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2020 Infiniti QX50 Long-Term Review, Part 1: The Mysteries of Fuel Consumption

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Auto123 reviews the 2020 Infiniti QX50 in a long-term test drive. Today, Part 1.

See also: 2020 Infiniti QX50 Long-Term Review, Part 2: An Interior That Whispers “Love Me”

See also: 2020 Infiniti QX50 Long-Term Review, Part 3: Machine Rule

The start of my excellent adventure aboard Infiniti’s compact SUV was an exercise in endurance. Like that of a marathoner, or a telethon host. No sooner had the keys to the 2020 QX50 landed in the palm of my hand that I was filling it up with clothing, food, books, DVDs, a computer and even a printer for the extended road trip ahead.

I was relieved to see that all of it fit neatly in the rear cargo area, enlarged by folding down the vehicle’s 60/40 split rear seats, without even having to remove the cargo cover or losing some of my sightline out the back.

I wanted to put a number on that impressive-looking space available for lugging stuff, so on it was to the spec sheet for the model: users have access to 895 litres of space with the rear seats in place (and that’s when those sliding – and reclining – second-row seats are pushed back as far as they’ll go for optimized passenger space). Fold those seats down, and you get a healthy 1,822 litres of cargo room.

In case you’re wondering how that compares to the competition, I checked the capacities of the Lincoln Corsair (782 and 1,631 litres), Volvo XC60 (505 and 1,432 litres) and Mercedes-Benz GLC (550 and 1,600 litres, and less for the coupe). Clearly, the ability of the QX50 to swallow up your belongings is largely superior to those of that elegant trio.

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2020 Infiniti QX50, cargo area
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, cargo area
2020 Infiniti QX50, with rear seats down
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, with rear seats down
2020 Infiniti QX50, fully loaded
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, fully loaded

In the rain
The next morning (actually around noon), I was off. Ahead of me was a 1,330-km stretch covering the distance between my home in Montreal and the AirBnB apartment I’d reserved in Hackkets, Nova Scotia, where I plan to spend the next month. This was a trip I’d long planned to make, motivated by a desire to upset my routine.

And I wasn’t going to be stopped by a little old pandemic.

This is actually one of the wonderful fringe benefits of working freelance as I do: you can take your work with you. You might say it’s THE main benefit, and it goes a long way to compensating for the drawbacks, such as irregular income and lack of a pension fund. Those kinds of worries fall away as you enjoy the freedom to move about as you please. As long as it suits your temperament, of course. Many a spirit longing to experience that freedom has tried it only to find it’s not for them.

My trip east was split into two stages: the first took me 484 km to my accommodations for the night, in Notre-Dame-du-Portage. This village is known for its Main Street that hugs the shore of the Saint-Lawrence River. Rare are those visitors who aren’t seduced by its charms from the first time they visit.

But before I could be seduced myself, I had to withstand five hours of driving rain that occasionally devolved into savagery. Visibility – and my speed – were also hampered by the hordes of tractor-trailers stampeding down Highway 20.

The upside, of course, was that it served as a useful introduction to the Infiniti QX50 and its capabilities.

2020 Infiniti QX50, interior
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Infiniti QX50, interior
2020 Infiniti QX50, semi autonomous-drive system
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, semi autonomous-drive system

First, a benediction…
I loved being able to test out the semi-autonomous driving functions, every last one of them. No way was I going to pass on what the QX50’S ProPILOT suite of systems could give me.

I activated the systems often. Even in the rain? Especially in the rain! Even when I was surrounded on the highway by angry mammoths. Even when the torrents of water assailing the windshield had me working the wipers at the speed of hummingbirds’ wings. The ProPILOT’s functions never flinched.

Why do I say this? Well it wasn’t so long ago that the slightest bit of filth on the different sensors was enough to throw off the system. This is much less of an issue today, or at least when there’s no slush or layers of ice involved. In my context, the QX50 seemed to know better than me the right lines to follow on the road, even on curves. I had only to keep one hand palm resting on the wheel to satisfy the system’s requirement that the driver stays active on the wheel. In fact it warns you if it detects you’ve been hands off for more than a few seconds. Tut tut.

There’s zero doubt that my five-hour stretch of driving in the heavy rain would have been more stressful and more tiring without the ProPILOT on hand.

2020 Infiniti QX50, on the road
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, on the road

… then, some questions
In its conception, the QX50 is a front-wheel-drive luxury compact SUV. In the U.S., consumers can get it in that configuration, but here we can’t. Infiniti decided to make AWD standard equipment in all trims of the model in Canada.

As I made my way through Noah’s flood on the Jean-Lesage Highway linking Montreal and Quebec City, I told myself that was a corporate decision that happened to meet my needs and thus total approval. Even more so given the winter months ahead.

Otherwise, the QX50 was the first Infiniti model to benefit, under its hood, from a technological marvel: a VC-Turbo engine.

In short, this is an engine in which the four turbocompressed cylinders have variable compression ratios (thus VC, for Variable Compression) that range between 8:1 and 14:1. To imitate the CVT transmission (of course, also variable, as in Continuously Variable Transmission)? No. The aim, rather, is to obtain the power of a V6 but with the greater fuel economy of a 4-cylinder.

2020 Infiniti QX50, grille, headlight
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, grille, headlight

Nissan’s engineers claim to have laboured 20 years to develop this new engine. For my part, I’ve read several acerbic commentaries describing the magic powder employed and spells conjured by said engineers to pull the VC-Turbo rabbit out their hat, and I confess that technically I still scratch my head. Fortunately, colleagues of mine at the AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) much better versed than I in the minutiae of automotive mechanics understood Infiniti’s accomplishment and last year anointed the VC-Turbo the Best New Green Technology of 2019.

What was easy for me to understand, though, was the promise made by Nissan that this little marvel, which produces 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, would reward me with fuel consumption of just 7.8L/100 km on highway. Might as well tell you right off that, at the conclusion of my 1,300-km drive spent almost exclusively on highways, the onboard computer showed me an average of 10L/100 km, like it was smacking me in the face. To add injury to insult, I’d dutifully been filling the tank with more-expensive high-octane gasoline as recommended.

At several points during the trip, I’d even double-checked to make sure the drive-mode selector was maturely set to Eco mode and not, irresponsibly, to Sport, or Personal, or even Standard. Had I inexplicably packed three anvils in with my printer and other stuff?

Infiniti QX50 2020, avant
Photo: M.Crépault
Infiniti QX50 2020, avant

I checked and no, no anvils. The only explanation I’ve been able to muster relates to the speed limits on highways in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Of course, when I’d first seen 110 km/h flashing by on the side of the road I’d felt pretty happy to be away from Quebec’s 100 km/h limit. But then I started thinking, which I’m occasionally wont to do. Given that my Belle Province’s limit means that drivers there feel generally safe doing 118-119 km/h, I applied the same logic on my travels though the maritime provinces; and so you can imagine what that does to the fuel efficiency of the VC-Turbo engine. There’s also the fact that at least part of the drive is quite hilly.

I promise to have more for you regarding the fuel economy of the QX50 once I’ve driven in the towns and villages near my temporary home. Stay tuned…

2020 Infiniti QX50, three-quarters front
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, three-quarters front
2020 Infiniti QX50, profile
Photo: M.Crépault
2020 Infiniti QX50, profile