The Infiniti QX50 is a crossover SUV previously known as the EX37. Based on the architecture used by Nissan Z sports car and Infiniti Q60 coupe, the QX50 is sort of a cross between a wagon and a coupe but slightly taller. Whatever you call it, the Infiniti QX50 strikes a nice balance between sportiness and luxury.
The Infiniti QX50 comes with a 3.7-liter V6, 7-speed automatic transmission, fully independent suspension and rear-wheel drive. Rear-wheel drive and the powerful V6 gives it a sporty character and it feels more car-like underway than most crossovers.
This vehicle was last redesigned for the 2008 model year when it was dubbed the EX35. The headlights were reshaped for 2010 and the 3.5-liter V6 engine was replaced by a 3.7 engine. The nomenclature was switched over to QX50 for 2014.
QX50 can seat five, but we found it much more comfortable with four. The cabin boasts rich, soft-touch materials and a stylish design. All of the controls are within easy reach.
Room up front is good, but taller drivers will want more headroom, especially if they opt for a moonroof. The back seats offer decent room, but it’s tight when the front seats are all the way back. Both rows are easy to enter and exit, thanks to a relatively low ride height, higher than that of a sedan, but not as high as that of most SUVs.
Cargo room is plentiful thanks to the hatchback design, though many SUVs offer more space. A power-folding second row eases the process of loading items in the back, and they can be brought back up from the driver’s seat, handy when pulling up to the curb to pick up passengers.
The 3.7-liter V6 makes 325 horsepower and is mated to the 7-speed automatic transmission that has a manual shiftgate (but no paddle shifters). It accelerates from a standstill quickly and offers strong passing response at highway speeds. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg City/Highway.
The QX50 comes with a choice of rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The AWD is meant for on-road use and is beneficial in foul weather. QX50 AWD is EPA-rated at 17/24 mpg City/Highway.
The QX50 drives like a sedan with a slightly elevated ride height. Handling is responsive, and the brakes and steering feel natural and inspire confidence. The QX50 rides smoothly, not as firm as the Acura RDX and a bit less driver-focused than the BMW X3.
The Around View Monitor shows obstacles 360 degrees around the vehicle, making it easier to maneuver in tight quarters. The QX50 also comes with Distance Control Assistant. There’s a hard drive available with 9.3 gigabytes of storage for music files. The Lane Departure Prevention system enhances safety by lightly applying the brakes on one side to steer the vehicle back into its lane should it start crossing lane lines, for example, if you fall asleep. Infiniti Personal Assistant offers 24-hour access to live concierge services.
Inside, the Infiniti QX50 exudes a feeling of quality and sophistication. Rich, soft-touch materials abound, while rounded shapes create a dual-cockpit design with flowing lines that are a natural extension of the exterior.
The instrument panel features a large tachometer and speedometer, flanked by the water temperature and fuel gauges, white-on-black with violet accents. In the center is a digital display for the trip computer, which shows outside temperature, the odometer and trip odometer, real-time mpg, average mpg, miles per hour, and fuel range.
The center stack juts out to make every control very easy to reach. Its central component is a seven-inch screen that comes standard with or without navigation. The screen has some touch-sensitive controls when ordered with the navigation system, but thankfully doesn’t absorb the basic audio or climate controls. Large buttons are laid out below it to move between navigation and audio screens, among others. The unique layout takes some getting used to, but it works well. Infiniti’s radio also has A, B and C presets instead of AM and FM presets. At first that may be confusing, but you can quickly switch between favorite FM music, AM talk radio, and satellite radio stations with the press of a button; no need to first change bands.
Cubby storage is no better than average. The center console is nicely sized and there are two cupholders in front of it, but there are no small cubbies to hold keys, cell phones, and other miscellaneous items.
The navigation system comes with a hard drive with 9.3 gigabytes of space to store music files. Music can be ripped directly from CDs. Bluetooth streaming and iPod links are among other input options.
