Auto123 reviews the 2020 Infiniti QX50 luxury compact SUV.
The compact crossover from Nissan’s luxury brand plies its trade in a heckuva hard-fought category, for my money one of the two or three most intimidating market segments in the industry (see the list of competitors at bottom for confirmation). And as such, the pressure is on for the QX50 to offer potential buyers the latest equipment, the plushest and most refined interior and a premium drive. In two of those regards, it acquits itself very well. Too bad about the third…
The second generation of Infiniti’s compact SUV made its debut on the market last year, so there are no earth-shaking changes for 2020. There have been some welcome upgrades, however, mainly to the tech offering.
This year, for the first time, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is included (once you move beyond the base trim). These apps are accessed via a redesigned multimedia system that includes two display screens. Also new this year is the inclusion as standard equipment of the comprehensive range of active safety features and drive assist systems available from Infiniti. Which makes the 2020 QX50 more modern and technologically advanced than before. It was an upgrade that needed doing and helps it keep up with its BMW, Lexus and other rivals.
The 2020 Infiniti QX50 can be had in any of five different versions: Pure, Essential, Pro Assist, Sensory, and Autograph. Under the hood, however, they’re no different one from the other – all use the same 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder engine working with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) in an all-wheel-drive configuration.
The base-model Pure version comes out of the box with LED front turning lights and taillights, heated and power-adjustable side mirrors, auto high beams and 19-inch wheels. Inside, there’s a lot of heated this and that, such as heated (and power-adjustable) front seats and heated steering wheel. Also, count on dual-zone climate control, passive keyless entry, electric power brake and nifty aluminum trim here and there.
Safety functions include rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear automatic braking and lane departure warning, part of a comprehensive suite of systems befitting a premium model.
From there, the Essential brings with it LED fog lights, surround-view camera, front parking sensor, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, integrated garage door opener, 6-speaker audio and WiFi hotspot. An extra convenience package (no extra cost) throws in tilt-down side mirrors, leather seating, power-adjustable steering column and driver’s seat memory.
Then you go to the oddly-named Pro-Assist version, which adds 20-inch wheels, special LED headlights with active cube design, upgraded 16-speaker audio and more safety stuff like blind spot intervention, lane departure prevention and distance control assist, as well as intelligent cruise control.
The Sensory’s 20-inch wheels are different from the Pro-Assist’s, plus that trim adds a head-up display, tri-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, lumbar support for the front passenger, semi-aniline leather seating, air purifier, maple wood interior trim elements and boosted towing capacity. The automaker’s vaunted (though sometimes invasive) Pro-Pilot system is also included, plus traffic-sign recognition.
The range-topping Autograph adds some icing on the cake, specifically white leather seating with special stitching and blue suede trim on the doors, dashboard and central console.
The 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo mentioned above provides perfectly acceptable raw power for a model of this size, delivering 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. It can take the QX50 from a stop to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds. That’s slower than Mercedes’ GLC and its 6.2 seconds, for example, but it’s perfectly acceptable.
The problem is that in the process your eardrums take a beating and your teeth a gnashing as the CVT climbs through its simulated gear changes. And even before that, there’s an unpardonable lag when you first come off the line, which if you don’t play just right with the accelerator pedal makes for some unpleasant initial jerking before proper torque kicks in.
My other (OK, better) half, sitting in the front passenger seat, was convinced there was some issue with the vehicle to make it behave that way. To which I could only reply, “If only”. This is a premium vehicle with a premium price tag attached to it and one shouldn’t have to coddle the gas pedal to bring proper torque into play when you want it.
That’s a shame, because otherwise the QX50 has much going for it. The steering is too light and disconnected from the road for my taste, but the vehicle handles nimbly nonetheless and I never noticed any undue body roll when taking it through curves. Out on the highway, the SUV is a mighty smooth cruiser with plenty of power, and passing is no issue. Comfort is exceptional, the seats being the right mix of firm and plush to make even longer journeys pleasant. Clearly, the weak link in the chain here is that CVT. If I’m Infiniti, it’s time I address that…
I had the chance to drive this 2020 QX50 for longer than the average one-week period, which allowed me to get a clearer idea of real-world fuel consumption than I would normally be able to. My total in three weeks of mixed-use driving (though skewed towards city driving) was a combined 10.4L/100 km, with some snow still on the ground and temperatures hovering mostly below the freezing mark (and of course, with winter tires on the SUV).
That’s just slightly above Infiniti’s official figures of 10.0L/7.8L/100 km (city/highway), and it was enough to show me this model won’t be a money pit for owners over the long haul. Although, keep in mind that this vehicle takes Premium fuel if you want to optimize performance.
The 2020 Infiniti QX50 is a refined-looking and -feeling compact SUV that looks as fine on the road as any other luxury urban utility model out there. Inside, quality of construction is manifest and the tech is present and accounted for; comfort is of the level you would expect from a vehicle in this category. But the appeal of the model is undermined by a wonky powertrain, which comes up short not because of any particular lack of muscle but because of the mediocre CVT that manages that muscle.
Still, as an alternative particularly to the Lexus NX and the sportier Acura RDX, it’s worth consideration. Just learn how to massage that accelerator pedal; your eardrums will thank you.
Quite refined inside
The tech upgrades
Nice-looking exterior design
Decent fuel economy
Reasonable starting price
We like less
The CVT undermines the driving experience
Some features (eg.: head-up display) should be included from the base trim
Steering disconnected from the road