I always liked the classy sophistication of Infiniti’s EX crossover, which was more of a glorified wagon. It was a little small in the back-seat area for mainstream acceptance, but there was nothing wrong with how it delivered personal luxury.
Infiniti relaunched the EX for 2016, renaming it the QX50, and made it larger with a V-6 heart of gold under the hood. Now it behaves as a sport sedan, which could give it a unique “separator” quality. It has a few neat features I’ve not seen before and some throwbacks that could have been banished. It may also have a price advantage. Competitors include the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NF, Lincoln MKC and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
The QX50 has grown in length by 4.5 inches, most of which benefited the back seat with another 4.3 inches of legroom, now at 35.3 inches, and another 3.9 inches of knee room. The wheelbase grew by 3.2 inches (to 113.4 inches), which helps settle ride quality with more of a big-car presence. The restyling gives it a little more height and less of a wagon essence.
While most manufacturers in this segment offer a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, Infiniti went for displacement. All models have a 325-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 with a seven-speed automatic — and there is nothing wrong with a big engine in a small car. The QX50 is quick off the line and has generous power to hold the driver’s place in the daily Commuter 500. Fuel economy (on the recommended premium) may seem a little light at 17 mpg city, 24 highway and 20 mpg combined — but that’s for rear and all-wheel-drive models, Infiniti insists. And there’s a 20-gallon fuel tank for a broad cruising range.
Pricing is simple, too. Rear-wheel-drive models start at $35,445, including the $995 freight charge from Tochigi, Japan. All-wheel drive adds $1,400. And there are just four option packages, plus some accessories, such as roof-rail crossbars ($400) or a tonneau cover ($170).
My rear-drive tester had all the packages and the $400 accessory for illuminated doorsill plates. As tested it was $43,535. Standard features include a power moonroof, leather-trimmed upholstery, eight-way (heated) power driver’s seat, smart-key entry and push-button ignition and hands-free phone and streaming audio.
Warranty coverage includes bumper-to-bumper coverage for four-years/60,000-miles with roadside assistance and a service loan car. The powertrain is covered for six-years/70,000-miles.
I like the QX50 for its engaging drivability and ease of entry and exit. The doors open wide, the seats are supportive without restrictive bolstering and sightlines are good and made better with the AroundView monitor, giving front, overhead and rear views.
I appreciated the immediate power-down of the horsepower and forgave the fuel economy, which was averaging 19 to 21.1 mpg in my week of driving. The ride quality has a lot of finesse. It is sport-tuned without harshness, though there is road noise at freeway speeds.
The four-wheel independent suspension lets the driver grab a corner by the scruff of the neck and shake it out. And in heavy rain on the interstate, it seemed fearless as it tracked confidently. Braking is absolute from four-wheel vented disc brakes (12.6-inch front, 12.1-inch rear).
The interior is contemporary with a clean but warm design with attractive materials. But the compactness of this size vehicle is felt at the driver’s seat. Space on the center console is choked by the small gear shift, which may add some sporty cachet at the expense of space to lay a phone or use as a charging area. The tiny ashtray and lighter seem useless for smokers and it’s too small to use for anything else. The foot-pumper parking brake is old-tech and clutters footroom when electric e-brakes save space and add convenience. And Infiniti (and parent company Nissan) has the skimpiest steering wheels of any brand. This wheel is thin and communicates “cheap.” A hefty wheel communicates safety and control — real or perceived.
The back-seat space is improved but it’s still compact. The bench is raised but with a short bottom. The seat back angle is steep with no recline and the tall transmission tunnel compromises center-seat footroom. The back of the driver’s seat head restraint has a nifty flip up jacket hanger, rather than just a hook.
Cargo space is compact, too. The 60/40 seat backs fold easily (with a power return) and lie flat for about 5 1/2 feet of length by 42 inches of width at the wheel wells. But entry height is short at just 26 inches. There is no “basement” storage and no standard tonneau cover. The tailgate is heavy to lift but light to close.
The bones of the QX50 are good, but it requires the option packages to get the full Infiniti treatment. Making that investment should bring no regrets.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage