A redesigned Infiniti QX50 is coming, and it will go grille-to-grille with compact luxury crossover SUVs like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. It can’t arrive fast enough to replace this, the old QX50, which originally debuted a decade ago as the 2008 EX35.
Things have changed since that first EX arrived. It got a bigger engine. It got a new name. It got a wheelbase stretch. It got a suspension lift. It even got updated safety and infotainment technologies. But there is no question that the 2017 Infiniti QX50 is ripe for replacement.
Normally, decade-old designs disappoint. In this case, because the QX50 is to the old G37 sports sedan what the Honda Crosstour was to the Accord family sedan, driving one is like jumping into the Wayback Machine for a thrilling ride down Memory Lane.
In fact, the 2017 Infiniti QX50 is enjoyable enough to drive that it almost makes up for its significant shortcomings.
Design and Layout
Dimensionally, the QX50’s stretched body and raised suspension dramatically improved this Infiniti’s appearance when the changes were made for the 2016 model year. More rugged SUV styling cues helped, too. Still, the rear hatch is too short and stubby, bubbly instead of rakish.
Inside, my test car had the Wheat (tan) leather interior. Wisely, Infiniti retains black for the top of the dashboard to cut sun glare. Unwisely, Infiniti uses tan carpets that easily soil – especially when you have kids, and it has been raining or snowing, and they’ve been exploring mud puddles. Not that my kids would do that. Nooooooo…
Upgrade from the standard version of the QX50, and Infiniti forces you to install Maple wood trim circa late 1990s. Ugh. But you’ll need to suck it up, buttercup, because all of the good stuff comes in the option packages. So choose the Chestnut leather color to mask the wood’s “mapleness.”
I like the QX50’s padded dashboard, quality materials, and generous use of buttons and knobs. That, by the way, is one of my favorite things, because it limits interaction with the touchscreen display. My fully loaded, rear-drive test vehicle rang in at less than $44,000, before any discounts, and given the level of equipment combined with the palpable quality, that’s a genuine bargain.
Comfort and Cargo
You’ll want to carry no more than four people in the QX50. This is a narrow vehicle; even my 8-year-old noticed it. But, those four people will be mighty comfortable unless it is a really hot day. Infiniti does not offer a front seat ventilation system in the QX50.
Up front, the chairs feel overstuffed but supportive, providing a tall driving position and easy entry and exit. Set to my preferences, there is a sense of immediacy to the dashboard, the controls, and the road ahead, one that quickens the pulse in anticipation and heightens the driving experience.
When Infiniti stretched the QX50’s wheelbase for 2016, it solved one of this vehicle’s most significant shortcomings, which was a ridiculously cramped rear seat. Now, tall adults fit just fine. However, the change did not resolve another of this vehicle’s most significant shortcomings, which is a tiny trunk.
Pop the hatch, and the QX50 is ready to carry no more than 18.6 cu.-ft. of cargo. That’s more than a midsize sedan, but it also reflects stuffing it full to the roof. You’re not gonna do that. So figure cramming no more than 12.4 cu.-ft. of junk into a QX50’s trunk.
You can kick the kids out and fold the rear seats down. That expands capacity to 47.4 cu.-ft., but that’s still an unimpressive number. In fact, a Honda Fit holds more cargo than that.
Safety and Technology
For the QX50, Infiniti supplies the bare minimum of technology for a modern luxury-branded vehicle, and it all costs extra. For example, shell out $2,900 and you can upgrade to a Bose premium 11-speaker sound system, a navigation system with Bluetooth streaming audio, and a 360-degree camera system with a top-down viewpoint.
In order to get the available driving assistance features, you’ve gotta pay $7,150 to upgrade from the base model to the Technology Package (which requires all of the other option packages). Ouch. That monetary outlay supplies adaptive cruise control with full speed range operation, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane departure prevention, and a blind spot warning system.
Still, no matter how much you have to spend, you can’t get automatic collision notification or SOS emergency service for the QX50, let alone programmable features designed promote safe driving and monitoring of teenagers who may reside in your home. A rear cross-traffic alert system is also unavailable.
Sketchy crash-test data paints an incomplete picture of safety. The QX50 performs well in side-impact tests, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which means your kids will be protected. Unfortunately, this Infiniti has not been subjected to the tough small overlap frontal-impact test, which measures how well Mom or Dad might fare in a collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t tested the QX50 at all.
Fire up the QX50’s 325-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 engine, shift the 7-speed automatic transmission with downshift rev matching into gear, grip the thick steering wheel connected to an old-school hydraulic rack-and-pinion setup that communicates like few electric steering systems can, and stomp on the accelerator pedal.
At this point, you should have a big grin on your face, especially if you’ve ever driven an Infiniti G35 or G37 sedan. The QX50 is like that, but not quite as light or athletic.
Thanks to its raspy exhaust note, heavy but accurate steering, quick acceleration, and clear outward sightlines, the QX50 slices and dices through traffic with confidence and ease. It also cruises effortlessly on freeways, its long wheelbase helping to provide a smooth ride free of choppiness.
Head into the hills to tackle a set of twisties, and the QX50 is less outright enjoyable, though still more of a thrill than a typical SUV. The taller center of gravity, the all-season tires, and the narrow track aren’t doing this Infiniti any favors, but it retains the same communicative dynamism and eagerness to go faster that the G sedan always did, along with its tendency to get a little loose when accelerating out of tighter corners.
Also, it’s worth noting that the QX50 returned 21.4 mpg on my test loop, which is pretty good for an old-school V6 powertrain lacking the incremental gains associated with modern technologies such as automatic engine stop/start, electric steering, cylinder deactivation, and extra transmission cogs.
Speedy Daddy Says…
Given its decade-old structure, and the fact that the old G sedan failed to earn top marks from the IIHS in small overlap and roof crush testing, my bet is that the QX50 isn’t going to be as safe a vehicle to buy as would a more modern design.
Also, the cargo area is simply too tight for family duty, especially if you’ve got little ones and you need to cart a stroller everywhere you go. Family road trips with older kids will require everyone to pack light, and will leave little space for a cooler or any souvenirs.
Finally, the QX50 simply cannot match competitors when it comes to the latest infotainment features and functions. Hell, Bluetooth audio streaming is an option. In 2017? On a luxury model? Seriously?
Still, if these detriments don’t bother you, and you like the way the QX50 looks, you’re probably going to like the way it drives. I thoroughly enjoyed spending a week with this QX50, mainly because it reminded me of a car I genuinely miss, the old G37 sedan.
Photos copyright Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.