2015 INFINITI QX50 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 27, 2015

The 2015 Infiniti QX50 isn't as useful as many of its competitors, but it's more fun to drive–and comes with a handsome, well-appointed interior.

Called the EX37 just last model year, the Infiniti QX50 is one of the most driver-focused crossovers on the market today. However, many of the same attributes that make it that also make it one of the least practical in its competitive set.

The 2015 Infiniti QX50 looks the part of a crossover with its tall-ish ride height and lift-gate design—not unlike the Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX 350, and Acura RDX—but the truth of the matter is that the QX50 is actually a tall wagon built on a legitimate sports-sedan chassis. It's not trail-friendly or rugged, nor is it terribly utilitarian or spacious—but it does overdeliver on driving dynamics, responsiveness, and decidedly non-crossover looks. Plus, its cabin feels like that of a full-fledged luxury car.

In style and performance, the QX50 is a very satisfying vehicle. It's exceptionally well-proportioned and confounds the expectations of some blandness in utility. The rakish roofline and pert proportions hardly look like those of a crossover. The coupe-like profile and organic sheetmetal altogether make the EX one of the best-looking tall wagons yet, and beautiful from some angles. 'Coupe-like' also applies inside, where a cockpit-style layout wraps around the driver. There's a wide center stack, big LCD screen, and perhaps a few too many buttons and secondary controls. But soft, warm interior appointments and rich tones give this interior an elegant, refined look, with soft-white lighting, fine leather, and real wood inlays.

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With a version of the company's stout 3.7-liter V-6, making 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet, the QX50 is never short on power. It's still matched to an excellent seven-speed automatic transmission, with quick shifts, steering-wheel paddles, and throttle-blip-style rev-matching on downshifts. The engine and transmission work well together, with an eagerness that's uncommon in this kind of vehicle. Handling and body control aren't quite as great as those of the Q50 sedan (formerly G37) on which the QX50 is based, but they're impressive for a crossover, and steering weighting and feedback are far better than what you'll find in other such vehicles.

The personality of the QX50 changes a bit as you add all-wheel drive; you'll lose a little of the nimble feel but earn some all-weather tractability—although churning through snow or mud isn't really the point.

Interior space is where the packaging of the QX50 reveals this model's true intent. While it carries driver and passenger with verve, in snug, well-bolstered front seats, anyone who needs to sit in the back seat isn't going to be nearly as content. It's one of the tightest we've experienced in this kind of vehicle, with headroom and legroom lacking, and the sloping rear window and high cargo floor limit cargo space and usability.

Ride quality is good here—firm but compliant—and the independent suspension hits the ideal balance of smoothness and athleticism. Engine noise is surprisingly present, though, with coarse sounds and some vibration from the 3.7-liter engine as it sings into the higher revs--more so than the 3.5-liter predecessor that was used in the EX as recently as a couple of model years ago. It's thirsty, too; highway ratings go up 1 mpg, to 17/25 mpg with rear-wheel drive or 17/24 with AWD.

But there's plenty else to impress, including an extensive suite of active-safety features that are still somewhat unusual in this class. Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Intelligent Brake Assist, Blind Spot Warning are all included in a Technology Package, while 360-degree Around View Monitoring system is part of the Premium Package—and, we think, necessary because rearward visibility is so limited.

Leather seating, push-button start, a power-folding second row, a moonroof, a universal garage-door opener, power steering-column adjustment, and heated front seats are all part of the standard-equipment set. A Premium Package steps up to Bose premium audio, navigation with real-time traffic, and aluminum roof rails, while many of those safety-tech features are included with Intelligent Cruise Control as part of a Technology Package.

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2015 INFINITI QX50

Styling

The 2015 Infiniti QX50 isn't particularly edgy or fresh, but it's attractive to almost any eye.

From the inside moving outward, the QX50 might surprise you. The cabin is just a sophisticated look that's simpler and more streamlined than that of the Acura RDX. There's no effort to be rugged or trail-friendly--definitely less of an effort to maximize interior space and versatility as well. The contours are quite soft, and the cockpit-style layout wraps into a wide center stack a big LCD screen and secondary controls. The instruments look elegant and refined in soft-white lighting, and the wood and leather wear matte finishes. We find the overall look to be low-key and tasteful, as it skips the excessive detailing and brightwork that's become so common (and garish). And if you somehow think that's austere, wood finishes can lift the ambiance a bit more.

In size and shape, the QX50 is roughly in the template of a number of other compact luxury crossover vehicles, such as the Acura RDX, the Lexus RX 350, Cadillac SRX, and BMW X3. And while the QX50 is an exact carry-over of the EX--a model that was originally introduced for the 2008 model year--it manages to look a bit different (and definitely fresher) thanks to its standout profile, which is more like that of a sport wagon than of a crossover. 

The 2015 QX50 is indeed a tall wagon, built on proven sport-sedan underpinnings, and it looks the part. Although some of its styling cues on the outside are on loan from the FX (now called the QX70), the QX50 doesn't end up having an awkward, abbreviated shape. Rather, the design stands up on its own, and nexr to the FX/QX70, it might actually be the better-looking of the two. The EX's tall roofline is lowered (as a visual trick) with subtle sculptural surfaces on the body, and few cutlines and few unneeded details give the EX an especially clean look for its class. Big wheel wells and widely flared fenders taper into an arching roofline, all blending together to give the EX more of a four-door coupe look-more Panamera than Explorer (or even Cayenne).

