• Now a truer, more compelling alternative to Audi Q5, BMW X3 and the rest
  • Gorgeous inside and out, far roomier than its predecessor
  • Sophisticated new engine delivers 268 horsepower and 27 combined mpg
  • Starts at $37,545 (including destination charges) | Price yours

 

Same name, new everything else

The 2019 QX50 is an all-new version of Infiniti’s compact luxury SUV. And this is a case where the model really is “all new.” When Infiniti’s executives say the only thing that’s the same as the outgoing model is the name and badge, it’s true.

A brief recap as to how we got here. When this vehicle was born as a 2008 model, it was called the EX. Over the years it grew some and gained a larger, more powerful V6. With its potent engine and rear-wheel-drive architecture, this Infiniti was more like a sporty, higher-riding hatchback than a practicality-prioritizing SUV. Think an Infiniti G35 with more cargo room and a rear door. It was fun to drive and packed significant performance for the money, but until a freshening in 2016 it suffered from a tight interior and, until now, dated technology and a lack of handy features like a power tailgate.

That all changes with the 2019 Infiniti QX50. This new luxury crossover SUV is based on a new and exclusive platform, is significantly roomier than the outgoing QX50, offers Infiniti’s latest driver-assist and safety systems, and touts the world's first variable compression engine: the VC-Turbo.

We had our first taste of the 2019 QX50 at Infiniti’s global media launch in West Hollywood, California. Over a full day of driving, we carved up and down the Santa Monica mountains, cruised along the ocean-hugging Pacific Coast Highway, and sat in the notorious gridlock that is synonymous with the 405 freeway. Here’s how the 2019 Infiniti QX50 handled these situations and treated us in the process.

VC-Turbo technology

Let’s begin with what propels this small luxury crossover SUV, and one of its biggest headlines. By introducing a variable compression (VC) turbocharged engine, Infiniti proudly points out that it is the first automaker to finally crack the code and introduce a production version of this technology. Others have tried, and Infiniti -- Nissan’s luxury division -- has spent two decades developing it. Now it’s here. Infiniti execs go as far as saying it could be “the world’s most advanced engine.”

To simplify an extremely complex system, this engine changes the stroke of its pistons within the combustion chamber, and thereby alters its compression ratio. Whereas as typical gasoline engine pistons move up and down at a set length and have a set compression ratio, the VC-Turbo can change the height of the piston’s stroke thanks to an extra linkage below the crankshaft.

The whole rationale for doing this is to improve efficiency without sacrificing power. Looking at the numbers, it appears to have worked. Infiniti says this first-of-its-kind 4-cylinder makes 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, while attaining 27 mpg combined. Comparatively, the naturally aspirated V6 in the outgoing QX50 made a heartier 325 horsepower but less torque (267 lb-ft) and was significantly less efficient at 20 combined mpg.

So, how does it drive?

After getting a deep-dive presentation on this engine’s magic, when it came time to drive the new QX50 I half expected to feel like I was levitating and see unicorn dust coming from the tailpipes. In reality, the groundbreaking VC-Turbo engine feels remarkably normal.

By that I mean it feels like most every other turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It’s peppy enough to offer satisfying acceleration and passing power, with only a few instances of turbo lag off the line. This normalcy isn’t a bad thing. The fact that this engine can have so much going on under the hood yet still feel normal seems like a success.

Still, if you crave the performance and dynamics of the past QX50, know that this new one has an entirely different feel, one that’s more focused on efficiency and comfort. Half the blame/credit (however you see it) goes to the transmission. Whereas the outgoing model used a 7-speed automatic, the new QX50 has a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan and Infiniti have long used CVTs, and over the years have tailored them to feel more like traditional automatics. But driven hard on winding mountain roads, especially uphill ones, the new CVT droned and droned.

