2019 INFINITI QX50 Sensory Road Test Review
January 07 2019, Trevor Hofmann
Dramatic Redesign Results in One of the Best Luxury Crossovers in Its Class
Rarely do automakers redesign a vehicle as thoroughly as INFINITI has with its popular QX50 luxury crossover SUV, yet this all-new 2019 model is now completely changed from the ground up, and the results are very impressive.
Its stunning new styling will be first to grab attention, as it pulls together all of INFINITI's best design elements into one great looking five-door package, but climb inside and its much more accommodating interior, filled with the latest electronic interfaces and impressive fit, finish and materials quality, the latter even including genuine hardwood and satin-finish aluminum, as well as plush ultrasuede and sumptuous semi-aniline leather, will grab hold of your heart.
Completely New Underpinnings Result in a Much More Comfortable Luxury SUV
As wonderful as all this sounds (and I'll expand more on the details in a moment), the most notable QX50 changes are hidden behind the scenes. For starters, the new 2019 model sits atop a completely redesigned chassis architecture that does a better job of prioritizing ride quality comfort and compliancy than its predecessor. It was immediately noticeable, especially when encountering a number of unruly expansion joints on the Iron Worker's Memorial Bridge, not to mention countless Vancouver roads and laneways. Of course, this made the new suspension a dream on nicer stretches of tarmac, such as the Upper Levels highway plus most North Shore streets, and while I didn't have opportunity to sling it up Cypress or Seymour mountains, I'm guessing its standard Intelligent AWD would perform just as well when dry pavement turns to snow.
The fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension design, with standard Active Trace Control that automatically increases brake pressure mid-corner to help maintain its lane, is as capable through the curves as it is at managing untoward dips and bumps, providing above-average performance for this athletic class, but it clearly focuses on comfort and quietness first and foremost, the latter aided by refinement enhancements both from the suspension and elsewhere, such as acoustic glass used for the windshield and front side windows, plus the engine's active mounts.
INFINITI VC-Turbo Reinvents the Internal Combustion Engine
Of course, INFINITI fully insulates the cabin for an even more hushed environment, with the engine especially hard to detect unless pushed hard, at which point it shares a sporty character note that lets you know it's a fully capable performer. Unlike its V6-powered predecessor, the updated QX50 sports INFINITI's all-new variable compression turbo engine that's not only more powerful, but more efficient too. The 2.0-litre VC-Turbo makes a potent 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, putting it right at the top of its compact luxury SUV segment for engine output, and adding it to the coveted WardsAuto 10 Best Engines list, an award INFINITI has earned multiple times before with its various V6 powerplants.
The new VC-Turbo engine, which was in development for four years, incorporates special connecting rods between its pistons and crankshaft that vary the compression of the fuel and air mixture, less for increasing power output when needed and more during lighter loads such as cruising and coasting for improved fuel-efficiency.
Superb Performance Combined with Impressive Economy
Making the most of that last factor is an entirely new continuously variable transmission (CVT) that incorporates many of the old seven-speed automatic's features into a much more fuel-friendly design, critically important as Greater Vancouver pump prices soar into unprecedented territory. The innovative new shift-by-wire CVT boasts manual shift mode with steering wheel paddles, plus Downshift Rev Matching (that revs the engine to match a given gear ratio), and dual transmission fluid coolers, resulting in one of the best and most normal feeling CVTs I've ever tested.
When driven at regular speeds around town or on the highway it uses similar shift increments to a conventional automatic, although its continuously variable design means that it's inherently smooth. Flick the console-mounted "D-MODE" rocker switch from Standard, Eco or one of its personal settings into Sport mode, however, and it really comes alive, allowing the engine to rev higher and shift quicker, with more abrupt, albeit never harsh intervals, really spicing things up for high-performance drives.
Driven more moderately, like the majority of us do most of the time, the silky smooth transmission and highly efficient VC-Turbo engine help minimize impact from those seemingly ever-increasing pump prices with claimed fuel economy of 10.0 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.0 combined, compared to 13.7 city, 9.8 highway and 11.9 combined for the outgoing V6-powered model, which is a sizeable 30-percent improvement.
