Got a bad case of the wants for a mid-size crossover that is both peppy and fun to drive, but also will do some of the driving for you? Infiniti’s all-new QX50 Essential model should be on your most-wanted list.
Nearly identical in size and intent as last week’s Ford Edge, the QX50 is a technology tour de force, but also a pleasure to drive, when you choose to.
The engine itself is a big deal. Nissan, who makes Infiniti, has been working on this turbo 4-cylinder for upward of 20 years and feels it has it perfected now. It features what Infiniti calls a variable compression turbo that can vary the piston’s stroke and thereby change compression as the driver demands more or less power. This is a first in the automotive world and may just help the gas-powered engine to remain viable a bit longer.
Why? The engine’s goal was to create great power, but also save gas. The EPA rates the Q50 at 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. I got 24.2 mpg in a mix of driving, including some sitting in Chicago traffic on a roundtrip from Milwaukee. That’s about the same as I got with the Ford Edge, but it had AWD, while the Infiniti was front-drive.
Word to the wise, I had this in snow and AWD would have been a big aid as I did a fair amount of tire spinning each time that turbo kicked in. AWD adds $1,800 to the price, no matter the QX50’s trim level.
I tested the top-line Essential model, but more in a minute about all the equipment it has loaded on it.
The other big tech piece here is ProPilot Assist, part of a $2,000 ProActive package.
This system is unique to Infiniti and worth a look as autonomous cars come barreling down the highway of innovation toward us.
ProPilot melds smart cruise control with steering assist and lane departure to help you drive the car on the highway, when cruise control is engage. It reads the road (mainly the lines) and not only keeps the car in its lane, but adjusts the acceleration and braking as needed. The key is you MUST keep your hands on the wheel, although a light touch is all that’s required.
I used ProPilot while in heavy Chicago traffic and it worked like a charm. This s the best system yet that I’ve tested, easily keeping the car in its lane while avoiding the back and forth weave that some systems allow as you bounce from lane marker to lane marker. This felt steady and smooth.
If I was approaching a slower moving car ahead (yes, possible even in Chicago), acceleration would ease or the brake would be applied gently. I love to drive myself, but this system was enjoyable and would be especially welcome on a cross-country drive.
Otherwise, the quick torquey turbo gives the QX excellent getaway power and the crossover’s light steering effort, due to electrically assisted power steering, made the car easy to handle and seemed much sportier than the previous week’s Edge. The Infiniti also touts a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that shifted quite smoothly and effortlessly, but with some drone under hard acceleration.
Ride is firm yet reasonably good on rough roads. It was fine for me (no spring chicken), but may be a little too firm for some older drivers. You know who you are!
Inside, the Infiniti was a delight to the eye and to the body, mostly. The Essential is the only trim with real leather seats and these were mildly contoured, but with power everything, including 2-way passenger seat lumbar adjustment, part of a massive $7,500 sensory package. Front seats also are heated and cooled, and the steering wheel is heated as part of the option package.
I’d like my seats a bit more contoured, especially for my back, but these were pleasant to ride in. Plus there are two memory buttons to program for the driver’s seat. Headrests push a bit forward on shorter passengers’ heads. They should be more adjustable.
The dark Hermosa Blue test crossover featured a brown dash with perforated tan leather seats and tan lower dash, extremely attractive and youthful. There was light brown maple wood trim on the dash and doors along with satin chrome trim. The console was brown with tan sides and a matte brown console top by the shifter. Overhead was a soft ultrasuede headliner, another part of the sensory package.
Infiniti has increased the QX50’s interior room compared with its predecessor. Several riders praised the back seat for comfort and legroom. There’s also good storage room behind the rear seat, which will split and fold down to create a generous 68 cubic feet of cargo room.
That power hatch in back is fine, except I found an odd flaw. It senses motion so you can wave your foot under the rear bumper to open the hatch without accessing the vehicle’s key fob. But, with the vehicle sitting in a foot of snow in my drive it kept opening the hatch as I shoveled around the QX. There needs to be a way to deactivate that hatch’s sensor for us northerners.
Running through the entire list of options added via the sensory package would be a bore (see the stat box below), but I can remember a day when $7,500 would buy an entry-level car. Still, the features all add considerably to the QX50’s luxury bent.
Standard is that power hatch, even on the Pure edition. Moving up to the Luxe gets you roof rails and a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot warning and HomeLink.
All QX models also have dual touchscreens mid-dash, the top 8-incher for navigation and the lower 7-incher for radio and infotainment needs. All were easy to use, and there also were real buttons for the screens and climate controls surrounding the screen. The highlight though was the awesome Bose sound system. I’m not sure how it’s different from other Bose systems I’ve experienced, or other high-end stereos. It has 16 speakers though and was so well tuned that I could hear drums, cymbals, bass guitars and such individually surrounding me as I drove. Impressive!
There also is a 360-degree camera on board, satellite radio, Bluetooth, remote start and predictive forward collision and pedestrian alerts and emergency braking. A head-up display is useful too, part of that $2 grand ProActive package.
No vehicle is perfect, and I’ve already called out a few bugaboos, but there were a couple more. Mainly, as in most crossovers and SUVs, there are giant A-pillars that can create blind spots, especially to the passenger’s side, for the driver. It also annoys me (and that’s easy) when the parking sensors go bananas beeping to indicate an object in front of the vehicle, when the car is actually in reverse. That’s a distraction as you back up.
Finally, and this is definitely a First World problem, the heated steering wheel button is located on the lower touchscreen. But you first must press the Climate button on screen to find it. In cold weather it’s nice to start up a car and easily tap a dash or console button to activate the heat. Also, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not available on the QX.
Then there’s the price.
A QX50 Pure lists at $39,345, the Luxe edition at $40,395 and the tested Essential (ironic) model at $44,345, all including delivery. With its many options the test crossover hit $55,285, a luxury price tag to be sure, but one that includes about ever bell and whistle and safety device one could want. It just needed AWD.
FAST STATS: 2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential FWD
Hits: Quick turbo power, nice handling, good yet firm ride, plus leather heated/cooled front seats and heated steering wheel. Big sunroof, awesome Bose sound system, power hatch, roomy interior and many safety and driving aids.
Misses: Some tranny drone and road noise, big A-pillar blind spot, ride could be too firm for some, sensors beep for forward objects when vehicle is in reverse, motion-sensing power hatch opens when unwanted, heated steering wheel button buried on touchscreen. No AWD on test vehicle.
Made in: Aguascalientes, Mexico
Engine: 2.0-liter, turbo I4, 268 horsepower
Weight: 3,827 lbs.
Length: 184.7 in.
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
MPG: 24.2 (tested)
Base Price: $44,345 (includes delivery)
Sensory package (20-inch wheels/tires, semi-aniline leather seats, heated/cooled front seats, Advanced Climate Control, 2-way passenger power lumbar, motion activated hatch, rear side window shades, cube design LED headlights, Adaptive Front-lighting System, enhanced ambient interior lighting, natural maple interior trim, ultrasuede headliner, metallic cargo area finishes, memory driver’s seat/mirrors/steering wheel, outside mirrors w/reverse tilt down, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated steering wheel, Bose audio w/16 speaker), $7,500
ProAssist package (backup collision intervention, distance control assist, smart cruise, rear cross traffic alert), $550
ProActive package (ProPilot assist, steering assist, smart cruise w/full speed range andhold, blind spot intervention, lane departure warning and prevention, high beam assist, head-up display, direct adaptive steering), $2,000
Illuminated kick plates, $465
Welcome lighting, $425
Test vehicle: $55,285
Sources: Infiniti, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage