When it comes to luxury brands, especially those from Japan, there’s often a lot of commonality. Between Infiniti, Acura and Lexus, the competition is brutal. Each tries to one-up the other, but in the end, each one is fine in its own way.
Being bold or distinctive is both an asset and can work against a brand. As I ramble on here, this is relevant to my tester this week, the 2020 Infiniti QX50.
Infiniti being the luxury brand of Nissan, it’s lesser known than Lexus, but if my tester is any indication, it’s not lesser in any other way. It had been quite a while since I drove an Infiniti, so I was pretty excited to see how this luxury compact SUV would look and perform. The last couple of Infinitis I rather enjoyed, and I can’t say that about every Lexus or every Acura I’ve had.
One of the big criticisms of some Japanese luxury vehicles is that they’re just overpriced, glorified versions of their non-luxury stable mate. This is not the case with the Infiniti QX50 which shares a platform with the Nissan Murano but is way more luxurious.
I openly admit to a slight bias toward the styling of the Infiniti brand. Of the three Japanese luxury brands, they have the most character without going too conservative or too over the top. As such, the QX50 is a handsome, distinctive SUV with a stylish front end. While I’d like a little more from the grille, the hood styling is classy and elegant. And that same styling continues on the side leading to a gorgeous back end. Squinty LED taillights along with a subtle, but sporty, spoiler really make the back of the QX50 pop.
Under the hood, there’s a pretty neat engine. Infiniti’s VC Turbo powerplant is a 2.0-cylinder engine that adjusts the stroke of the pistons based upon how you drive the vehicle. What this means is the turbo can really crank up when you need quick acceleration and can go almost idle when you don’t need it. It’s a very fuel-efficient engine that doesn’t get enough praise.
The only thing that detracts from this great engine is the continuously variable transmission. While the purpose is to be more fuel-efficient, it also provides funky shifts and some turbo lag, especially on rapid upshifts. All in all, I was impressed with the QX50’s performance with 268 horsepower and 280 lbs.-ft. of torque. It was quick off the line but was also quiet and reserved. If you like a more athletic luxury SUV, then perhaps a German brand might suit you better; otherwise, this Infiniti does a great job and provides just enough excitement without losing its manners.
The two-row QX50 has a high-quality cabin and incredibly comfortable seats. Leather seats along with a heated steering wheel are nice, but what’s impressive is the rear legroom. For a compact SUV, there’s plenty of legroom. New for this model year, there’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s a dual screen infotainment system that seems pointless initially, but then you realize each HD display serves its purpose and helps keep the screen from being one big, overwhelming touchscreen, as is the trend currently. As for me, I’m singing the praises of the LCD/VGA 8-inch upper and 7-inch lower touchscreens.
Infiniti launches two new trim levels for the QX50 this model year. The Sensory and Autograph trims each add more features to the already well-appointed SUV. However, my tester was the middle trim Essential with all-wheel drive. Starting price for this is $45,100, making it competitively priced in this segment. With features like the Edition 30 Package and ProAssist Package, my tester had a final MSRP of $49,630.
With the revolutionary engine and the CVT (as much as I dislike it), the QX50 is incredibly fuel efficient. The all-wheel drive SUV has an EPA rating of 22 mpg/city and 28 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving I averaged just over 25 mpg, which is above average for this segment.
It was nice to be back behind the wheel of an Infiniti. I liked a lot about the QX50 including the looks, the luxurious vibe and the overall performance. Most of all, it had personality and distinction, and in this segment, that’s saying something.
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