We're spending 12 months with this Infiniti QX50, reviewing the full ownership experience with ongoing updates.

 

Searching for (and finding!) California Condors

by Andy Bornhop on October 15, 2018

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 5,613 miles
Latest MPG: 22.7 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.21 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

It’s quite a success story, that of the California Condor. As recently as 1987, there were only 27 of these humongous birds in existence, but a U.S. government recovery program (involving captive breeding and reintroduction into the wild) has been so successful that there are now 463 California Condors living in the wild or captivity in California, Utah, Arizona and Baja California. Even so, these prehistoric-looking condors, with a massive 9.5-foot wingspan, remain one of the rarest bird species in the world.

And one of the few places you can see these condors in the wild is at the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Maricopa, California. Which drew KBB staffer Andy Bornhop to the place last Saturday, accompanied in KBB’s long-term Infiniti QX50 by his wife Patty, sister Rosie, and brother-in-law Greg.

Andy reports:

The QX50 proved to be a great choice for our day-long adventure. We had signed up for a tour hosted by Friends of the Condors, a volunteer group that assists the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, so we needed vehicle for four that would also be at home on the dirt roads of the refuge, a former cattle ranch.

In this duty, the Q50 shined. All four of us fit comfortably in the QX50, and the cargo area swallowed our four folding chairs with ease, along with an odd assortment of backpacks, jackets, binoculars and a cooler. Even with the driver’s seat set all the way back, there’s adequate legroom in back, and the rear seatback reclines a bit for added comfort.

On the road there, heading north on Interstate 5 through a rainy L.A., I was struck by how quiet and comfortable the QX50 is, and how it’s a vehicle that masks its speed. At one point, headed west on Route 166 at the southern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, I felt like we were cruising at 60 or 65 mph, but when I looked down at the speedometer it showed we were traveling at 80 mph! The VC-Turbo engine wasn’t straining at all to maintain that speed, and even though the QX50 was heavily loaded, the suspension damping worked well on the high-speed dips we later encountered on 166.

On the dirt roads of the refuge (which is closed to the public except for occasional tours), we caravanned at low speeds to reach a couple of different lookout areas. We lowered the tire pressures to 30 psi (33 is the recommended everyday pressure) to improve grip and ride quality on the bumpy dirt. Moreover, we put the air conditioning on recirc to keep dust out of the QX50’s luxurious cabin, and on one tight uphill switchback, the QX50’s all-wheel-drive system kept us going with nary a concern.

After our tour (in which we saw several wild condors and perhaps a dozen others in a fenced release pen), we returned to Orange County on Hudson Valley Road, via the town of Pine Mountain Club. It’s a gloriously twisty road, and, once again, even though the QX50 was heavily loaded, it felt impressively composed. I drove at a mildly aggressive pace that kept my passengers from getting sick, enjoying every undulating curve and scanning the sky on occasion in hopes of seeing yet another flying giant.

As we approached home, the QX50’s low-fuel warning light went on, so we stopped for fuel and checked the fuel economy. In our 333-mile adventure of mixed driving, the Infiniti QX50 burned 14.67 gallons of premium unleaded, which equates to 22.7 mpg.

Although that’s not close to matching the 30.1 mpg that fellow KBB staffer Michael Harley managed in our last QX50 update, let’s not forget that he was trying to get good fuel economy. We, on the other hand, were trying to see some California Condors, one of the rarest birds on earth. Which we did. In the wild and free. Yippee!

 

Found: 30-plus miles per gallon

by Michael Harley on September 19, 2018

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 5,009 miles
Latest MPG: 24.4 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.49 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Quite frankly, we've been having some trouble matching the EPA fuel economy numbers that our long-term Infiniti QX50 is supposed to be achieving. Fortunately, our Mike Harley has discovered the secret to optimizing mpg. Here's what he found on his mega-commute:

"I’ve got a terribly long 86-mile commute across the entire L.A. Basin, which I complete in the early hours of each morning — essentially beating the traffic. Taking advantage of the situation, I reset the trip odometers after I merge onto the highway and then note the fuel economy at the end of the 70-minute journey.

The 2019 Infiniti QX50 AWD, which is rated at 30 mpg highway, nailed its EPA estimate by delivering a near spot-on 30.1 mpg during my commute — I used ECO mode and adaptive cruise control the entire time, essentially avoiding the need to engage the engine's turbocharger. That’s the best efficiency we’ve noted since the crossover SUV arrived, and it’s darn good for a vehicle of this size. Highway cruising range is bladder-busting!

Nobody can tell the engine is altering its compression ratio from within the cabin — there’s no surge of power or alteration in the sounds coming from under the hood. For the most part, the 4-cylinder sounds like the one in the current Nissan Altima, with the same lackluster drone as the CVT seamlessly alters its ratios — it’s not exciting in the least bit. (My suggestion to Infiniti: Pipe a deep exhaust note into the cabin through the audio system.) In fact, if it weren’t for the abundant torque, the driver wouldn’t even know the 4-cylinder is turbocharged."

