Test Drive: 2019 Infiniti QX50

Good looks, a motor developed over 20 years, NASA tech in the seats and more

by Andrew Maness

When it comes to crossovers, there’s little choice other than to go all-in and create a design that will turn heads. Some manufacturers reach to extremes and end up bringing a car to market with an overcomplicated, fussy design. Subtlety is increasingly hard to find in the automotive arena, particularly in the booming crossover segment, but leave it to Infiniti to find a balance. The design of the 2019 QX50 is eye-catching, but it doesn’t cry for attention like some of its competitors, nor is is boring like others. Exterior appearances aside, this car also offers an efficient and pleasurable driving experience—thanks in part to its brand new motor and super-comfy seats.

Infiniti’s signature grille has perhaps never looked better than it does here; declaring the QX50’s arrival and bringing serious presence with it. The design team made a bold choice to fit the QX50 with a clam-shell hood that is also deeply sculpted at the sides—something you won’t find on a single one of its competitors. It looks like something that would be right at home on Infiniti’s Q60 coupe, but it works here as well. Five-spoke, 19-inch wheels also do wonders for giving the QX50 a lot of curb appeal—and they’re standard, as they should be on every crossover. (Anything smaller and there’s simply not enough wheel to match the amount of sheetmetal, and then the result is vehicle that looks all out of proportion.)

In fact, this design is balanced all around. All too often designers seem to be content with making a statement up front and “good enough” at the rear. Not so with this vehicle, which has one of the more attractive posteriors out there thanks to great LED taillight design and a sculpted hatch. Like the grille, the kinked D-pillar with chrome trim is another Infiniti signature that is at its best here. From the outside the QX50 is one seriously attractive vehicle and fortunately that continues inside.

Quilted leather seats can be found in a number of cars these days, but nobody has a bottom-seat cushion as comfortable as those found in the QX50. Derived from NASA technology, these seats are intended to take pressure off the base of your spine and improve posture. They do exactly that. Once you’ve sat in these thrones, it’s likely your’ll dream of a day when they’re found on airplanes. Where Infiniti does break with the subtle styling is with the trimming of the top tier QX50 which has silver-finished, open-pore wood and blue alcantara. It also works. The light leather our test cars were equipped with played off the silver/blue color scheme rather nicely. It’s fresh and unexpected—exactly what this segment needs more of.

With a wide variety of choices in the segment the QX50 couldn’t get by on good looks alone. It needed something to set it apart and that’s exactly what the engine does. No longer is there a thirsty, buzzy V6 under the hood, but rather a brand new motor that Infiniti has spent the last 20 years working on. Like most new vehicles today the QX50 is now powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but unlike any other vehicle on the road it’s a variable compression turbo. The technology behind the VC-Turbo is understandably quite advanced, so rather than a long winded explanation that would be best delivered by an engineer, here’s what you need to understand: It makes less horsepower than the outgoing motor, but it makes more torque, and torque is what matters most in real world driving. It also boasts a 35% bump in combined MPG from the previous V6 engine found in the last QX50. This translates to a more enjoyable driving experience as well as a more efficient one, and that right there is what the majority of drivers are looking for these days. The previous QX50 was easily lost in the ever expanding herd of crossovers, whereas this new one not only stands out, but makes a compelling case to take the lead.

Interior image courtesy of Infiniti, all other images by Andrew Maness