- The compact luxury SUV war is full on and, as always, there are winners and the others.
There are two trends at the moment and they are easy to spot on Motor Illustrated: EVs and SUVs. We’re heavily reporting on upcoming electric vehicles and in the meantime, we are reviewing countless SUVs.
Where luxury SUVs are concerned, compact or near entry-level units are extremely hot. In this category, in Canada, the Germans own it. The Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3 and Audi Q5 hold nearly all the top sales spots while Infiniti QX50 only manages to match the far pricier Porsche Macan in volume.
Now, sales numbers are certainly an indicator of buyer preferences but much like awards, no matter their title, these numbers do not necessarily mean they are the best. For this comparison, we’ll take the BMW X3 which has become the dynamic and styling leader among the Germans and compare it Infiniti QX50, or what is the lowest-selling Japanese small luxury SUV after the Acura RDX and Lexus NX. Although the QX50 lags behind, it is absolutely not the least interesting.
Let’s throw them both in the arena and properly see which one comes out on top.
Turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engines are the norm in this segment, or at the very least, as far basic engines go. The Germans, Cadillac and Alfa Romeo continue to offer 6-cylinder engines for the more powerful versions however the Japanese brands stick exclusively to 4-cylinder mills.
As such, the X3 xDrive30i and its twin-scroll turbocharger deliver 248-horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The QX50 follows a different and unique path with its variable compression VC-T engine. Its single-scroll charger helps develop 268-horsepower and 280 lb.-ft of torque.
The BMW relies on an 8-speed STEPTRONIC Automatic transmission to send power to all four wheels. The Infiniti uses a Continuously Variable Transmission to do the same thing. Respectively, both work quite well for what they are. Truthfully, the QX50’s CVT is excellent, responsive and amusingly throttle blips on “downshift” much like the X3’s 8-speed.
Part of the reasoning behind the complex VC-T engine is efficiency and power. Compared to the X3, output numbers are convincing however the X3 remains quicker in the 0-100km/h spring by nearly a half second. What’s more, the X3 will return a rated average of 8.1L/100 km the highway compared to the QX50’s 7.8L – realistically, they are on par.
On the road, both SUVs behave in similar fashion where they can be civilized and quite comfortable. From here, the 2020 BMW X3 is more adept at hunting down an apex with its sharper steering response. On the other hand, the 2020 Infiniti QX50 prefers smoothness and refinement.
This is where the Infiniti QX50 shines through. The cabin’s layout is elegant, clean and visually pleasing. The test Autograph version featured countless top-notch materials, impressive fit and finish and incredible seats. The BMW X3 features a far busier and abrupt interior layout. This is not to say it isn’t attractive but the QX50’s serenity is refreshing.
Infotainment technology is important and this is why Infiniti provides dual screens (8-inch upper and 7-inch lower) as standard. Accessing most menus is intuitive and the combination screens are easier to consult than splitting a single display as in the BMW’s case. The standard 8.8-inch unit is lovely but navigating through the various settings is more attention-greedy.
As for space, both of these “large-compact” SUVs supply generous room for all and everything. To conclude here, the Infiniti’s cabin is notably quieter at speed than the BMW’s.
Our Thoughts On The 2020 BMW X3 vs. 2020 Infiniti QX50
We suspect that Infiniti is tired of reading that one of its biggest flaws is brand value. Fact of the matter is that it will continue to be for a while. At one point, Infiniti was in fact the Japanese equivalent to BMW while Lexus was the Mercedes-Benz “equal.” Since then, both Lexus and Infiniti have moved on but in different ways. Lexus stands on its own two feet whereas Infiniti is still in search of its true self.
They are, however, getting very close. They’ve side-stepped performance as a priority in favour of elegance, comfort and luxury. The new Infiniti QX50 is absolute proof of this. The attention to detail onboard makes it an incredibly welcoming place to spend many hours. As well, the level of features and amenities included for the price make it something of bargain. At $60,000, the QX50 Autograph is at least $5,000 less expensive than a nearly comparably equipped X3 xDrive30i.
But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t if, as a shopper in the segment, you want to be like almost everyone else. And here’s the weird part: being unique or special will not yield any real dividends. The QX50’s VC-T technology is neither an advantage or a selling point equal to brand perception.
Despite all of this, the Infiniti QX50 is a compelling member of the compact luxury SUV segment. And so, would we suggest the BMW X3 over the QX50? Let’s put it this way: In order to be truly original, we’d risk a lease on an Alfa Romeo Stelvio.