By Shari Prymak
There was a time when Infiniti was known for infusing a bit of verve and dynamism into its sedans, coupes, and even SUVs, much like BMW or Jaguar. They were luxury cars with a performance edge done in a distinctly Japanese way. Even though that remains a part of the formula, today the brand seems to be far more focused on design, technology and practicality. Sitting right in the sweet spot of the crossover lineup between the subcompact QX30 and the 7-passenger QX60, the midsized QX50 is a great example of that.
Compared to its small wagon-like predecessor, the latest QX50 has a tall, upright appearance that fits perfectly in line with competing midsized luxury crossovers. Like most recent Infiniti models, the design is quite attractive with elegant flowing lines and creases that just stop short of being garish and over the top. It isn’t a radically different look from the already well-established QX60 and QX30 crossovers, but it’s a look that the QX50 wears very well.
The interior is a fine place to spend time with nice upscale materials and visually appealing details. It is also surprisingly spacious with plenty of room up front and in the back for adults to sit comfortably. The cargo area too is a generous size, and the rear seats can slide and fold to adjust for space accordingly. Back up front, the centre stack is dominated by a dual-screen infotainment system, which unfortunately is a bit of a letdown. The top screen is devoted to an outdated navigation system that will have you reaching for your phone. The lower touchscreen is bit better with easy to use buttons that flank both sides and bottom, but the interface and overall arrangement is still lackluster. The system also inexplicably lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capability, which is major oversight.
Powering the QX50 is a world-first variable compression turbocharged engine which Infiniti calls VC-Turbo. In a rather technically sophisticated and complicated way that won’t matter to most buyers, the engine is able to switch compression to optimize both performance and fuel economy. The result is a 2.0L 4-cylinder that produces a healthy 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, enough for smooth, effortless takeoff and passing maneuvers. With the help of an efficient CVT transmission, I was able to average about 11.0L/100km in city driving and up to 8.0L/100km on longer highway runs, which does seem a bit better than the class average. Some will question the long-term reliability of an all-new complicated engine such as this, but only time will tell how it performs.
The driving experience is rather comfortable and refined, if undramatic. The suspension soaks up bumps surprisingly well and the cabin is largely free of any wind or road noise. It can take a corner just fine and the steering seems to be quite responsive, but beyond that, there isn’t really anything exciting about the way it drives. What will likely be of more interest to prospective buyers is its maneuverability around the city and useful safety technology. The Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection allows for easy, care-free parking, and the available ProPILOT Assist has the ability to adjust the steering, braking, and speed to maintain the vehicle within a lane at highway speeds. It’s useful technology, although I did find the lane departure warning to be a bit overzealous with its constant steering wheel vibrating.
The QX50 appears to be priced fairly aggressively when compared to its European rivals, but more or less in line with other Japanese competitors such as the Lexus NX and Acura RDX. Pricing starts at $44,490 for the Luxe model and stretches up to $57,990 for a fully-equipped Autograph model. The quilted semi-aniline leather, open-pore wood, and ultrasuede interior details of the top models are all nice, but I’d probably save by opting for the $48,990 Essential model, which comes well equipped for the price.
Infiniti isn’t always held to the same high level of esteem as some of its flashier rivals, but the QX50 makes some serious strides to help change that image. The design both inside and out is attractive, the technology is impressive, and amount of space it offers for its size is surprising. The infotainment system could use an upgrade and the engine technology still needs to prove its longevity, but the QX50 is certainly worth considering for those in market for a midsized luxury crossover.