Exquisite Interior Detailing and Materials Quality
Such numbers are only achievable in Eco mode, and by the way that just noted "D-MODE" rocker switch is a beautifully detailed bit of luxury kit, positioned only a few inches behind the QX50's completely new electronic shift lever, which is also finely crafted from satin-silver aluminum and contrast stitched leather.
Speaking of well made, sitting just above on a separate section of the lower console is a gorgeous knurled metal dial for controlling the infotainment system, its look and feel doubled on the centre stack for the audio system's volume knob. INFINITI holds nothing back in the satin-finished aluminum department either, with tastefully applied accents just about everywhere, a couple of favourites being the power window switches and the geometrically drilled door-mounted speaker grilles for my tester's Bose audio system.
It should be noted that all QX50 switchgear is above par thanks to densely constructed composites and metals, premium damping and very tight tolerances, allowing this newest INFINITI to match up well against its premium-level peers and even exceed some, while the majority of surface treatments surpass the status quo too.
Open-Pore Hardwood, Ultrasuede and Semi-Aniline Leather Set QX50 Sensory Apart
INFINITI added yet more eye-candy to my Sensory trimmed tester by way of beautiful open-pore natural maple hardwood inlays across the dash and door panels, these joined by the plush black ultrasuede noted earlier, the latter of which can also be found on the centre stack and lower console, plus the front seat bolsters, while INFINITI complemented these areas with contrast-stitched leather for a wholly rich, multi-dimensional look and feel. The Japanese luxury brand even went so far as to wrap both A and B roof pillars in the same durable suede- cloth, not to mention the roofliner, which frames a large, airy dual-panel powered panoramic glass sunroof for added dramatic effect.
Suffice to say the new QX50 Sensory interior is amongst the compact luxury segment's best, with all of these over-the-top surface treatments complemented with high-grade pliable composites above the waist, even including soft-touch paint on the glove box lid. INFINITI can certainly be proud of this interior, as can the SUV's new owners, because the QX50 Sensory beats many industry leaders at their own ultra-luxe game.
Sensory and Autograph Trims Provide a Whole New Level of Luxury
Making the QX50 Sensory story even better is an asking price of just $56,490 plus freight and fees, which in INFINITI tradition is thousands less than key rivals despite it many advantages. Along with everything already mentioned, Sensory trim also includes soft semi-aniline leather upholstery, front passenger powered lumbar support, three-way cooled/ventilated front seats, an advanced climate control system featuring auto-recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter, extended interior ambient lighting, rear side window sunshades, a motion/gesture-activated liftgate, and two attractive metal cargo sill finishers, while stunning 20-inch dark tinted alloy wheels wrapped with 255/45 all-season run-flat tires improve exterior design and road-holding capability, plus eye-catching cube-like signature LED high/low beam headlamps with adaptive cornering capability enhance both styling and nighttime safety.
For those wanting even more wow factor, slightly higher priced $57,990 Autograph trim is near identical to the Sensory when it comes to features, yet swaps out the black ultrasuede for blue, and uses elegant white surface treatments for much of the instrument panel, centre console sides, door inserts, and seat upholstery, the latter featuring opulent diamond-quilted semi-aniline leather inserts along with stunning blue piping between white leather and blue ultrasuede side bolsters.
Mid-Range Trims Provide Plenty of Alternatives for Value Conscious Shoppers
The Autograph and Sensory trims incorporate much of the $52,990 ProActive model's features as well, including its High Beam Assist, Intelligent Cruise Control with Full speed range and hold, Distance Control Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Blind Spot Intervention, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Backup Collision Intervention, Steering Assist, ProPILOT Assist semi-autonomous self-driving (that comes very close to full autonomous capability), INFINITI's exclusive steer-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system (a first for an INFINITI SUV) that provides precise, controlled and highly reactive steering (other trims use vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering), Head-up Display, and an awesome sounding 16-speaker Bose Premium Series audio system.