New architecture, new steering system

The other half of the story goes to the new QX50’s front-drive-oriented architecture. Though all the models provided to us for testing were optioned with all-wheel drive, the new model just isn’t as sporty and dynamic as the old one, which had a rear-drive bias. Should this matter to most luxury crossover SUV buyers? Probably not. Because, despite what those commercials convey, most drivers simply don’t buy such a vehicle to rip around the asphalt or treat it like a race car. If you do, then you’ll be better served in something sportier like a BMW X3, Alfa Romeo Stelvio or Jaguar F-Pace.

Finally, there’s the steering feel. The past QX50 was among the final holdouts to use hydraulic steering assist, which is less efficient but provides excellent road feedback. The new QX50 uses electric power steering (EPS), which is more efficient but doesn’t provide the same feel as a hydraulic unit. Our test model took this even further with Infiniti’s optional Direct Adaptive Steering, a “steer by wire” system that replaces the mechanical parts of a traditional steering system with electric motors and sensors. The system boasts higher efficiency and works in tandem with the driver-assist steering system, but also can feel artificial and more numb, especially compared to the previous QX50.

High efficiency touted

Here’s where the comparison between the old QX50 and the new one improves. The powerful but aging V6 in the outgoing model tended to be thirsty, mustering just 20 mpg combined. With the variable compression system, the new QX50 optimizes itself for efficiency or power depending on driving conditions or the driver’s preference via the D-Mode system that enables sporty, normal or eco driving.

While we’ve yet to see official EPA numbers, Infiniti says the 2019 QX50 will attain a combined 27 mpg for front-wheel-drive (FWD) models and 26 mpg with all-wheel drive (AWD). We didn’t see close to the expected number on our drive, but we also drove the QX50 quite hard. About the best we could do was in the 22-23 mpg range in highway driving in our preproduction test model. We’ll be eager to see if we can reach Infiniti’s numbers in a longer test with a production model in the future. If that 27-mpg figure holds, it would put the QX50 among the most efficient compact luxury SUVs. Other stars include the diesel-powered Jaguar F-Pace, which earns 29 mpg combined, and the Lexus NX 300h hybrid, which touts 31 mpg combined.

Safer, plusher, more advanced

As big a story as the new engine and platform is for the QX50, arguably even bigger news comes in regard to its features and amenities. Here again, the new QX50 is a vast departure from the last-gen model, and is far better for it.

The 2019 Infiniti QX50 comes standard with a power tailgate, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and LED headlights, all of which weren’t even available as options on the outgoing model. From there, the new Infiniti QX50 can be spruced up with heated and ventilated front seats, tri-zone climate control, a heads-up display, 17-speaker Bose audio system, blind-spot monitoring and at the top end, quilted leather seating and blue Ultrasuede interior trim.

Inroads to autonomy

Another first for this Infiniti is the availability of ProPILOT, which is the name for Nissan’s driver-assist system. Though not billed as an autonomous driving technology, as with other system available in rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5, it brings the Infiniti one step closer.

The ProPILOT Assist bundles full-speed intelligent cruise control, lane-departure warning and preventions, and steering assist. It is meant to be used on highways and freeways, and when turned on will pace the vehicle ahead and keep the QX50 in a specific lane. It’s designed to take the stress off driving by handling acceleration, braking and steering functions. The driver, however, does have to keep hands on the wheel, lest you be warned in a series of visual and audible alerts. If you take your hands off the steering, the vehicle will ultimately stop itself and turn on the hazard lights, thinking that the driver is incapacitated.

We tested the system a few times on the drive, and it performed well in most circumstances. It’s not perfect, but fault also fell on other drivers in our congested LA driving. For example, the QX50 would sometimes drift over the lane markings, but so did other drivers who were too busy texting rather than piloting. One driver nearly collided with us as he drifted over lanes while distracted. The ProPILOT system can’t account for these situations, nor was it designed to. We recommend trying it for stop-and-go-traffic and highway cruising. Just keep in mind you can’t check your own awareness at the door.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are MIA

For all the new tech in in the QX50, it’s missing one feature that is becoming a must for many new-car buyers: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. This new Infiniti’s twin-screen infotainment system is a big improvement over the last-gen model, and the ability to control functions via touch or a rotary knob are convenient, but the lack of its ability to play nice with the two biggest smartphones could be a turnoff to tech-savvy buyers, especially since these systems are offered on competitors.

