Cars crossovers Infiniti Infiniti QX50 SUVs Technology

Variable-compression engine meets crossover: Infiniti QX50 review

The Infiniti QX50 in Hermosa Blue.

The Infiniti QX50 in Hermosa Blue.

Enlarge / The Infiniti QX50 in Hermosa Blue.

In a world filled with equally priced compact luxurious crossovers, one solution to differentiate your self is with what’s underneath the hood. That is the strategy Infiniti has taken with the all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50. What may in any other case be yet one more $50,000 crossover turns into intriguing if solely due to Infiniti’s brand-new VC-Turbo engine, and the QX50 is the primary car within the carmaker’s lineup to be powered by it.

Because the identify implies, the VC-Turbo makes use of totally different compression ratios based mostly on driving circumstances. The compression ratio describes the quantity of an engine cylinder when the piston is on the prime versus the underside of its journey. The upper the compression ratio, the extra thermally effectively the engine can run. However the turbochargers which are all however omnipresent in right now’s two-liter engines do not play properly with excessive compression ratios, as a result of the combustion can turn into erratic and probably end in engine knock (undesirable detonation of the fuel-air combine).

Infiniti’s answer includes changing the standard connecting rod between the piston head and crankshaft with a multilink association. As Ars Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin defined:

The variable-compression ratio know-how works as follows. As an alternative of simply having a connecting rod between the crankshaft and piston head, there’s now a multilink association across the crankshaft, with the con-rod hooked up to at least one finish. On the different finish is an actuator arm that is related to a harmonic drive. It is this harmonic drive that controls the space that the piston travels inside the cylinder by altering the angle of the multilink and, subsequently, the top-dead-center place of the piston.

Which means the engine truly varies in displacement; when the compression ratio is at its lowest, the engine measures 1.997L in comparison with simply 1.970L when compression is highest. Peak energy is 268hp (200kW) at 5,600rpm, and peak torque is 280ft-lbs (380Nm) at four,400rpm. In response to Infiniti, the front-wheel-drive QX50 ought to get 27mpg, a 35 % enchancment on the outgoing V6-engined car.

An animation of Infiniti’s VC-Turbo engine in operation.

The VC-Turbo can function with a compression ratio as little as eight:1 for max efficiency or as excessive as 14:1 for max effectivity. The engine may even change to the extra environment friendly Atkinson cycle at excessive compression. The VC-Turbo is able to 268hp (123kW) and 280lb-ft (380Nm) of torque. Oddly sufficient, the QX50 I drove was front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is on the market as an choice. The crossover has a shift-by-wire steady variable transmission, which suggests no mechanical transmission linkage (and barely extra inside room).

Pricing for the QX50 begins at $36,650 for the FWD Pure trim. The Luxe trim begins at $39,400 and provides a panoramic moonroof, blind-spot warning, and LED fog lamps. My review automotive, however, got here with the Important package deal, which begins at $43,350 and provides an entire parking-camera system, leather-appointed inside, parking sensors, distant begin, and a few different niceties. If you’d like AWD on the QX50, it prices an additional $1,800.

Variable compression, variable driving types

To get probably the most out of the VC-Turbo, the QX50 gives three very totally different driving modes. Whereas sport, regular, and financial system settings are normal for SUVs, Infiniti’s implementation within the QX50 makes for wildly various driving modes, which is an effective factor. Pair Sport mode with Dynamic+ steering, and the result’s a crossover that feels mild, quick, and nimble. Infiniti claims that the VC-Turbo engine eliminates turbo lag; I would not go that far, however it’s solely marginally perceptible in Sport mode.

Infiniti makes use of its Direct Adaptive Steering within the QX50, a steer-by-wire system that’s designed with driver-assist tech in thoughts. You will discover the steer-by-wire motion within the Dynamic and Dynamic+ steering modes, which could not be everybody’s cup of tea. I had a tough time getting accustomed to it as a result of the steering initially appeared too clean and disconnected from the street. Turning the wheel felt almost frictionless, type of like somebody dropped a fidget spinner into the steering column. Paired with the elevated responsiveness and better shift factors of Sport mode, nevertheless, the system got here to really feel extra applicable. Dynamic steering was at its greatest on winding nation roads the place, mixed with the QX50’s profile and weight distribution, it made me really feel like I used to be behind the wheel of one thing smallish and sporty. That is not one thing I can say about all the compact crossovers I check.

Regular mode provides no surprises, however going into Eco mode makes the QX50 really feel like an altogether totally different automotive. There’s additional resistance within the fuel pedal, and the steering switches to the more-traditional rack-electric energy steering setup that feels heavier and perhaps slightly ponderous—the automotive simply chugs alongside till it will get to the velocity you need it at. The QX50 really presents a bipolar driving expertise.