Infiniti’s Around View Monitor expands on the rearview camera concept with four cameras: one hidden in the Infiniti logo up front, one in the tailgate and one in each outside mirror, to give a virtual 360-degree view of the vehicle. The cameras have fisheye lenses, but the system uses software to flatten out the images. Those images are displayed on the right side of the dashboard screen in either an overhead full-vehicle view or in a right-side view. The system works fairly well, but the images aren’t very large, so it is still necessary to survey your surroundings when parking or backing up. When the vehicle is put in reverse, a larger image of the rear is projected on the left side of the screen.
Infiniti’s Lane Departure Prevention system goes one step beyond Lane Departure Warning. Lane Departure Warning detects painted lane lines and emits a beep if you begin to cross those lines without using a turn signal. Lane Departure Prevention then gently applies the brakes on the opposite side of the vehicle to steer it back on course. When we let the EX35 drift to the left, we could feel the system working to correct our path. The system didn’t seem to correct as much when we let the vehicle drift to the right, perhaps because of crowned roads.
The QX50 offers the room of a midsize station wagon. It’s a step up in cargo space from a sedan, but it’s compact by SUV standards. The seats don’t fold quite flat, but the liftover is fairly low, and with the seats down there is 55.7 cubic feet of cargo volume. With the rear seats up, there is still 18.6 cubic feet of cargo volume.
Getting in and out is a breeze because the QX50 sits higher than a sedan but lower than most SUVs. With the sunroof, head room up front is tight for anyone over 6-foot. Leg room, on the other hand, is plentiful. The front seats are comfortable, with nice bolstering that may pinch the love handles of larger passengers.
Large exterior mirrors provide good visibility to the rear but petite drivers may have to look around them more. The shape of the rear pillar and the position of the headrest on the passenger side rear seat creates a large blind spot over the driver’s right shoulder, and it’s not a lot better on the driver’s side.
The rear seats are comfortable, but the QX50 will be far more comfortable for four passengers than five. Head room isn’t the problem until you reach six feet, but leg room gets tight when the front seats are pushed far back. The rear seats are shaped to make the outboard positions more comfortable than most, but getting stuck in the center position will definitely cause fights among the kids. The seat is split 60/40 and there is a standard fold-down center armrest, which further aids comfort for outboard passengers.
Second-row seats fold up and down via power controls located in the rear cargo area. There are also power controls up front to raise the seats, though the driver can’t lower the seats from behind the wheel. The second-row seats also fold down manually in an easy one-step motion.
The Infiniti QX50 drives like a car or like a sporty sedan, not surprising given it shares its basic architecture with that of the Nissan Z.
QX50 is aimed a little more toward luxury than sportiness. The cabin is quite quiet and it rides smoothly. With 18-inch wheels and VR speed-rated tires, ride quality is compliant. Sharp bumps never jolt, even with the available 19-inch wheels. The ride becomes busier with the 19s, but it is still livable.
QX50 isn’t quite as sporty as other Infiniti models, but it doesn’t lean much in corners and it’s nimble during quick changes of direction. The steering feels natural and direct. It’s quick for a crossover, though not as quick as a sports car. Braking is confidence-inspiring, with good pedal feel.
The 3.7-liter V6 is one of the better engines available. It is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual shiftgate. The duo works in tandem to provide willing power in any situation.
The QX50 leaps from a stop and is even more impressive in passing situations at highway speeds. The 7-speed automatic is quick to kick down to a lower gear when extra power is needed, and drivers can use the manual shift mode to enhance the fun in the twisties. In Sport mode it automatically downshifts under moderate braking, holds gears during cornering, and rev-matches downshifts for longevity and quicker gear engagement. Oddly, steering wheel paddles aren’t provided.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 17/24 mpg with all-wheel drive. Infiniti recommends Premium gasoline.
With its carlike handling, powerful engine, and useful cargo room, the Infiniti QX50 is a fine alternative to larger, more cumbersome SUVs. The smooth ride and rich, classy interior add to the appeal. The QX50 is a good choice if you want a sporty, comfortable vehicle that drives like a car but has the cargo versatility of a wagon or SUV.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough contributed to this report from New York, with Kirk Bell in Chicago and G.R. Whale in Los Angeles.