 

An interior worth knowing well

by Richard Homan on September 5, 2018

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 4,735 miles
Latest MPG: 21.7 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.15 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

On a drive to lunch the other day with one of our KBB editors, I mentioned that the next update for our long-term Infiniti QX50 would be about the interior. Unbidden, my colleague responded with, "That's one of my favorite things about this vehicle." We agree on that, as do most of this compact luxury SUV's drivers.

Our Infiniti is easy to get into and out of, and it's an easy car to get comfortable in. The front seats really do your lower back a favor, especially on long journeys -- like the road trip I took to Las Vegas -- and the 2nd-row seats give even full-size adults a roomy place to ride. Further back, the QX50 boasts one of the biggest cargo areas among compact luxury SUVs, with a low liftover for packing and a nifty hidden storage area beneath the rear floor panel.

For the driver, the Infiniti's thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel offers a good, relaxed handshake, and the instrument panel gives a clear, sharp and direct description of how (and what) the QX50 is doing. Navigating through the information screens in the center of the instrument panel is a cinch via buttons on the steering wheel, with tiny icons that tell you where you are in relation to the other available screens.

In living every day with the 2019 Infiniti QX50, two other things were also worth pointing out driving it. First, the interior's vibe is completely modern but still full of practicality, like the wide, comfortable center-console armrest that hit us just right when relaxing. Second, we suggest that if you're shopping the new QX50, be sure to sit in the driver's seat and imagine yourself changing lanes to the left. We found ourselves double-checking our mirrors due to a fairly narrow sliver of visibility over our left shoulder, between the B- and C-pillars. Alternative, the view to the right is worry-free.

Our next update will give you a deeper dive into our Infiniti QX50's dual-screen infotainment/controls system and the value of the Bose Performance Series audio setup.


What's our QX50 like to drive?

by Richard Homan on August 21, 2018

Current Odometer: 4,421 miles
Latest MPG: 19.5 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 19.95 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

One of the most important questions to ask about our long-term 2019 Infiniti QX50 is, "What's it like to live with?" To answer that question, obviously, you have to ask another vital question: What is Infiniti's compact luxury SUV like to drive? Well, thus far, our Liquid Platinum QX50 Essential AWD model has brought a fair share of driving satisfaction in a lot of different ways.

On both long road trips and jaunts around town, our QX50's VC (variable compression) turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine has made more friends than it has cynics on staff. That's because we like on-tap power when we can get it, and with the 2019 QX50, we can get it. Even though its 4-cylinder engine produces less horsepower than the V6 in the model it replaced (268 vs. 325), this all-new engine -- next to be seen in the 2019 Nissan Altima -- cranks out 280 lb-ft of useful torque between 1,600 and 4,800 rpm, which is exactly where you want for passing (everybody else) on the road. Off-the-line launches are easy, rather than snap-to-attention quick.

The new QX's other driving inputs -- steering, braking, and the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) -- will never be mistaken for sportingly responsive, but you'll get comfortably used to their casual behavior. Our suggestion is that you choose "Sport" in the Drive Mode selector, take the fuel-economy hit and leave it at that. You'll be a lot happier.

Speaking of fuel economy, even in Comfort mode, we're finding it difficult to approach the 24-mpg/city and 30-mpg highway numbers that the EPA gives the QX50. So far, we're seeing pretty consistent fuel economy numbers in the low 20s.

On the open highway, the ride is pretty darn good for a compact SUV, but with a little more road rumble coming through the floor than we're used to on small luxury utes. That said, the ride comfort isn't compromised a bit. After a long-distance shakedown cruise through the California desert, one of our editors emerged from the Infiniti as fresh as when he started (and he's usually a whiner about his lower back).

In the next update on our 2019 Infiniti QX50, we'll dive deeper into what the crossover SUV is like to live in. Here's a sneak preview: It's roomier than we'd have ever guessed, and especially comfortable.


High compression equals high power? Not necessarily.

by Andy Bornhop on August 6, 2018

Current Odometer: 2,810 miles
Latest MPG: 20.96 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 23.11 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

First time in KBB’s new long-term 2019 Infiniti QX50, which I drove over the weekend. Because the variable-compression engine is this new crossover’s piece de resistance -- reportedly endowing this luxurious SUV with the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder, but the power of a V6 -- I arranged it so that the turbocharger boost and compression ratio would be displayed on the QX50’s instrument panel, right between the speedometer and tachometer.

For turbo boost, there’s a digital representation of an analog gauge, and at peak boost, it indicates about 15 psi. It’s easy to read, and it makes perfect sense.

On the side showing the new QX50’s variable compression ratio, the vertical graph is marked "Power" at the top and "Eco" at the bottom. Most people, it’s safe to say, will associate Power with high compression (14.0:1) and Eco with low (8.0:1).

That, however, is incorrect.

