Review: Infiniti gets functional with the 2019 QX50
Everything about the Infiniti QX50 has been redesigned for the 2019 model year. Sitting on a new platform, the 2019 QX50 is a slightly bigger, much roomier and far more useful, with Infiniti de-emphasizing the "sport" of the model at the same time bringing in a highly innovative new engine.
The previous-generation Infiniti QX50 was a sport-centric crossover, having debuted as the EX in 2008. That crossover was punchy and fun to drive, but a bit cramped and not terribly versatile or practical. Infiniti has now revamped the QX50 entirely, with only a passing resemblance to the previous-gen. Gone are the tightly pinched roofline and greenhouse, the short back seat, and the tapered rear hatch giving only presumptive access to the tiny cargo bay. Enter the new, user-friendly QX50 instead.
The 2019 model is a touch larger than its predecessor, gaining about 2 inches of ground clearance, and adds some width and height, while losing a bit of length. This squares up the QX50 for a slower-paced look – compared to the previous-gen's sleek and speedy nature, that is. The new look is more contemporary, and makes the Infiniti QX50 much more marketable we think. Whatever the angle, the QX50 is a good-looking luxury ride.
Underneath the bodywork, extensive use of high-strength steels and smart placement of welds and panels meant a lot of gain in interior room. Mostly where it counts highest, such as in shoulder and knee departments. Despite gaining almost 13 more cubic feet (368 liters) of cargo space, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 also gains a lot more passenger space. That's boosted even more with the addition of sliding and adjusting rear seating. Meaning there's almost 39 inches (99 cm) of rear legroom available.
Up front there are plenty of changes too. The driver and front passenger get a lot of wiggle room, with nicely-executed seating and good adjustment options. The driver gets a performance-style steering wheel, an homage to the Infiniti Formula racing teams, and a hefty shifter on the console that feels more substantial than those in many other Infiniti models. Cross-stitched and tightly-wrapped leather adorn both the wheel and shifter in all Infiniti QX50 models. A nice touch.
Driver controls and information management are also solid in the 2019 QX50. The head-up display is clear and crisp with a big 9-inch area on the lower windscreen. This means it's easier to glance down at it (a 4-degree sightline adjustment) compared to most on the market (usually on a 15-20-degree angle). It's also configurable to show what is needed and adjustable to sit where the driver wants it.
In the 2019 Infiniti QX50's instrument cluster is as useful as any we've seen. There's even a graphic model that shows what the Infiniti's new engine is doing. More on that in a moment.
Infotainment in the new 2019 QX50 is overall very good, but has some downsides. Infiniti likes a two-screen system, one upper and one lower. In the QX50, this works better than in the Q50 sedan, since the larger crossover-SUV has a flatter angle from driver's eye to the screen, which means less glare. The upper screen is still very glare-prone, however, and the fact that the information cannot be swapped from one screen to the other is an annoyance. The upper screen is an 8-inch touchscreen that shows vehicle information, including navigation. The lower 7-inch touchscreen is focused on apps, climate control, and entertainment. Luckily, both screens can be turned off so that the cabin doesn't become a huge halo of light at night.
As for daily usefulness, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is far easier to get in and out of than the previous-gen QX50, and cargo space is much more useful. The rear hatch is squarer and seems to have a taller opening. The loading floor is at a good height for most people and has up to 44.9 inches (114 cm) of flat floor with the rear seats up. Even with the rear seats slid all the way back for maximum legroom, there is still 31.1 cubic feet (880.7 l) of cargo space. Folding the rear seats down (they go nearly flat) expands that to 64.4 cubic feet (1,823.6 l). That's a lot of cargo and because the roof doesn't pinch inward or downward as much, it's accessible for larger items.
Of all the new elements of the 2019 Infiniti QX50, possibly the most compelling is the engine. The new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the first production-level variable compression ratio engine ever offered. This VC-Turbo, as Infiniti calls it, can operate at a compression ratio ranging between 8:1 to 14:1. The former is the most performance-oriented of the ratios while the latter is the most fuel-efficient. The VC-Turbo is, essentially, a gasoline-powered engine that's capable of harnessing many of the benefits of a diesel.
Output for the engine is 268 horsepower (200 kW) at 5,600 rpm and 280 pound-feet (380 Nm) of torque between 1,600 and 4,800 rpm. That wide rpm band range for torque delivery is a direct result of compression ratio variation as the engine operates, and is its most easily-measured benefit. It also means that fuel economy is far better than it would be with a performance-only engine offering. The 2019 Infiniti QX50 is rated for 27 mpg combined (8.7 l/100km) in front-wheel drive and 26 mpg combined (9.0 l/100km) in all-wheel drive. That's a 35 percent improvement over the previous-generation's V6 engine with better performance to boot. We found that those MPG numbers translate into the real world as well.
Infiniti achieves the variable compression through relatively complex, but brilliantly-designed multi-link components. The engine is smaller and lighter than the previous V6 that was in the QX50. It uses a unique Harmonic Drive reduction gear to change the compression ratio, controlled by an electric motor on the HD's control arm. As the HD rotates, the control shaft within the engine block also rotates, with the motor changing that rotation slightly to adjust compression. As the motor changes the angle of the multi-link arms, this adjusts the top-dead-center (TDC) position of the cylinders, which raises or lowers the compression ratio within the chamber. An eccentric control shaft keeps all of the cylinders in sync so the ratio remains the same for all four. The changes in the cylinder compression changes displacement, moving the engine between 1,997cc and 1,970cc.
To avoid knock and other issues related to higher compression running, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 employs both gasoline direct injection to better aerate the fuel, and multi-point injection for a better fuel:air mixture ratio to ensure complete combustion within the chamber. Either method can be used on the fly, according to the QX50's need based on engine load and compression rate.
Also helping to lower the amount of vibration from the engine is a new active engine mount vibration damping system, which Infiniti calls an Active Torque Rod. This absorbs engine vibration and translates it laterally to spread it out, dampening its effects.
Transmission-wise, Infiniti decided to stick with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the QX50 and it really kills any of the more fun benefits of the great new engine. On paper, the CVT is a great idea, delivering efficiency and smooth running, but in the real world, it's a bit of a dead fish. The CVT hesitates to push up RPM for performance sprints, sudden acceleration for passing, and the like. It also denies the driver much input from the drivetrain, bringing a mostly unresponsive throttle instead. This is coupled with Infiniti's somewhat limp electric-assist power steering, which returns little input to the driver. No matter how it's adjusted, the steering wheel remains bereft of most road feedback with the CVT killing most of what might come through the throttle.
Many luxury buyers probably won't notice many of those points, and despite them, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is a much better drive than was the previous-generation of the crossover. It's now marketable and competitive, with a lot going for it as a luxury ride. We love the efficiency delivered, the interior comfort and roominess, and the everyday practicality of the 2019 QX50.
Product Page: 2019 Infiniti QX50