NO LONGER AN IDENTITY CRISIS: 2023 INFINITI QX50 SPORT
Coming from its previous generation, the Infiniti QX50 wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be when it grew up, a hatchback or a crossover. Thankfully, Infiniti helped it through its identity crisis, and it grew into a beautifully crafted SUV that fits on par with the creative design language of other premium crossovers.
It is hard to believe that the second generation, redesigned QX50 hits it four-year stride as we roll through 2023. Having launched in 2019, it is aging gracefully on the outside with sporty styling that looks like it is going fast, even when parked. However, moving with the times, Infiniti chucked the beloved 3.7-liter V-6 and rear-wheel drive platform of the previous generation for a the more fashionable, polar bear friendly, front-wheel drive setup with a completely new engine arrangement.
Logically I should talk about the new variable compression engine from Infiniti, a first not to just the QX50 but a first among all production vehicles. It’s a system that manages an engine’s compression ratio on the fly based on one’s driving performance, boosting more power, or managing better fuel economy. But I can also imagine being in a room with the person that engineered it and having them explain chart after chart of how the engine works… so to keep you from getting bored, if you’re not already, let’s just cover the fundamentals.
The new 2.0-liter VC-turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces a comfortable 268-horsrepower and 280lb-ft of torque that is transferred through a single-speed continuous variable transmission. Although technically new, the engine performs like any other crossover with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a solid run to 60-mph in about 6.5 seconds. Although not nearly as punchy as the beloved predecessor with its 3.7-liter V-6, the new VC-Turbo makes good on keeping paces with other premium brands.
While the VC-Turbo has no problem keeping up, it is not nearly as refined as we would come to expect from a premium badge. Overall, the QX50 is quiet with subtle wind and road noise lurking through the cabin; however, when the throttle is called to action, there is a punchy thrust of urgency followed up with loud revs from the engine. To make things seem a little less awkward, Infiniti integrated fake shift points within the CVT that give off a fairly good impression of a quick responding transmission.
New to the QX50, although not new to Infiniti, is the new steer-by wire technology; something that was featured in the Infiniti Q50 sedan when it first launched in 2014. This system was not a very well-liked application as it was lacking that feedback we desired from a sports sedan. Mercifully in the QX50, it is much different with better tunning and I’m sure a software update that provided far more improved feedback and responsiveness. In the corners it felt well balanced providing the driver the confidence of control.
The QX50 that arrived at our office was the new-for-2023 Sport that starts at $48,500, all-wheel drive tacks on another $2000 for a total sum of $50,500. With the Sport sitting at the mid-range level of the QX50 line-up, it isn’t nearly as posh as one would find in the $57,350 Autograph with its quilted leather and real-wood trim. Our Sport on the other hand was nicely outfitted with red leather seats and faux carbon fiber trim on the dash.
Using the same dash concept out of the Q50 sedan gives the QX50 an already dated presence since the Q50 is hitting its 10-year mark. A decade later, the design and technology come across as old as the portable Garmin navigations our grandparents used to get around town. With two screens, one supporting strictly Navigation and Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, leaves the other screen to manage the menus, climate control, and radio functions. The two screens are not consistent with each other with different graphic display outputs – the screen below features a more modern, high-definition display, while the top screen looks like something from the old Infiniti FX generation.
Overall, the interior is well comfortable – the front seats are snug with the slightest hint of body hugging from the boosted bolsters. The Sport comes equipped with both heated and ventilated front seats as well as a heated steering wheel. And now standard across the QX50 lineup is Infiniti’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving that provides adaptive cruise control, lane center assistance, and steering assistance. This system is smooth overall when faced with stop-n-go traffic – it manages the braking seamlessly for a smooth stop, most of the time. The assisted steering can be intrusive, just a few seconds of no movement causes the system to bark at you to move the wheel and when faced with the slightest movement out of your lane, it carries a harsh vibration that sounds as if someone is honking at you.
Despite a couple of negative condensations, what the Infiniti QX50 lacks makes up for in value. Minus a couple of options like the Illuminated Kick Plates and Welcome Lighting Logo, our QX50 Sport came in roughly $5000-$7000 less than its similarly equipped Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Genesis GV70, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Lexus NX350. And for that, it is easy to overlook some of the minor imperfections for a relatively fun-to-drive crossover.
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