Is it Time to Start Giving a Shit?
Luxury crossover buyers have been ignoring the Infiniti QX50 for years, but it might finally be time to give the model a second chance. The updated 2016 Infiniti QX50—it was once known as the EX35—now looks a bit more like an SUV, and it boasts a more powerful standard engine than anything else in its class. Add in a more aggressive pricing strategy and more interior space from a stretched wheelbase, and the result is an enticing package. The Acura RDX and Lexus NX won’t be overtaken in sales by the refreshed QX50 anytime soon, but Infiniti‘s perennial least-selling vehicle now has a reason to exist, deserving consideration from just the right type of buyer.
The QX50 has been hiding in Infiniti’s lineup since the 2008 model year, but the crossover resembled a four-door hatch more than an SUV, and interior space was seriously lacking. That’s been fixed for 2016, as the QX50’s 3.2-inch-stretched wheelbase provides enough extra room to finally make the rear seat actually comparable to two of its biggest competitors, the RDX and NX. For enthusiasts considering a luxury crossover, this is huge. Before, potential buyers who appreciated the QX50’s sporty focus would have been let down by its near-useless rear seat (behind taller drivers), but the 2016 model has a hospitable rear seat, thanks also to the extra kneeroom carved out of the plastic in the front seat backs. Like others in this segment, the QX50’s back seat would be just fine for two adults on short trips. Behind the rear seats is 18.6 cubic feet of space, more than the Lexus NX’s 17.7 but well behind the Acura RDX’s 26.1.
No other crossover at the 2016 QX50’s $35,445 USD starting price (including destination) can offer a standard engine this powerful. Every QX50 is powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 making 325 hp at 7,000 rpm and 267 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm. Using a seven-speed automatic with a manual gate and Sport mode, the rear- and all-wheel-drive QX50 reward full-throttle blasts with a strong engine note you won’t get in most $35,000-$45,000 USD crossovers that rely on turbo-fours. (The V-6 RDX is one exception.) And because the QX50 doesn’t rely on electric power steering assist, there’s plenty of feel from its decently weighted steering. The automatic transmission is responsive, and the throttle is easy to modulate, but the attractive 19-inch wheels and 245/45R19 all-season tires make too much noise at speed.
The QX50 is fun to drive for a hatchlike luxury crossover, and it’s almost enough to make you forget about the EPA-rated 17/24 mpg (13.8/9.8 L/100km) city/highway fuel economy. Even though that rating applies to rear- and all-wheel-drive variants, it’s noticeably less than everything else at this size and price—what, did you think that standard 325-hp V-6 would come without an efficiency penalty? Back when the QX50 was called the EX35 and offered a 297-hp engine and five-speed auto, the all-wheel-drive crossover reached 60 mph (96 km/h) in a Motor Trend-tested 6.5 seconds, and the new 2016 QX50 with its 325-hp engine and seven-speed auto could be quicker still. For reference, we’ve tested an all-wheel-drive 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport hitting 60 in 7.0 seconds, and an all-wheel-drive 2013 Acura RDX finished the sprint in 6.3 seconds.
The QX50 has been lifted 0.8 inch compared to the previous model, which didn’t deliver as much value (before dealer incentives come into play). For $35,445 USD, the 2016 Infiniti QX50 includes 18-inch wheels, leather seats, a moonroof, heated front seats, a rearview camera, and a 7-inch touchscreen display that can also be operated using a control wheel with buttons at the top of the dash. Infiniti expects at least 90 percent of buyers to go for the $500 USD Premium package, which adds an 11-speaker Bose sound system, maple wood interior accents, aluminum roof rails (to make it look more like an SUV), and a memory system that encompasses the driver’s seat, side-view mirrors, and that extremely helpful power tilt and telescoping steering column. That’s a lot of content for not much money, though cooled front seats, power-folding side-view mirrors, a power liftgate, and more than one USB port aren’t available at any price.
The rear- and all-wheel-drive QX50s we drove were loaded, the rear-drive model topping out at $43,535 USD and all-wheel drive a $1,400 USD option. At that price, Infiniti will add a cool coat hanger that folds out from the back of the front seat headrest, second-row seats that can fold up (but not down) if you hold down a button at the driver’s fingertips, HID headlights that turn around corners, 19-inch wheels, navigation, advanced active safety tech, and the Around View Monitor, a multi-camera parking system that’s just as useful today as it was when the feature debuted on this model years ago. It’s unfortunate that you have to jump through a couple packages to get HID headlights (like the non-F-Sport NX 200t with LED headlights), but the QX50’s active safety tech should impress buyers on test drives. Although it’s not as advanced as the Q50’s semiautonomous tech, the QX50’s can help slow down the car to a complete stop in traffic if it senses the vehicle ahead is decreasing in speed. The QX50 hasn’t been fully NHTSA safety tested, but a 2015 model-year crossover with the same safety tech earned Good scores (Good is the highest available score) in four IIHS safety tests, slowing down 1 mph in a 12-mph front crash prevention test and slowing 5 mph in a 25 mph test.
With the QX50 starting in the mid to high $30,000 USD range, it could be cross-shopped with everything from the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 to the Lexus NX and Acura RDX. The crossover still isn’t the most practical or efficient in the segment, but its sportiness is finally matched by interior packaging that’s good enough to merit wider consideration—a great first step toward making dealers and buyers start caring about this overlooked hatchlike luxury crossover.