Less than 20 years ago, the term compact luxury sport utility vehicle wasn’t part of the automotive lexicon. Now, it’s the most popular top-line segment of the industry with about 600,000 new people movers selling in 2018.
It’s also among the most competitive markets in the industry with the new generation Infiniti QX50 joined by Acura, Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and others for 2019. Total sales in the segment increased by about 20 percent last year from 2017.
Like the others, Infiniti wants a bigger slice of the market. The second generation QX50 is vastly different than its predecessor, which was last available as a 2017 model and around for about a decade.
The new exterior has more appeal with a modern, handsome design. It showcases superior craftsmanship replete with complementary curves, creases and angles.
An industry first, the Infiniti QX50 is equipped with a Variable Compression Turbo transmission (VCT) The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 268 horsepower and advances with front-wheel drive. The VCT adjusts the compression ratio, offering high-compression efficiency with light loads and low compression for turbocharged power under hard acceleration.
One major result is improved efficiency, with EPA gas mileage averages of 24 miles per gallon in city driving, 31 miles per gallon on the freeway.
The overall top-notch driver experience is the new Infiniti’s best attribute. Handling is superior with an impressively small turning radius and a quiet ride regardless of speed.
The interior design is spacious and constructed with quality materials and workmanship. Luxury aside, the QX50 is ideal for lots of luggage, supplies in other stuff when storage space is appreciated. With the rear seats up, 31.4 cubic feet of cargo space is available. With the rear seats down, cargo space jumps to 65.1 cubic feet. It’s impressive for a vehicle categorized as a compact SUV.
Infiniti utilizes a two-screen interface. It’s while a worthwhile concept, but there’s too much to decipher and various features are unintuitive. And while a double area for technology possibilities seems like a good idea, it’s not. Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto aren’t supported. ProPilot Assist, a lane-keeping system, seems to function at its best on the freeway where lane changing is gentle. The screens’ readouts aren’t particularly sharp.
Three trims are available, with unique names, Luxe, Pure and the top-line Essential. The Luxe and Pure are adequately equipped. But Infiniti only offers its major options on the Essential trim. It’s the most appealing for several reasons, notably current top safety functions.
But the comfort, safety and technology options don’t come cheap. My review vehicle had an MSRP of $43,350. But the Sensory ($7,550), ProActive ($2,000) and ProAssist ($550) packages, plus illuminate kick plates ($465), welcome lighting ($425) and a $995 destination charge pushed the total price to $55,285.
The option list features include state-of-the-art technology, safety and comfort additions — 20-inch wheels to a maple wood interior and host of detection warnings to heated and cooled seats. Standard, Eco, Sport, and Personal driving modes are also part of the mix.
A 16-speaker Bose Performance Series audio system replaces an old-school, six-speaker system standard on the lower two trims. Luxury and convenience features also include a panoramic moonroof, heated and ventilated front seats, quilted leather upholstery, open-pore wood and aluminum interior trim, active noise cancellation, and a motion-activated liftgate.
Still, it wasn’t too long ago a non-exotic vehicle in the mid-$50,000 range was uncommon. It’s now the norm. Still, $12,000 in options seems extravagant, although it’s justifiable since the QX50 isn’t the highest-price vehicle in its class.
Overall, the smooth ride, variable compression turbo transmission and the smorgasbord of niceties give the Infiniti QX50 a deserved high perch in the compact luxury SUV hierarchy.