In the 2019 Infiniti QX50, Power actually is the low-compression setting and Eco is high. What gives? Aren’t cylinder heads milled to bump compression and raise power?

Traditionally, yes, but that’s not what’s happening here.

In the QX50, turbocharger boost is used to make power. For an engine to accept boost with reduced risk of harmful pre-ignition or detonation, the compression ratio is kept low. And during steady-state cruising on the highway, when boost typically isn’t needed, the VC-Turbo switches toward higher compression (Eco) as it squeezes all possible mileage out of every drop of premium-grade fuel.

You can see it while driving. In the Standard drive mode, if you take off slowly with gentle throttle and stay out of turbo boost, the compression ratio stays near the Eco setting (high engine compression). But when you drive with more normal amounts of throttle and turbo boost is produced, you’ll see the compression ratio automatically move toward Power (low engine compression) so the VC-Turbo can accept all that boost.

Also noteworthy: When I encountered a steep grade on my way to work, I kept the QX50’s throttle fairly consistent just to see what would happen. As load increased on the engine, I could see boost build and compression lower automatically, allowing the VC-Turbo engine to make better power without need for me to add a significant amount of throttle or turbo boost. It’s fascinating, this technology, and we can’t wait to see how the 2019 Infiniti QX50 fares during the rest of its long-term stay at KBB.com.


Introduction

by Richard Homan on July 21, 2018

  • Price: $49,685
  • Powertrain: 268-horsepower 2.0-liter variable-compression turbocharged inline-4
  • EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/30

 

For a compact luxury SUV that starts at around $37,500, we were a little surprised that our QX50 ran close to the $50,000 mark. In the end, we got the top-level Essential AWD which, as the name directly states, included the optional all-road/all-weather performance of all-wheel drive (AWD). Choosing a front-wheel drive (FWD) version of the QX50 -- the standard at every level -- will save you $1,800 to start, but won't save you much on long-term premium gasoline costs as the AWD carries barely any fuel-economy penalty.

Keep in mind, however, that you can equip an Essential QX50 that will reach as high as $58,000. On the other hand, Predictive Forward Collision Warning system (Infiniti says it can "see" two cars ahead, rather than the usual one) and automatic emergency braking come standard in every new QX50.

Tell me about that engine

The only engine available throughout the 2019 QX50 lineup is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that's capable of varying its compression ratios to deliver impressive power (268 horsepower and a doubly impressive 280 lb-ft of torque through the lion's share of the powerband), or stay off boost in favor of fuel economy -- estimated city/highway miles-per-gallon numbers are 24/31 for the FWD models and 24/30 with AWD.

Delivering that big power to the wheels is the job of a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
 

Outside/Inside

The 2019 Infiniti QX50 is living proof that you need to see a vehicle in person before you buy it. From many angles the little SUV looks gorgeous, but its exterior also provides other angles capable of splitting the beauty contest judges right down the middle.

The new SUV's interior, however, is a master's class in space management. The seats are comfortable, and even the tallest of our drivers noted that the compact SUV's interior never feels cramped. Even the rear seats allow for adult-sized passengers to ride without doubt of their comfort. Behind that second row, however, lies one of the most generous cargo areas in the class.

The "Essential" trim level means more standard features...

Choosing the Essential trim in a 2019 QX50 levels you up into an elite area of the QX50 universe where you've got access to features unavailable at the midrange "Luxe" and first-tier "Pure" trims. Our long-term QX50 came standard with plenty of luxury and high-tech benefits that you just can't get on the lower-trim versions. These top-shelf premiums include leather upholstery, navigation, the superstar-view Around View Monitor (a 360-degree birds-eye-view that makes parking and unparking precious simple), and tri-zone automatic climate control.

Also standard, but not exclusive to the Essential, is a legit, full-on 2-row-plus panoramic moonroof. Conspicuous by its absence, however, are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto -- the infotainment mainstays by which all cars appear to be judged these days.
 

...but we added some options, too

While our new QX50 didn't come with the semi-self-driving ProPILOT Assist, we did include ProAssist Package. One step below the ProPILOT Assist setup, ProAssist -- a bargain at just $550 -- delivers smart cruise control with Distance Control Assist, and rear cross-traffic alerts along with Backup Collision Intervention.

Somewhat less of a bargain at $1,200 was the Premium Heat Package (essentially heated front seats and steering wheel). If music means anything to you, we'd definitely recommend stepping up to the QX50 Essential's $900 16-speaker Bose Premium Audio Package for first-class sound. Naturally, we stepped right up.

Next Impressions

In the coming months, you're invited to come aboard as we explore the 2019 Infiniti QX50, digging deeper into the new engine, listening louder to the Bose audio, driving it every day, and seeing what Infiniti's newest SUV is really like to live with in the real world.

Be sure to bookmark this page to get quick access, as we publish regular updates to this review.

More about the 2019 Infiniti QX50:

See our full review of the 2019 Infiniti QX50 or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more.

Advertisement
Advertisement
New Car Spotlight

Advertisement

Advertisement