Additionally, $48,990 Essential trim provides higher level models with rain-sensing wipers, both front and rear parking sensors, reverse-tilt side mirrors, INFINITI's extremely good 360-surround Around View parking monitor with moving object detection (that provides both rear and overhead views simultaneously), a very accurate navigation system with nicely detailed mapping, tri-zone automatic climate control with rear passenger switches (upgraded from the dual-zone automatic base system), a power tilt and telescoping steering column, plus memory for the steering wheel, front seats and side mirrors.
Generous Standard Features Add up to Superb Value
Last but hardly least, all upper trims benefit from the very well-priced $44,490 base Luxe model's LED fog lamps, LED side-mirror turn signals, LED taillights (the base model also features standard LED low/high beam headlights), chrome-enhanced exterior door handles, remote engine starter, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, drive mode settings, powered panoramic glass sunroof (including a power sunshade), powered liftgate, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, and the list goes on and on.
What's more, standard across the QX50 line is INFINITI's superb new InTouch dual-display infotainment system incorporating a beautifully bright, clear high-definition 8.0-inch monitor up top and equally impressive 7.0-inch touchscreen just below. It comes with InTouch safety, security and convenience services, plus all of the other items noted earlier, while its extremely easy to use thanks to the aforementioned rotating dial for controlling top screen functions, such as navigation and the parking camera, plus the tablet-like hands-on functionality of the lower touchscreen, complete with tap, swipe and pinch gesture finger inputs for audio, climate and other systems. INFINITI lines three sides of the lower display with quick-access analogue buttons, allowing even easier use while keeping eyes on the road.
This last point in mind, much of these functions and more can be accessed from a large colour multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, all controlled by an intelligently arranged assortment of steering wheel-mounted buttons.
Larger and More Accommodating Than Its Predecessor and Key Competitors
All of these high-grade features come housed within a much more comfortable and accommodating QX50 cabin, highlighted by a thoroughly supportive driver's seat and a much more spacious rear passenger compartment. After setting up the driving position for optimal control and comfort, which is no problem thanks to ample adjustability, I slid behind to find a lot more rear seat legroom and headspace than offered in the old model. INFINITI backs my experience up with a claim of greater rear seating space than Audi's Q5 and BMW's X3 as well, while the rear cushions also slide back and forth for even more legroom or cargo space, depending on needs.
With respect to the latter, the new QX50's cargo capacity has grown by 368 litres to 895 behind its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and that's when they're pushed all the way rearward. Sliding the rear bench as far forward as possible adds 153 litres of gear-hauling volume for a new total of 1,048 litres, plus when folding both second-row seatbacks flat the QX50's cargo capacity extends to a very commodious 1,822 litres.
Dropping those seats down is easier than ever thanks to handy levers on the cargo sidewalls, while the hands-free powered liftgate that lets you inside can be programmed for various height, meaning that parking garages with low ceilings and/or hanging pipes won't cause any damage to your QX50's backside. It's a nicely finished cargo area too, with aluminum sill guards and high-quality carpeting just about everywhere, plus the load floor is removable, exposing two hidden storage compartments as well as the Bose audio system's amplifier and subwoofer.
One of the Best-Looking Luxury Crossover SUVs in Its Category
As brilliantly practical, impressively crafted, highly efficient and wonderfully quick as the new QX50 is, its stunning styling will probably do more for its success than any other factor, at least initially. This is one great looking luxury crossover SUV, which would be reason enough for its successful launch. When tallying up 2018 calendar year sales, of which this new model was only partially available, deliveries grew by 59.0 percent, while after two months of 2019 its year-over-year sales were up a shocking 113.7-percent.
The verdict is out, Canadian luxury SUV buyers love the new 2019 INFINITI QX50, so before considering anything else I recommend you check out this highly impressive all-new model at INFINITI North Vancouver by calling (888) 204-5481 or dropping by the showroom at 819 Automall Drive, North Vancouver.
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credit: Karen Tuggay