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2017 Infiniti QX50 Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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A different choice among small luxury crossovers, and in this case different is very good

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

            • SEE ALSO: Infiniti Research and Buyers Guide


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Dare to be different. When it debuted for model year 2008 as the EX35, Infiniti’s smallest crossover, now called QX50, was definitely different. Not only was it one of the first small luxury crossovers, it was not a re-skinned and otherwise enhanced version of a more common vehicle from parent Nissan. Leave it to everyone else to transform a middle-class transverse front-engined, front-wheel drive crossover into a luxury vehicle. Nissan used the FM platform architecture found beneath the then-contemporary Infiniti G35 (now Q50) and Nissan 350Z. And Japanese-market Nissan Skyline. With a front engine, rear- or all-wheel drive chassis layout, it was all the better for sporty character.

Changes since then have been more evolutionary than revolutionary. No worries there; Infiniti got it right the first time and then didn’t get it wrong by trying to “improve” it. The EX35 became the EX37 when it got a larger-capacity engine for 2013, and then became the QX50 for 2014, when Infiniti changed its naming conventions. 2016 saw a 3.2-inch stretch to the wheelbase and minor revisions to styling to bring the QX50 in line with other current Infiniti sedans and crossovers. The stretch gave improved interior space without excessive bulk, and is externally virtually un-noticeable. It seems that most cars and crossovers creep ever larger in size, so kudos to Infiniti for not following that trend. Compared to its Q50 sedan cousin, the QX50 sits on a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase, but is 2.3 inches shorter. Parking will not be a problem, especially with the available “Around View” video monitor system. The QX50 still offers all of the comfort of a midsize entry-luxury sedan and the versatility of a small but not too-small crossover.

The 2017 Infiniti QX50 is offered in rear- or all-wheel drive form. There are no separate trim levels, just option packages to allow for varied customer needs, plus standalone accessories. Standard equipment level is high, with leather seating, heated in front and power-adjustable, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated outside mirrors, a tilt-and-slide moonroof, LED foglamps and daytime running lights, Sirius/XM satellite radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and much more.

My test car for the past week was a rear-wheel drive example with all possible option packages. Also known as standard press-fleet spec… but that also means full contemporary luxury convenience and safety, with voice-recognition control, navigation, traffic and weather alerts, the useful Around View Monitor, adaptive HID xenon lighting, and an alphabet soup of electronic safety technologies. The past week has been spectacularly wet. Was that a problem with rear-wheel drive and 325 horsepower? Not at all. The QX50 was well-behaved, even when encountering standing water on the highway. The Around View Monitor system made parking in tight spaces easy, and should help prevent curb damage to alloy wheels and bad bumper encounters. My 20-mpg average was not bad at all for this sort of vehicle, even with plenty of use of the engine’s power. The current QX50 may no longer be the new kid in the neighborhood, but there is much to be said for proven technology. And while the plethora of options in my test example added convenience and luxury, none are absolutely needed. Even in “base” trim the QX50 is an enjoyable and practical machine.

APPEARANCE: There has been minimal change to the QX50 since it was the EX35. Infiniti calls it “coupe-inspired”, and, given the sloping roof line and sharp character lines on the sides, maybe. But not to the absurd level of the bizarre crossover coupes of some competitors. Those trade practicality and good taste for cartoonish looks. The QX50 is closer to the original crossover idea of tall wagon with a bit more clearance than a car, and has the lower perimeter cladding (with strategic metallic accents) and roof rails to prove it. Clearance has been raise 0.8 inches, but at under seven inches this is not an offroad vehicle. In another universe it might be the Q50 wagon, a little lower and lighter-looking, but wagons don’t work in the American marketplace. The QX50 formula does.

COMFORT: It the 3.2-inch wheelbase stretch may not be noticeable outside, it means 8.3 cubic feet more inside. Much of which is fount in the rear seat area, with noticeably more knee and leg room. Business class upgrade! And more storage. The rear seatback is split 60/40 for cargo versatility. The Deluxe Touring Package brings a convenient spring system that pops seatback parts up at the flick of a switch on the console, and also eight-way power adjustment of the front passenger seat.