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2015 INFINITI QX50

Performance

The small QX50 is very quick, thanks to its big V-6; and handling is sport-sedan capable.

The 2015 Infiniti QX50 is never short on power, thanks to its 3.7-liter V-6, which produces 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. That power is managed by a paddle-shifted seven-speed automatic transmission that even throttle-blips when you downshift. It's a good match, and the QX50 performs with an eagerness that you wouldn't normally find in this segment.

Our ongoing complaint here with the powertrain--as with much of Infiniti's lineup from the past several years--is that there's way too much engine noise in the cabin for a luxury vehicle. You hear it reassuringly when you're accelerating, but you also hear it when you'd rather not.

Handling and body control aren't quite as great as those of the Q50 sedan (formerly G37) on which the QX50 is based, but they're impressive for a crossover, and steering weighting and feedback are far better than what you'll find in other such vehicles. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the QX50 with sport-sedan decisiveness, and there's no excess dive or body motion despite being a bit higher off the ground. We've found that versions with the optional all-wheel drive system don't feel quite as inspired; they don't handle with quite the level of awesome precision as rear-wheel-drive models, and they're a bit slower and thirstier to boot.

Ride quality is good here--firm but compliant--and the independent suspension hits the ideal balance of smoothness and athleticism.

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2015 INFINITI QX50

Comfort & Quality

The 2015 QX50 is really only good for two adults and their cargo; Infiniti hasn't carved out much space for back-seat riders.

The 2015 Infiniti QX50 doesn't make much space for its rear passengers, so it might be easiest to look at this car as a luxurious, sporty hatchback for single folks and empty nesters.

You'll find some particularly impressive materials in the QX50's cabin--including supple leather, available wood trim, and no lack of soft-touch surfaces. The only thing that's missing, we think, is a little extra insulation from engine noise.

In its class, its wheelbase (110.2 inches) and key interior dimensions (18.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats) are among the smallest, which contributes to its lack of back-seat and cargo space. Factor in the low-slung look, and it's a direct consequence of sexy packaging.

Interior space is where the packaging of the QX50 reveals this model's true intent. The driver and front passenger travel in snug, well-bolstered front seats, with just the right amount of side bolstering for curvy roads. A wide center console also provides useful stow space. 

Anyone who needs to sit in the back seat isn't going to be nearly as content. It's one of the tightest we've experienced in this kind of vehicle, with headroom and legroom lacking, and the sloping rear window and high cargo floor limit cargo space and usability. Back-seat space is noticeably smaller than that of class rivals like the Cadillac SRX and Volvo XC60.

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2015 INFINITI QX50

Safety

Visibility can be difficult, and there's no wealth of active-safety extras, but good crash-test scores redeem the QX50.

The 2015 QX50 is nearly identical to the EX37 it replaced last year, and as such, comes with the same standard safety features and respectable crash ratings.

Standard safety equipment in the EX includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control; and a rearview camera. Infiniti also offers Around View Monitoring, which uses cameras around the vehicle to generate a 360-degree view of obstacles when in reverse gear. It's a useful option, because visibility is so limited by the dramatic rear-end styling.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the QX50 'good' ratings in frontal and roof strength tests, but it has neither side nor small overlap frontal ratings; and the federal government hasn't yet tested this model. And we think that since the QX50 will likely remain a small-volume model we doubt it has current plans to test one. 

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2015 INFINITI QX50

Features

The 2015 Infiniti QX50 has the feel and feature set of a true luxury vehicle.

There are four available 2015 Infiniti QX50 models: QX50, QX50 Journey, QX50 AWD and QX50 Journey AWD.

All of the expected luxury car features come standard here: heated leather seats, moonroof, push-button start, power-folding second row, and a universal garage door opener.

Standalone options (port-installed accessories, technically), include roof-rail crossbars, a cargo-area protector, a first-aid kit, and a tonneau cover.

The available power-folding second-row seat is a step above other power-folding arrangements, and we like the simplicity of the QX50's infotainment and audio interface.

A Premium Package steps up to Bose premium audio, navigation with real-time traffic, and aluminum roof rails, while many of those safety-tech features are included with Intelligent Cruise Control as part of a Technology Package. The QX50 got a rather significant $2,500 price cut versus the EX, so it all adds up to a much better value than before.

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2015 INFINITI QX50

Fuel Economy

The thirsty V-6 means mediocre gas mileage for the 2015 QX50.

The QX50 isn't exactly what we would call "fuel-efficient," in thanks to its very eager 3.7-liter V-6. The EPA rates it at 17 mpg city, 25 highway with rear-wheel drive, or 17/24 mpg with AWD. And over some real-world drives, we haven't seen any higher than that. 

It's even less impressive when you consider that the QX50 has less backseat and cargo space than most of its rivals.

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Styling 8.0
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