The new QX50 is down a bit in horsepower from the outgoing model, but it’s up 13 pound-feet in torque, which is a more important benchmark than horsepower.
The new QX50 also represents a major makeover on the interior, with a more driver-centric dash that angles key features toward the driver. There’s also an upgrade to the interior finishing, with suede leather accents, wood trim that actually looks like real wood and a new shift-by-wire transmission selector that saves considerable room on the centre console, no longer needing to shift from park to reverse to neutral to drive to low.
Instead, you push on the release lever on the front of the shifter and push it forward for reverse and pull it backward for drive. It may seem counterintuitive, but it works, especially since it means a typical motion of the lever to move from drive to reverse and vice-versa. A button behind the shift lever selects park.
Developed at the same time as the VC-turbo engine, but for no particular reason other than coincidence, is a new technology in engine mounts, which Infiniti calls active torque rod.
“It’s like noise-cancelling headphones for the engine,” said Kyle Wierzbicki, chief marketing manager for Infiniti Canada.
The active torque rod reads data from the engine computer, as well as vibrations happening in real time, and applies an offsetting vibration, which effectively cancels the vibration.
There are other factors at play, including insulation on the firewall and acoustic glass in the windshield, but the net result is a cabin that is exceptionally quiet, even under hard acceleration. Music is easily heard, conversation is exceptionally easy.
The biggest surprise for me was the QX50’s transmission. I hate continuously variable transmissions with a passion. In many vehicles, it’s like driving a snowmobile. The QX50 is the exception that proves the rule.
Owing to the engine’s torque, and the transmission’s ability to mimic shifts, the CVT in the QX50 is also remarkably unobtrusive, from a conventional automatic, that is. I really can’t say I had any complaints about how it transferred power. It may be the one CVT I actually don’t mind.
Now, all is not without the odd little wart, however. The VC-turbo and CVT combination seem to conspire, slightly, against effortless acceleration.
It’s likely a combination of slight turbo lag, a slight delay in adjusting the compression ratio and a bit of delay in getting the transmission to downshift, but there’s a bit of a lag and you really have to put your foot into it to get the acceleration you seek.
Once you do, however, you are rewarded, and one peek at your fuel bill means all is forgiven.
The QX50 does, however, have all the power on tap average drivers will want.
In Canada, the QX50 is available only as an all-wheel driver, unlike the U.S., where a front-drive model is sold. Which explains the transverse mounting of the engine: Wendel says transverse mounting is better suited to front-drive vehicles, of which Infiniti U.S.A. expects to sell a lot.
The AWD system delivers 100 per cent of torque to the front wheels, and up to 50 per cent torque to the rear wheels when slip is detected. Wendel said the system is also able to transfer torque from side-to-side when required.
Canadian models also come with a cold-weather package as standard, including heated front seats, heated steering wheel, engine block heater, wiper de-icer and remote engine start.
ProPILOT Assist, Nissan’s first step toward autonomous driving, is available on QX50. You have to take two steps up the gradewalk, to the ProActive trim level, to get it. That takes the price from the base model ($44,490) to $52,990.
The QX50 tops out with the Autograph model, at $57,990. Here, you get all the toys plus premium leather seating with hand-stitched quilting and blue ultrasuede on the upper door, instrument panel and console.
It gives the QX50 a striking nautical look, but that the leather in this model is white is a bit of a challenge for the parental set, not to mention I wouldn’t recommend wearing blue jeans.
The QX50 will tow 3,000 pounds, but in Sensory ($56,490) and Autograph ($57,990) models only. Other models are not rated for towing, however a hitch receiver is provided for accessories only, such as a hitch-mounted cargo or bike carrier.
Cargo capacity exceeds all rivals, aided by a sliding rear seat that either adds cargo space or moves a child seat closer to the parents. Pushing the rear shock towers out to the sides also cuts down on intrusions.
When it first appeared in 2007, the QX35 arguably launched the premium compact crossover segment. Since then, it’s been joined by rivals from Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Acura, BMW and Land Rover. If the new QX50 doesn’t raise the bar, it at least meets any new benchmark.
Model: 2019 Infiniti QX50
Engine: 2.0-litre variable compression ratio turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 268 hp @ 5,600 r.p.m.
Torque: 280 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 r.p.m.
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Steering: direct adaptive steering (steer-by-wire)
Brakes: four-wheel discs
Suspension: MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar (front); multi-link independent with stabilizer bar (rear)
Safety features: predictive forward collision with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection with emergency braking, all standard. ProACTIVE models add backup collision intervention, ProPILOT Assist, blind spot intervention, lane departure prevention and rear cross-traffic alert.
Fuel economy (l/100 km, city/highway/combined): 10 / 7.8 / 9.0
Price: $44,490, base MSRP to $57,990 (Autograph)