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The interior features first-class materials and fit and finish. There are color choices; this one was a pleasant and functional dark-over-light tan, with wood trim (part of the Premium Package) and aluminum accents. It hasn’t changed much over the years, and good for that. Interior design is elegantly simple. Instruments are easily read in any lighting and shielded from glare. The power-adjustable, leather-rimmed steering wheel has controls for audio, cruise, and phone systems, with information showing between the tach and speedometer. A touchscreen at the top of the center stack is the interface for audio, navigation, vehicle settings, and more information. It’s simple to use, with touch or use of the central controller button. Audio choices are AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, USB and jack inputs, and a CD slot, with controls arranged around the signature Infiniti analog clock. Climate control is by simple knobs and buttons, and works quickly. Rear passengers get end of console vents and floor heater ducts. Seat comfort and support is as expected in the class, and there are convenient storage spaces around the cabin.

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SAFETY: Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones and a strong safety cage around the passenger compartment is supplemented by the Infiniti Advanced AirBag System, front-seat active head restraints, strong antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, Vehicle Dynamic Control, and traction control systems as standard equipment. The optional Around View Monitor allows good views to the front, lower right front of the car, and rear of the car for crunch-free parking or navigating tight passageways. Electronic Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, blind-spot warning, and Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning are part of the Technology Package.

RIDE AND HANDLING: There’s more sport in the QX50 than in most other crossovers of any size. No great surprise, the FM platform on which it is based also gives us the Infiniti Q50 and Nissan 370Z. It has a front engine, rear- or all-wheel drive layout, with the engine placed well back for optimum weight distribution and a fully-independent suspension with double wishbones in front and a multi-link system in the rear. The QX50 is more “sport-touring” than “sport” but no demerit there — it’s a luxury vehicle, not a race car. The speed-sensitive power steering is never overly light at speed or too heavy for low-speed maneuvers, and the ride is compliant and supple. The QX can take the scenic route s well as the highway, and stops quickly thanks to four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. It is most definitely not another boring small crossover transportation appliance.

PERFORMANCE: The VQ37VHR 3.7-liter V6 under then QX50’s hood isn’t the newest bit of tech around, but it works, and very well. It’s a four valve per cylinder aluminum alloy unit with continuously-variable cam phasing for optimum torque and emissions and friction-reducing technologies to improve efficiency. With maximum 325 horsepower (at 7000 rpm) and 267 lb-ft of torque (at 5200 rpm) there is never any shortage of power for passing or merging or just driving. The seven-speed automatic transmission can aid both performance and fuel efficiency, with low-ratio lower gears, overdrive sixth and seventh, and minimal gaps between ratios. Like nearly all contemporary automatics, it’s programmed to optimize fuel efficiency, so will sometimes be a gear or two high when quick acceleration is demanded. It downshifts quickly enough, and if maximum performance is desired there is manual mode.

CONCLUSIONS: The Infiniti QX50 is a different choice among small luxury crossovers.




SPECIFICATIONS

2017 Infiniti QX50

Base Price $ 34,450

Price As Tested $ 43,735

Engine Type DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with continuously-variable cam phasing

Engine Size 3.7 liters / 226 cu. in.

Horsepower 325 @ 7000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 267 @ 5200 rpm

Transmission 7-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 113.4 in. / 186.8 in.

Curb Weight 3855 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 11.9

Fuel Capacity 20 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline

Tires P245/45R19 98V m+s Bridgestone Turanza EL42

Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, EBD, BA standard

Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent multi-link

Ground Clearance 6.9 inches

Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 24 / 20

0 to 60 mph 5.9 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Premium Package — includes: Bose® 11-speaker premium sound system with single in-dash CD/DVD player, Advanced Climate Control System, dual occupant memory system for driver’s seat, outside mirrors, and steering wheel, entry/exit assist for steering wheel, outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down, auto-dimming inside mirror with Homelink® universal transceiver, maple interior accents, power tilt- and-reach steering column, aluminum roof rails $ 700

Premium Plus Package — includes: Infiniti navigation system, Around View® monitor with front and rear sonar system, XM NavTraffic® and NavWeather™ with real-time traffic and weather, streaming audio via Bluetooth $ 2,000

Deluxe Touring Package — includes: 19-inch split 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels with 245/45R19 all-season tires, high-intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlights, adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlights, 8-way power front passenger seat, 2-way power driver’s seat lumbar support, coat hanger on driver’s seat head restraint, power up-folding rear seats, premium stitching on meter hood $ 2,400

Technology Package — includes: Intelligent Cruise Control, blind spot warning, lane-departure warning and prevention, intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning, aluminum pedals $ 2,750

Illuminated kick plates $ 440

Destination Charge $ 995