2020 Infiniti QX50 Essential AWD Review

An attractive but mixed bag of crossover goods


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Handsome compact styling, surprisingly roomy for its size, improved infotainment, great fit and finish.
Negatives: CVT can't make up its mind, two touchscreens add confusion, mediocre fuel economy, steering feels artificial.
Bottom Line: The QX50 looks good just about everywhere and provides space, comfort, and much-improved in-car tech. It's the driving experience that falls short. For an engine that's supposed to be revolutionary, the attempt backfires a bit. BMW, Audi, Lexus, and Acura make better small crossover models.
The small luxury crossover game is a tough one. The Audi Q5, BMW X3, and the Lexus NX are fierce competitors, and Infiniti has its work cut out for it since the brand has had more than its share of struggles. The confusing nomenclature doesn't help matters, either. What the QX50 does have on its side is attractive styling, robust features, and the right price of entry. We drove the Essential trim which packs in a surround-view parking camera system, heated mirrors, front parking sensors, and the navigation and heated front seats that are optional in the Luxe trim. Read ahead for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

7.2

 

By nature, crossovers arent great to drive, but in the premium segment things get better. The Q5 and X3 are quite good, as is the Lexus NX... at least when it comes to ride and handling. Few of them are truly thrilling to helm, but the QX50 is a bit of a disappointment in key areas.

Ride Quality: The ride is quite comfortable over pockmarked pavement and over gaps. We wouldn't call it cushy, but the QX50's shock absorption is very good.

Acceleration: The CVT does the QX50 no favors, and it often can't make up its mind. The sprint to 60 mph takes about 6.4 seconds, but it's no joy ride getting there. It actually feel slower than the time would indicate. The supposedly revolutionary variable compression ratio turbo engine doesn't quite do the trick in terms of performance. The larger BMW X3 is faster.

Braking: The QX50's brakes feel inordinately mushy for a vehicle like this. Stopping distances are about average.

Steering: The steering feels both artificial and overly light, but it does respond well to inputs. It just doesn't have any feedback or change in effort.

Handling: The suspension and chassis help keep body roll in check, and the QX50 feels adept in the turns with very little drama.

Technology

7.8

 

Infiniti has let the lagging development of Nissan technology hurt their premium efforts. The brand has finally given some of their vehicles the upgraded infotainment InTouch system that's at least a few steps up from the old version.

Infotainment System: The 8" touchscreen on the top is vivid and responds to inputs well. It handles audio and navigation, while the lower 7" screen is primarily dedicated to climate.

Controls: It's a bit confusing since the audio knob and buttons are below the lower screen, which is for climate. Then there's a column of climate control buttons to the right of the climate screen. We just wish there were more physical controls instead of depending on screens too much.

Styling

8.7

 

We never get all that excited about crossover styling simply because you can't do much with a two-box design. But the QX50 manages to put creases in all the right places, and it also gives a solid effort at the cabin.

Front: The grille's dark chrome frame and the black mesh look great, along with small foglight elements and attractive headlights.

Rear: The QX50 does a great job making a rear fascia look good. The taillights taper inward nicely to a rather fresh arched metallic strip. We also love the thin vertical reflectors and the interesting rear glass shape that's large and interesting.

Profile: The side view of the QX50 shows off the best interpretation of its z-shaped rear pillar, as well as great body contours and nice dark chrome wheels. Too bad the window surround isn't dark chrome, too.

Cabin: We think it's Infiniti's best interior yet. Of course, it's not as opulent as the big QX80, the fact that the interior tidy, uses good materials, and is ergonomically very good goes a long way. We especially love the shape of the steering wheel hub and spokes.

Comfort

8.7

 

The QX50 might not look big from the outside, but it offers great room for its size. Four adults can travel comfortably and also toss in enough gear for a weekend trip without worry.

Front Seats: The leatherette seats can easily pass for real leather, and they're supportive and well cushioned.

Rear Seats: Real adults can sit back here without difficulty, and the second-row seat contouring is very good. Even the middle position isn't bad for a little while.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The engine can sound a bit noisy at times mostly because of the CVT that seems overworked. Otherwise, the cabin is quiet, and there's very little intrusive noise.

Visibility: Visibility is pretty good out the front and sides. Only the thick D-pillars get in the way.

Climate: The climate system worked well in winter, firing up good heat and responsive heated seats in our tester.

Safety

7

 

The QX50 did quite well in crash tests, though the overall score could've been better. It got hampered by other testing areas outside the crash criteria. The safety tech provided standard and as optional equipment is excellent.

IIHS Rating: Although it didn't earn top scores, it did very well in crash tests with "good" in all areas. It only suffered an "acceptable" and "marginal" due to headlights.

NHTSA Rating: The feds gave the QX50 five stars in crash tests.

Standard Tech: Our Essential test vehicle came with a great set of features at no additional cost: Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, High Beam Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Automatic Braking, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Optional Tech: Although the ProAssist Package is listed in the options, it's actually included in the Essential trim and provides Distance Control Assist, Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Intervention, and Lane Departure Prevention.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

We were surprised by the amount of cargo space in the tidy QX50. It actually does better than most of its competitors when it comes to swallowing grocery bags and luggage. Small item storage in the cabin is also quite good.

Storage Space: A convenient sliding compartment in the center console hides small storage and cupholders. The armrest is also well-sized.

Cargo Room: There's a voluminous 31 cubes behind row two and 65 cubes with the seats folded flat. That's bigger than the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and the Lexus NX. The cargo area is also wide and very flat, making for easy loading.

Fuel Economy

6

 

The variable compression ratio engine doesn't really do the QX50 any favors because it doesn't seem to maximize output and provide efficiency the way it was touted. Our results are less than the EPA figures. We drove on freeways and local roads about equally.

Observed: 22.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 138 miles.

Audio

8

 

The QX50's standard setup for audio is a 6-speaker system that's clear and crisp. It lacks the fullness and bass of a premium system but manages to still sound very good.



Final Thoughts

For those buyers who want an attractive, roomy, and comfortable small crossover, the QX50 makes a solid case. It looks the part, and it feels premium inside even without the fancy upgraded quilted leather seats. But when it comes to the driving, the experience is diluted by the CVT. That's too bad since the rest of the QX50 is very good. The X3 and Q5 are much better to drive and not that much worse in terms of fuel economy.
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