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2017 INFINITI QX50
New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The Infiniti QX50 is a rear-wheel-drive luxury crossover utility built on the chassis of the Q50 sports sedan. Unlike some competitors, it’s not designed to pamper. Instead the QX50 offers an abundance of driving dynamics led by responsive road manners. Its ride, comfort and handling almost match the Q50 sports sedan that defines it.

The QX50 is more of a tall wagon than a sport-utility. With available all-wheel drive it will survive well in snow or sand, but don’t go trying to run the Baja 500 with it (never mind that Lexus has an SUV Baja racer).

The wheelbase of the QX50 grew by more than three inches for 2016, so four adults fit comfortably, through doors that were lengthened as well, over a ride-height raised by almost an inch. A facelift included a new grille and LED foglamps and running lights. It all improved the car’s looks.

With those significant changes for 2016, the 2017 QX50 only gains a 19-inch wheel-and-tire package, and that’s about it.

Under the hood, a 325-horsepower V6 teams with an excellent 7-speed automatic transmission to bring quick responses. When hammered, the engine sounds loud and unrefined for a luxury vehicle.

Fuel mileage is not the car’s forte. The QX50 is EPA-rated at 17/24 mpg City/Highway, and 20 mpg Combined. For that you could get a full-size three-row SUV. But you don’t want a full-size three-row SUV. You want a sports sedan with cargo versatility.

Model Lineup

The 2017 Infiniti QX50 comes with rear-wheel drive ($34,450) or all-wheel drive ($36,250).

Standard equipment includes a rearview camera; leather upholstery; power driver’s seat; cruise control; dual-zone automatic climate control; six-speaker audio with CD/MP3 capability, satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free phone; moonroof, pushbutton start, and universal garage door opener; and 18-inch aluminum wheels.

Premium package adds Bose 11-speaker audio, maple wood trim, and driver’s memory. An expensive Technology Package adds safety features including lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, and intelligent cruise control. For another couple thousand, a Premium Plus package adds navigation, parking sensors, and surround-view cameras (useful because visibility is limited by dramatic rear-end styling).

Walkaround

Visually, the QX50 doesn’t exude SUV, now passe. It’s clean, with none of that SUV-for-the-sake-of-being-SUV trim or sculpting. Big wheel wells and widely flared fenders support rakishly arching roofline that gives it a coupe-like profile. There is some subtle sculpting in the organic sheetmetal, making the roofline look low instead of tall. If you look at it like a tall wagon, it looks great.

Interior

The cabin is sophisticated, simple and tasteful. It’s more streamlined than competitors, for example the Acura RDX. Bless its classy heart, Infiniti avoids non-functional shiny bits. Instead you get rich tones, contoured wood trim, soft lighting, and elegant instruments.

There are plenty of functional bits, as the driver faces an abundance of buttons and controls.

The wide center stack gives the front seats a cockpit-like feel. A seven-inch color screen displays infotainment and vehicle information. Optional hard drive-based navigation brings a touchscreen, 3D graphics and lane guidance, as well as real-time traffic/weather information, and voice recognition. Too bad the screen has a lower resolution.

The front seats are shaped well; they’re snug, with just just the right amount of bolstering, and high cushions.

That 3.2-inch increase in wheelbase for 2016 afforded 3.9 inches more kneeroom in the rear, according to Infiniti. Some of that came from reshaped seatbacks of the front seats.

There are 18.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, which folds with a touch of a button to increase the volume to 50 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

The ride benefited from the wheelbase increase, too; it’s firm and compliant. Meanwhile the handling didn’t suffer; it’s still impressive for a crossover. The steering is responsive, with authentic feedback that gets heavier as you turn.

With all-wheel drive, some of the nimbleness and precision go away, but that’s not unusual in a rear-wheel car, and the tradeoff is a gain in all-weather tractability.

Developing 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, the 3.7-liter V6 never feels short of power, and it’s comfortable being pushed hard. It works eagerly with the 7-speed automatic transmission that’s programmed to bring a throttle-blip for rev-matching downshifts. It has a sport mode that yields slightly quicker shifts, but paddle shifters are not offered.

Four-wheel disc brakes stop the QX50 decisively, without excessive dive or body motion.

One surprising weakness for a luxury car is the amount of engine noise, especially for a luxury model. Even cruising, you can hear it.

Summary

The QX50 delivers what it promises, but shop it carefully, including a thoughtful test drive over curves and bumps, to understand the promise. Important strong points include styling, powertrain, ride and handling. It’s not even that expensive for an Infiniti luxury crossover. You might even like the unrefined distinctive growl of the V6 in the cabin.

Sam Moses contributed to this review.


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