Mountain Wheels: 2020 Infiniti QX50 blends sharp looks with high-tech features
The blue suede and chromed-wood look deluxe Autograph edition of the not-so-tiny Infiniti QX50 crossover proves itself to be a tech-laden platform that rides and behaves quite nicely. Its only drawback, besides maybe the style factor of that blue suede, is the double-whammy of a takes-a-second-to-engage 2.0-liter turbo engine and an electronic continuously variable one-speed transmission.
I learned about this issue before even driving the vehicle, as my neighbor — this was a new situation to me — already had a new Infiniti QX50 sitting in his driveway before I got to test-drive mine, and he complained about that lag on starts, plus a ride quality that had encouraged him to ask the dealer to swap him to 18-inch wheels when he bought it. He also had never heard of a CVT transmission. But he really liked the blue suede.
My drive was maybe not as problematic as that (I don’t have to deal with the car daily for the next five years, either), and with the high-end build that included 20-inch wheels, audacious white semi-aniline leather and a brown Ultrasuede headliner, plus a 3,000-pound capacity towing package, the $61,615 MSRP was also a little steeper.
I jetted off on a long day’s drive and dug the size, scale, speed and sophistication of the QX50, with its 268-horsepower turbo doing great on the highway but not quite reaching the 25 combined mpg listed on the window sticker.
That engine can seem a little over-boosted, like it was trying to put the car into orbit, oscillating between slight turbo lag and kablammo bursts of power. Mix that with the CVT’s faux gear ranges, and I quickly saw what the neighbor was talking about. At its best, it all connects and the QX50 speeds away at a green light; uphill at a stop sign, you might experience the double effect. I also enjoyed peculiar little bursts of tuned exhaust as it works through that simulated gear range. The ride can be a little bonky on those big wheels and tires, but mountain curves went smoothly, and I especially liked the undersized steering wheel.
Yeah, a wide strip of blue suede running from the middle of the center stack all the way to the second-row air vents is a pretty over-the-top look, especially with the rest of the vehicle done up in traditional Infiniti colors — and more suede on the door tops, plus that intriguing metallic-treated wood trim.
The whole cabin is subsequently future sexy in a truly Justin Timberlake kind of way, with pillowy quilted leather seating, an oddly undersized gear shifter and a tiny console with standard and micro USB plugs and cupholders under a sliding lid.
The electronics, as mentioned, have been quite spectacularly updated for the 2020 models of the QX line, including a dual-stacked InTouch screen setup that is a great leap forward and maybe better than a similar system seen on Acura/Honda family products.
In the instrument panel, you’ll now find a (thank you, Infiniti) electronic speedometer, plus literally 20 different scrolling display options; the upper/lower central screens are a little busy, splitting navigation, audio, climate and even a CD player with actual hard buttons to control some important functions.
You’ll also find a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices, built-in Apple and Android connectivity, vastly improved and detailed maps with 3D views, with the whole system and maps automatically updating itself when required. The Bose stereo is particularly loud and clear, with chrome speaker plates on the doors, and an oversized head-up display also was a nice touch.
The vehicle’s active safety electronics systems are also pushing it pretty close to the stuff you’ll find on Volvo or (I hear) Cadillac, with that blue force field button dialing up pretty much the whole shebang of the ProPilot system. Infinity’s version of semi-autonomous driving, if you let it, really vigorously fights with you to center the QX50 squarely in the middle of the driving lane, which left me feeling a little uncomfortable passing tractor-trailer rigs with what seemed to be about three feet of distance. It’ll really do most of the driving for you, as long as you provide the most minute of steering inputs every few seconds. Welcome to the future, again.
QX50’s in between size (the very small QX30 is now a thing of the past) also means a few constraints, especially if you’ve cross-shopped the bigger QX60 or gargantuan QX80. You get overly thick A-pillars and side mirrors and especially bulky B-pillars; your view of the curved rear glass also gets consumed by big rear headrests.
Rear seating is up on a platform, with sliding and tilting seats, though a small transmission channel hump and slightly tapered rear glass do make it seem a little smaller than it actually is.
The Infiniti’s classic swoopy nose is even more pronounced than in the past, with a big, chrome-edged grille, deeply indented hood lines and chromed window trim and roof rails. Extra-large black plastic wheel-well covers and rear mud flaps add to its rugged appeal.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Spoiler alert: There was almost no drama whatsoever during my recent test of the accomplished, practical and even vaguely sexy-looking Hyundai Sonata hybrid.