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Thursday, May 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

All-new Infiniti QX50 reinvents internal combustion engine

Infiniti’s all-new 2019 QX50 crossover takes a deep dive into new technology. 

Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a ground-breaking effort that could alter the future of the internal combustion engine.

As is often the case, though, it’s not the high-tech owners will appreciate most but the high-touch.

Because, for all the promise of its turbocharged variable-compression powerplant — the first of its kind in a production vehicle — the QX50’s most endearing aspects are traditional ones: comfort, utility and efficiency.

Handsome inside and out

The QX50 is a midsize luxury crossover available in three trims: Pure ($37,545), Luxe ($40,395) and Essential ($44,345). 

It’s a good-looking piece, replete with all the bulges, character lines and contours that define a modern crossover. Even better is the cabin, where designers mix-and-match high end materials, distinctive color palettes and just-so ergonomics.
 
All trims are equipped with automatic dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition and entry, simulated leather upholstery (the Essential has real leather), power-adjustable front seats, hands-free liftgate, a dual-screen infotainment system, Bluetooth, four USB ports and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio. 

LED headlights, forward-collision warning and mitigation with automatic emergency braking, are standard. 

Taller, wider and roomier

Still, many of the most desirable features — including premium audio, most driver-assist functions and even the tow package — are available only as options and only on the Essential,

In our top-level, Essential-trim tester, a rich blend of materials — including silver-toned, exposed-grain wood and twin rows of silver and brown stitching on leather-trimmed door sills and seats — produce a decidedly upscale ambience. 

The new QX50 is a little shorter than its first-gen predecessor, but is wider and taller, making room for more rear-seat legroom and cargo capacity. The second-row seats slide, recline and fold to increase cargo space. 

Ground clearance grows by 2 inches to a generous 8.6 inches, though the QX50 is not equipped for venturing further off the beaten path than a Forest Service road. 

Getting into and out of the cabin is easy and the seats are supportive and comfortable, though long-legged passengers may find the bottom cushions too short. 

Well-behaved, modestly engaging

Infiniti’s two-screen infotainment system is a jumble of control options, confusing menus and mismatched fonts. Important functions, such as the heated steering wheel and custom drive-mode settings, can only be accessed via the too-complicated menu system.  

Neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto is available. 

The QX50 is based on a new front-wheel-drive sedan platform, with available all-wheel-drive. Its suspension is more compliant than its predecessor’s, whose firm, sport-tuned setup could grow jittery and unsettled. 

The ’19 QX50 is well-behaved and modestly engaging. Less a corner-carver than a boulevardier, it dispatches all but the worst potholes and broken surfaces without fuss. The ride remains composed even on undulating and choppy surfaces.

Its lightly weighted steering system responds too slowly to input. Though it firms up in the driver-selectable Dynamic and Dynamic+ steering modes, it offers little in the way of feel or feedback. 

At speed, the QX50 is stable and quiet, with little intrusion of wind and road noise into the cabin.

The heart of the enterprise

The heart of this enterprise is a 268-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that resolves a longstanding conundrum — how to build an internal combustion engine whose compression ratios change as conditions demand. 

Low compression is best suited to produce power; high compression is desirable for its efficiency at steady speeds.

Infiniti’s radical new design inserts computer-controlled links between the crankshaft and the connecting rods, continuously altering piston travel. Compression ratios range from 8:1 to 14:1. 

It looks good on paper, but real-world results fall short of expectations.

The QX50 hits 60 mph in an average-for-the-class 6.4 seconds. EPA-estimated mileage is 26 mpg combined (24 city/30 highway), but that seems optimistic. 

The engine is buzzy under acceleration and the continuously variable transmission to which it’s mated lets the engine to linger too long at high rpm, causing the familiar CVT drone.

Expect Infiniti to evolve its new tech. Meanwhile, the QX50’s more tangible rewards will carry the day.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential AWD
Vehicle base price: $37,545
Trim level base price: $45,150
As tested: $59,085 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Highlights included quilted semi-aniline leather upholstery; blue ultra-suede cabin highlights; adaptive LED headlights; natural maple interior trim; 16-speaker Bose audio; ProAssist and ProActive safety and driver-assist suites (adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert with emergency braking, blind-spot warning, automatic high beams, head-up display, more); illuminated kick plates; welcome lighting.
Tow rating: 3,000 pounds (Essential only)
EPA rating: 26 combined/24 city/30 highway
Premium fuel required



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.