite some understeer, the QX50 gave a solid performance in the figure eight. It ran the course in 26.4 seconds at an average of 0.69 g. That’s impressive compared to the Q5 (27.2 at 0.65 g), X3 (26.9 at 0.64 g), and GLC (27.6 at 0.63 g). The old 2016 Infiniti QX50 we tested hit the mark in 26.2 seconds at an average of 0.70 g.
Along with a handsome exterior, the QX50 has one of the nicer interiors in its segment. Our model came equipped with plush quilted-pattern leather seats, as well as tasteful real wood and suedelike accents. For our thoughts on the QX50’s cabin, check out our 2019 Infiniti QX50 Interior Review.
At this time I will draw your attention to the little blue button on the right side of the steering wheel. This activates ProPilot Assist, a semi-autonomous system that incorporates adaptive cruise control and steering assist technology. Essentially, you can use it to help steer, accelerate, and brake within a single lane on the highway.
As long as your hands are on the steering wheel, ProPilot will steer the QX50 around both small and sharp curves alike. But your hands must be pressed firmly—not lightly—on the wheel or else a warning will pop up. While it generally does a good job of keeping the vehicle in its lane, I found that sometimes it fails to keep itself centered in that lane.
This was my first time experiencing ProPilot, but testing director Kim Reynolds is much more seasoned with semi-autonomous driving technology. Having driven three other vehicles with ProPilot Assist—a prototype and production Leaf and a demonstration Rogue—Reynolds was less enthused with the system on the QX50.
“Much more deliberate wheel tugs were required to reassure it, and lane centering was rougher,” he noted. “Occasionally it would completely depart the lane, and once—in a rain shower on the freeway—it simply quit working altogether. Strange, too, was that sometimes it would wander so close to a lane edge that it’s graphical lane departure warning would appear, but it was ProPilot itself that steered it to that edge.” We should note that our QX50 tester was preproduction, so it’s possible the final model’s ProPilot system will perform differently.
“The system (in this case) is still a good value, just not as impressive as other instances of it we’ve experienced,” Reynolds concluded.
On our top-trim Essence model, ProPilot is available on a $2,000 package that also includes lane departure warning, high beam assist, head-up display, blind-spot intervention, steer-by-wire, and other tech. Getting ProPilot also requires tacking on the $550 ProAssist package (backup collision intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, distance control assist, intelligent cruise control) and the $1,200 Premium Heat package (heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and other features). So you’re paying a lot but getting a lot.
You won’t find ProPilot, the new VC-Turbo, or steer-by-wire technology on the QX60, Infiniti’s best-selling but aging crossover. Having just stepped out of this three-row SUV, I felt that driving the QX50 was like moving forward in time. A downsized engine, more modern interior and exterior, and new technologies on the QX50 bring Infiniti into the conversation again with BMW, Mercedes, and Audi.
|2019 Infiniti QX50 (Essential AWD)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$58,695|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||1.970-1.997L/268-hp/280-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,171 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||184.7 x 74.9 x 66.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.9 sec @ 92.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||114 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.4 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||24/30/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||140/112 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.74 lb/mile|