Gasoline financial system within the QX50 is best than different automobiles in its class, just like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. The EPA scores are 27mpg general: 24mpg within the metropolis and 31mpg on the freeway. In every week of the standard mixture of driving, I noticed simply 25.2mpg. That stated, I spent nearly all of the time driving in Sport mode as a result of it was extra enjoyable. Mileage ought to be higher in the event you persist with consolation and financial system, though you could not take pleasure in driving the QX50 as a lot.

The QX50 can also be Infiniti’s first crossover or SUV to be outfitted with ProPILOT Help, which can also be out there within the Nissan Leaf. Shopper Studies just lately ranked it because the number-three automated driving system at present available on the market, trailing GM’s SuperCruise and Tesla Autopilot. It’s undoubtedly an enormous step up from the sooner system we tried within the Q60 coupe two years in the past.

ProPILOT Help is able to following the contours of the street to maintain the driving force centered within the lane, and the adaptive cruise management works nicely in heavy visitors and start-and-stop conditions—it simply wants a light-weight faucet on the accelerator to get going as soon as it is utterly stopped. And for those who hold your arms off the steering wheel for greater than 10 seconds or so, you will get an indignant buzz and a warning indicator within the heads-up show. Sadly, you will have to pay additional for the driver-assist tech: $2,550 for the ProASSIST and ProACTIVE packages.

Talking of HUDs, that of the QX50 is not as nicely executed because the shows present in BMWs, Audis, and Volvos. Velocity and driver-assist stuff is relegated to the proper quarter of the heads-up show, and in the event you are likely to slouch over to the fitting, a few of will probably be out of view when you drive. The left three-quarters of the HUD are used for warnings and navigation—stuff you need not see more often than not you’re behind the wheel.

Inside life

The QX50 is properly appointed, a minimum of with the Important package deal. My review automotive had an “ultrasuede” headliner, leather-appointed eight-way energy adjustable entrance seats with lumbar help for the driving force, and a leather-wrapped (sadly not heated) steering wheel. The driving place is snug, though the undulations of the hood make it troublesome to find out the place, precisely, the entrance of the automotive begins. (The hood slopes up barely from the windshield.) The heated and cooled front-row seats might use thigh help, as they felt a tad too shallow.

There’s nothing uncommon concerning the instrument panel or steering wheel. Audio controls are on the left aspect of the steering wheel, and driver-assist features are on the correct. And there is the standard small HD show between the tachometer and speedometer that may be configured to point out issues like tire strain, the compression ratio of the VC-Turbo engine, and what radio station you are listening to.

Infiniti went with a tan, brown, and beige shade palette for the inside, with some distinction stitching and maple trim accents within the dashboard.

My largest grievance concerning the QX50 is the middle console and infotainment system. Earlier fashions of the QX50 (and the present QX60—which I can be reviewing) had a single show above the local weather management and stereo system with a number of buttons devoted to particular features. Infiniti has moved away from that, embracing a two-screen setup. Sadly, the implementation leaves quite a bit to be desired. The highest touchscreen show, with a matte end, is used solely for maps, parking digital camera, and telephone calls. The navigation system within the QX50 appears dated, and the map is not updated, which I observed when on the lookout for a freeway entrance that was opened in November 2016 that did not present up on the map.

The underside display is shiny, and that is the place you management the radio, entry car settings, and pair your smartphone. Beneath it are audio, menu, and local weather buttons. It is a primary touch-screen, tile interface. Whereas it seems crisp, the UI and design really feel dated in late 2018, particularly when in comparison with Volvo and Audi’s infotainment techniques. There are six local weather management buttons and two for seat consolation (heating and cooling) on all sides of the show, which I discovered annoying. Making an attempt to regulate the fan velocity or temperature required me to take my eyes off the street, and there is a steep muscle-memory studying curve concerned in mastering it.

Topping all of it off is a knob to the suitable of the shifter on the middle console that controls the higher show, like digital camera choice and map zoom. The mixed impact of two contact screens, a bunch of buttons, and a rotary knob is clunky, and the entire mess feels misplaced in what’s in any other case a really technology-forward car.

The backseat

Backseat passengers will discover heated seats, their very own local weather management settings, and a USB port. There’s additionally a drop-down armrest, and the rear seats fold down within the predictable 60-40 sample to extend the cargo quantity from a really respectable 31.1 cubic ft (880L) to 64.four cubic ft (1,824L), which is a good bit greater than different automobiles within the QX50’s class.

Infiniti has a strong little crossover within the QX50. The drive-by-wire steering and transmission paired with the VC-Turbo engine and a number of driving modes make for an attractive car that’s enjoyable to drive and handles properly. You will not hear a variety of noise from outdoors the automotive or from the engine. There is a nice stability between sportiness and luxury that’s typically lacking on this phase, and the automotive itself is good to take a look at with its curves and slopes. My largest grievance comes from the infotainment system—which feels misplaced in a automotive that is in any other case brimming with technical innovation—and the shortage of help for CarPlay and Android Auto. However taken all collectively, Infiniti has provide you with a worthy competitor to the likes of Audi, BMW, and Volvo with the QX50.