First Drive: Infiniti QX50

01st March 2018
Nat Barnes

Despite being 28 years old, you could still be forgiven if Infiniti hasn’t really come onto your car-buying radar. Globally, Nissan’s luxury arm has enjoyed a 32 per cent rise in sales, while here in the UK, sales in 2017 were up by more than a fifth.


The fact is, however, that with eight dealers in the UK, it’s a fairly minor player – the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes sell the equivalent of Infiniti’s annual sales on a weekly basis. But this new QX50 due early next year might be about to change all that.

The good news is that this QX50 is a premium crossover to rival the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, in a class that’s enjoying booming sales in a generally downward-heading market. Better still, it looks pretty good too. Styling is highly objective obviously, but the dominant front grille and sharp creases give it a purposeful look that’s actually far more handsome in the metal than in pictures.

What those lines hide under the bonnet is either good or bad news depending on which way you look at it. For all of their current dwindling sales demise, diesel engines still dominate in this sector and this QX50 will only be available with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol in two or four-wheel drive forms.

The silver lining to that cloud is that that engine is the world’s first variable compression ratio engine to go into production. Other manufacturers such as Mazda have got similar tech on the way and Infiniti claims that this gives the engine petrol performance with diesel-like economy.


While at first, that sounds worryingly like automotive snake oil, in reality on paper, it’s impressive. A 0 to 60mph time of 6.3 seconds and 143mph top speed aren’t to be sniffed at and while European fuel economy and emissions figures have yet to be homologated, a conversion of the US figures gives an estimate of 35mpg and 187g/km. During some lengthy driving over mountain roads with the air conditioning on, we averaged 28.2mpg meaning that 35mpg isn’t unrealistic. 

Eyebrows might raise even further too when you discover that the QX50 also only comes with a CVT automatic gearbox, albeit one that mimics an eight-speed on the road. That might have keen drivers immediately reaching for the crucifix and garlic, but on the road, the QX50’s engine and gearbox seem very well matched during everyday driving conditions.

A gauge between the dials tells you whether the engine is in power or economy mode, but it doesn’t take long before you barely pay it much attention. Much of the reason why is that the engine itself has a decent amount of low down torque and reacts quickly to inputs from your right foot when required. The car itself is pretty refined too with wind and road noise kept well insulated from the cabin and a good ride even on the larger 20in wheels. 

All that said, the Infiniti isn’t about to put a smile on your face when a twisty B road is ahead. The steer-by-wire system that Infiniti uses to such advantage with its clever new ProPilot system for semi-autonomous driving has little feel or feedback about what the car is doing beneath you. And while there’s little body roll through corners, that gearbox can suffer from the traditional CVT drone at higher revs, despite the fact that you can negate this a little with the steering wheel gearchange paddles. This isn’t helped by the fact that in Sport mode, it also pipes additional engine noise into the cabin.

But while it’s not perhaps the driver’s choice in the class (though the Lexus NX or Volvo XC60 aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘involving’ either), it can partly make up for that with an excellent interior. Probably the best we’ve ever seen from Infiniti, everything from the fit and finish to the overall design and the materials used is very good. A pair of touch-screens for the sat nav (upper) and infotainment (lower) dominate the cabin and are fairly intuitive to use on the move. There’s also a head-up display, panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled seats and an electric tailgate. An optional 17-speaker Bose stereo is available too.


That interior boasts a good amount of space as well. There’s plenty of head and legroom in the back (Infiniti claims more rear legroom than the Q5, X3, GLC or XC60) and a decent sized boot. That rear seat can slide for extra luggage space or more legroom too. 

Overall, it’s hard not to come away feeling a little sorry for Infiniti. This new QX50 is a genuinely good car and easily the best we’ve yet driven from the firm. There’s no question that it deserves to do well, but while this latest engine technology is very clever indeed, it’s hard not to think that its limited dealer reach and that lack of a diesel will restrict its chances, even with the fuel’s current demonisation by politicians. 

That’s a shame because this QX50 deserves greater recognition than it’s likely to get, even as an alternative choice. If this is the first sight of what Infiniti has to come, however, then we like what we see.

The numbers

On sale: January 2019

Engine: 1997cc, in-line 4, turbo, petrol

Transmission: CVT automatic

PS/ Nm (bhp/ lb ft): 271PS @ 5600rpm/ 380Nm @1600rpm (268bhp/ 280lb ft)

0-60mph: 6.3 seconds

Top speed: 143mph top speed

Est price: range from £39,000

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