Infiniti execs are aware of this, and they say the systems will be integrated at a future date. But they couldn’t say whether this model will have the ability to be updated for CarPlay and Android Auto.

Seating and cargo area

The Infiniti QX50 remains on the smaller end of luxury SUVs, but this 2-row/5-passenger premium hauler has grown appreciably inside from its former self. Rear-seat legroom now comes in at 38.7 inches -- over 3 inches more than the previous model, and higher even than the larger 2018 Lexus RX. Another benefit is that the rear seats now slide and recline.

Up front, the new QX50 benefits from comfortable and plush seats, a trait that has long gone hand-in-hand with Infiniti automobiles. You’ll have to step up to the top-line QX50 Essential if you want genuine leather instead of the faux stuff, though. From there you can opt for even higher-grade hide complete with quilted stitching.

Cargo room, another area where the latter QX50 was hampered, has also been improved. Whereas the previous QX50 maxed out at just over 50 cubic feet of capacity with rear seats folded, the new one expands to over 65. Both these figures put the new QX50 at or among the top of its class.

2019 Infiniti QX50 Photo Gallery

Infiniti QX50 pricing and availability

The new 2019 Infiniti QX50 has an expanded trim lineup versus the outgoing model (there isn’t technically a 2018 Infiniti QX50; those still on sale are 2017 models). This all-new version comes in three trims: Pure, Luxe, and Essential. All come standard with front-wheel drive (FWD) or can be optioned with all-wheel drive (AWD) for an extra $1,800.

With its sub-$38,000 starting price, the QX50 undercuts the beginning prices of rivals like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. But there’s a catch: if you want major options, whether they’re the ProPILOT driver-assist and active safety system or merely added creature comforts like a head-up display, ventilated front seats or a heated steering wheel, you’ll have to spring for a top-line Essential trim, which starts at over $44,000. From that perspective, the Infiniti QX50’s value proposition starts to dim. All in, a new QX50 can reach around $58,000. The 2019 Infiniti QX50 is set to go on sale by early March. Below is a breakdown of pricing and major features attached to each trim, along with highlighted options. Prices include a $995 destination charge.

2019 Infiniti QX50 Pure
Starting Price: $37,545

2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine
19-inch wheels
Power liftgate
Leatherette seating material
8-way power front seats
Dual-zone climate control
LED headlights and taillights
Predictive forward collision warning (senses two cars ahead)
Automatic emergency braking

2019 Infiniti QX50 Luxe
Starting price: $40,395

Power-operated panoramic moonroof
Blind-spot monitoring
Roof rails
LED fog lamps
Auto-dimming rearview mirror and built-in garage remote
Optional: Heated seats

2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential
Starting price: $44,345

Leather seats
Navigation
Bird’s-eye view backup camera
Hands-free tailgate
Parking sensors
Tri-zone climate control
Remote engine start
Rain-sensing wipers
Optional: Extras available for the Essential model include ProPILOT Assist, lane-departure warning and prevention, backup-collision prevention, high-beam assist, head-up display, ventilated seats, open-pore maple wood interior accents, and semi-aniline leather.

2019 Infiniti QX50 Specs
Engine: Variable-compression turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder
Transmission: CVT automatic
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD)
Horsepower: 268 hp 5,600 rpm
Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,800 rpm
Estimated Fuel Economy: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway, 27 mpg combined (FWD), 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway, 26 mpg combined (AWD)
Towing Capacity: 3,000 lb (AWD only)
Base Curb Weight: 3,810 lb
Wheelbase: 110.2 in
Length: 184.7 in
Width: 74.9 in
Height: 66.0 in
Ground Clearance: 8.6 in
Cargo Space: 31.4 cu ft (behind rear seat)/65.1 cu ft (rear seat folded)

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