I’ve tried to book the new Infiniti QX50 at least three times since it landed on the local press fleet nearly a year and a half ago. For whatever reason, I never managed to take it home for a week, until now. And I got quite the unit as my tester was none other than an absolutely loaded QX50 Autograph with a few accessories and it retailed for over $60,500.
At first glance, I was convinced that this Infiniti QX50, despite its relatively poor sales figures in Canada, was well worth the price of entry. The QX50 certainly looks the part, as one of the hyper-popular compact luxury SUVs everyone is buying today. While it won’t garner second glances, much like the BMW X3 or Audi Q5, the QX50’s short overhangs, broad shoulders and tasteful body lines tell a tale of poise and elegance.
Dressed for success
Draped in Hermosa Blue with dark-tinted 20-inch wheels and chromed greenhouse surrounding trim, the QX50 is without a doubt attractive. And then it gets better. My Autograph example featured one of the most attractive interiors I’ve had the pleasure to spend time in in a while. If you scroll through the images in this review, you’ll see beautiful white quilted leather seats, blue Ultrasuede everywhere and gorgeous open-poor maple accents. The zero-gravity seats are as comfortable as they look – the overall impression is that of something far more high-end than a QX50.
The included dual screens (8-inch upper and 7-inch lower) quickly become intuitive to operate through redundant controls and touchscreen commands – I never once used the controller dial. Now, about the upper screen. This is where the back-up camera and Around View Monitor displays its captured images. Simply put, the resolution is terrible. The image projected on screen seems taken in the mid-2000s and is desperately difficult to focus on. It is clear that this is a spot where Infiniti cognitively decided to cut down on costs. And I think I can understand why.
The VC-T question
As in why did Nissan/Infiniti go through so much trouble to develop an engine that ultimately does not bring any real value to the table for the end user? The VC-T engine is hyper-complex as its compression ratio varies infinitely between 8:1 and 14:1 thanks to a sophisticated set of actuators. By doing so, it can go from big turbo power with low compression to diesel-like efficiency at higher ratios. It sports to types of injection systems (port and direct) and unknown long-term reliability despite winning numerous awards.
Now, Infiniti will tell you this engine technology was developed for optimized fuel consumption and big power. Meanwhile, most other luxury brands are also using a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with very similar results with a tried and tested trick: a twin-scroll turbocharger. An example of this is the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and its 255-horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque, compared to the QX50’s 260-horsepower and 280 torques. The QX50 will manage 7.8L/100km on the highway compared to the Benz’s 8.4L, so there’s that. Kinda…
The real obstacle for me with accepting the viability of this engine is that power delivery is uneven, occasionally lag-y and once on boost, almost violent. The way it performs reminds me of 80s and 90s turbocharged engines which suffered terrible lag only to explode in a rush of power. Twin-scroll turbocharged engines have far more linear power delivery. This takes away from the 2020 Infiniti QX50 otherwise refined driving experience – even the Continuously Variable Transmission is spot on.
Refined and distinct
Everything about the QX50’s controls is polished to near perfection with one notable exception. The ride quality is excellent overall unless rolling over sharper amplitudes changes such as any cracks in the road’s surface. In South Florida, the roads are generally smooth and here the QX50 glides. The experience will be different in Montreal or Toronto.
After an entire week with the 2020 Infiniti QX50 Autograph and covering a few hundred miles, I can say that I was satisfied with the luxury SUV. It delivers refinement, all the features and amenities anyone could hope for and all in a comfortable and soothing package. What’s more, on more than one occasion, I actually glanced back at it thinking that it was really an attractive piece.
Barely over 3,500 (about 30 off from the Porsche Macan) were sold in Canada in 2019 in its first full year on the market. Compare this to more than 10,800 GLCs, 10,500 Audi Q5s, 8,400 BMW X3s, 7,600 Lexus NX and so on.
And yet, the QX50 is not flawed in any specific way as to keep buyers away from it. At $44,998 to start, it’s priced smack in the middle of the field and loaded at nearly $60,000, it’s less pricey by many thousands than the Q5 or the GLC. So what gives?
Given that the product is far from broken, the only thing to do is highly incentivize the QX50 or reduce (and not increase as they were during my test week) suggested retail pricing. With what’s going on at Nissan at this very moment, we’ll have to wait and see what will happen.