First Drive

FIRST DRIVE: 2016 Infiniti QX50 quiets the mind, stirs the soul

For 2016, the Infiniti QX50 crossover gets longer, larger, and arguably better looking

Photo by Kanishka Sonnadera

Words and Photos by Kanishka Sonnadera

SAN DIEGO, CA – There are crossovers that serve the needs and there are crossovers that serve the soul. Infiniti’s latest iteration of its compact luxury crossover exists primarily to deliver on the latter.

For 2016, the Infiniti QX50 gets longer, larger, and arguably better looking. Even more important however, is that the crossover retains every bit of its characteristically-Infiniti driving dynamics.

That’s the good news, the not so good news is that compared to its competition, the 2016 QX50 is sorely lacking in some of the basic conveniences we’ve come to expect of a modern luxury vehicle.

In Infiniti’s words, the QX50 is a “crossover that drives like a coupe”. After spending a day carving the mountain roads of Southern California, I’m inclined to agree.

The drive

For 2016, the QX50 – which is the new name for the model formerly known as EX – receives a longer wheelbase which not only increases rear passenger legroom by 109 mm but with wheels pushed further out contributes to a smoother ride.

Underpinned by sporty, handling-focused suspension elements like independent double-wishbons up front, front and rear anti-roll bars, and  twin­tube dampers, going around corners is not only confidence-inspiring, it’s a proper pleasure.

The commanding view of the road a higher seating position of a crossover affords often comes at the cost of excessive body roll. If there’s one thing that will ruin a dynamic drive, that's it. As if to stick it to physics, the QX50 refuses to sway with the bends, and keeps it all tidy as you throttle down through the corners.

Bury the throttle and things suddenly become very exciting as all the 325 horses of Infiniti’s 3.7 L V-6 come to life and hurl the crossover down the road with all the might 267 lb­ft of torque can muster.

And the noise. Oh the noise!

If there’s one thing that we can bemoan about automakers switching to smaller, more powerful and efficient four­cylinder engines, it’s this: no four­cylinder will ever growl and snarl the way a well tuned V-6 does. The sound that pours out of the QX50's stock exhaust is simply intoxicating.

The skin

While on the drive event in San Diego, I overheard another journalist say while staring at a photograph of the QX50 “just look at that silhouette, I hope she’s as good looking in person.”

While crossovers tend to err on the side of boxy, the QX50 has a fluid, swept-back, svelte appearance. Infiniti calls it a “coupe-­inspired luxury crossover design,” and right they are.

The brand puts a great deal of stock in high design. Following a philosophy the company calls ‘Powerful Elegance’, Executive Design Director, Alfonso Albasia breaks it all down into three simple categories:

  • Designed to Perform:  “Conveying a sense of muscle:”
  • Advanced Human Artistry: “To feel the hand and touch of the designer;”
  • Unmistakable Signature: the iconic elements that collectively define Infiniti design.

With such a zealous devotion to high design, Infiniti creates a brand allure and loyalty that goes deeper than the quantifiable physical elements that make up an automobile.

The cabin of the QX50 looks rich at first glance but surprisingly it feels less so – more on that point later. Nevertheless, as a whole, the passenger compartment is still a grand place in which to find oneself.

The features

When Infiniti first introduced its Around View Monitor (AVM) in 2007 for the EX35 – the predecessor to the QX50 – it was a completely novel idea that raised the bar for every other luxury automaker. QX50 builds on the AVM system by incorporating front and rear sonar which enables the detection of moving objects around the vehicle.

Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) work together to notify drivers when they need to get on the brakes and go a step further by applying the brakes automatically to mitigate a collision when they fail to do so.

Intelligent Cruise Control enables following traffic smoothly without any driver input to throttle or brake; it can do so right down to a complete stop, then accelerate back up to speed again when it's clear ahead.

These systems are, of course, user selectable, and features like IBA are off by default requiring the driver to intentionally turn them on. Although it seems counterintuitive that a safety feature would need to be turned on, Infiniti say that it’s so that a driver experiencing IBA for the first time won’t startled by it if they turned it on themselves.

Noteworthy absences

These are all good things, but there are some features that are noticeably absent as one gets to know the vehicle.

At the top end of the lineup, the 2016 QX50 Premium Navigation Technology trim rings out at $47,800. Although that figure buys a lot of Infiniti luxury and convenience, it doesn’t buy a power liftgate!

Base and Premium trim models, at $37,900 and $42,800 respectively, don’t offer Bluetooth streaming audio. Forcing the buyer to the Premium Navigation trim QX50 at $45,300 for a piece of tech that is widely used and has come to be a standard for entertainment systems in vehicles less than half its price is a low point for Infiniti.

In the cabin there’s an obvious lack of storage for driver and front passenger. Sure, there are two cup holders, but no space for a bottle in the door. There isn’t a spot for a phone, wallet or other knick­knacks, either. These are rudimentary ease-of-use elements that this crossover seems to have overlooked.

Style isn’t always functional; perhaps that’s the message here.

The takeaway

By pushing the wheelbase, the QX50 gets longer inside without actually becoming any longer outside. The result is  234 litres more total cabin volume. And with a focus on high design bordering on religious fervor it still manages to look spectacular despite not being a complete redesign of the original.

The rear biased all-­wheel-drive system means that it drives like a proper sports car while sending up to 50% of its power to the front wheels when things get hairy.

Although it may not be politically correct in some quarters to have a V-6 engine these days, or to focus on style over function, the 2016 QX50 is proof that being a little old­school can sometimes be a beautiful thing.

SPECIFICATIONS: 
Model: 2016 Lincoln MKX 
Price: $45,890 base (3.7); $53,490 base (2.7); $68,000 as tested including freight. 
Engine: 3.7-litre V-6, 303 horsepower, 278 lb-ft of torque; or 2.7-litre turbocharged V-6, 335 horsepower, 380 lb-ft of torque 
Transmission: Six-speed automatic 
Fuel Consumption (city/highway) – 3.7-litre -14.4/10.3 L/100 km; 2.7-litre - 14.1/9.7 L/100 km 
Length: 4,826 mm 
Width: 2,186 mm 
Wheelbase: 2,850 mm 
Competitors: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class 

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