Malibu, California — VC-Turbo. It’s technology you’ll be hearing more and more about from brands like Infiniti in the future. It’s the brand’s attempt to build an implement an engine with variable compression ratio. It’s groundbreaking tech, and the QX50 is the first vehicle to get it.
And you’d have no idea driving it.
The compact Infiniti QX50 is all-new for 2019, and features this whiz-bang new engine and a slew of new features. Infiniti invited us out to Los Angeles to drive their new vehicle on some of the best driving roads in the country. It wasn’t a wasted trip.
But first, let’s get back to that engine. For fear of boring you to death, we don’t go into details about how the engine works. For the sake of this review, we’ll call it “magic.” Basically it lets the car decide whether or not to run in a fuel efficient mode or in a performance-oriented mode. There’s nothing you have to do on your end as the driver. It just does it’s thing, imperceptibly.
You should know, though, that this is the first time this technology has been used in a production automobile. Ever. So while you might not notice it when you’re driving, you are clearly in one of the most state-of-the-art gasoline engines on sale to date.
Combined with a continuously variable transmission, the 2.0L VC-Turbo engine in the QX50 makes 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. You can either spec a front-wheel or all-wheel drive model. For the purpose of this drive event, all models were loaded up all-wheel drive variants.
Outside, the QX50 looks quite attractive. Smooth lines draw you in, and it curves in all of the right places. While looks are subjective, this author is quote fond of how the car looks. Colors range from 50 shades of gray and a blue and a red. Go for a brighter color, this car can handle it.
Inside, especially with the Autograph package, the materials are superb. The light-colored seats with the blue and brown interior accents is one of the best interiors in this segment. It’s $2000 over the price of a loaded QX50, but it’s worth every penny.
Adults should have no difficulty in riding in either the front or back of this crossover. Rear storage area is solid at 64,4 cu/in with the rear seats folded. I don’t anticipate having any difficulties in living with this car day to day..
The infotainment uses a familiar-to-Infiniti two screen setup that is fast and responsive, but not exactly modern. Yes, it supports navigation and satellite radio, but phone connectivity is mostly limited to Bluetooth or USB. There’s no Android Auto or Apple Car Play present. During a presentation it was mentioned that the functionality is coming, but it won’t be upgradable from the 2019 version.
On the road, power delivery is relatively smooth. In the normal setting on our test vehicle, there was some lag in throttle inputs to response. It’s unclear if it was related to the transmission or the engine itself, but putting the car in the “Sport” setting alleviated most of the issue.
The only other complaint is that I’m not a particular fan of CVTs. While the transmission in this car is one one of the better ones, I’d still be more comfortable with a transmission with normal gears.
If you aren’t trying to carve the canyons around Malibu the QX50 is comfortable and compliant. It’s quiet inside the cabin, and the Bose Performance Series audio system sounds pretty good.
Additionally, our model had ProPilot Assist. This hands-on, Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance feature is designed to reduce the stress of highway driving by automatically keeping you in your lane and pacing the vehicle in front of you. The system will even bring the entire vehicle to a halt if traffic stops and resume when it starts moving again.
It still requires you, as the driver, to pay attention and keep your hand on the wheel. If you don’t, the system will start beeping at you and if you continue to fail to respond, it’ll bring the car to a stop.
While the vehicles we tested were fully-loaded models, a base QX50 that’s reasonably equipped as standard starts at $36,650.
Overall first impressions are pretty solid. Compared to a vehicle like the Lexus NX, I’m leaning towards the Infiniti as being my purchase decision. The new engine technology is cool, but the luxury features, better infotainment, and prettier design makes the Infiniti QX50 a solid choice.