Review update: 2021 Infiniti QX50 is not worth $60,000

January 14, 2021

The 2021 Infiniti QX50 raises that age-old question about the worth of luxury products. Infiniti toes an unsteady line in the sand of the premium segment, which itself has been washed over by luxury-leaning top trims from mass market automakers and new entry-level models from luxury automakers. Ebb and flow.

The 2021 Infiniti QX50 starts reasonably enough at just under $40,000. But my tester in top Autograph trim cost more than $60,000. What can you do to a five-seat compact crossover with no performance upgrade to justify a 50% increase in price? In Infiniti’s case, not enough.  

The ceiling for the competitors’ top trims hovers around $50,000. The compelling Acura RDX Advance costs under $50,000. Same with the Lexus NX. The Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring bumps the price over $50,000, but not by too much and adds a larger engine. Only the 2021 Cadillac XT5 Sport with its V-6 upgrade and Platinum package exceeds the heights of the QX50 Autograph. And none of those, including Cadillac, are worth $60,000, no matter how you dress it up. 

The 2021 QX50 earned a TCC Rating of 6.5 out of 10, largely because in other, lesser trims it’s a feature-filled value. A week with the 2021 Infiniti QX50 Autograph AWD, including an overnight road trip to a Midwestern ski hill with my 13-year-old daughter, left both of us scratching our heads at the $61,765 tag. 

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

Hit: A soft touch

The tester came with a premium white leather package ($2,000) that looked and felt like envy. Other automakers can keep their red on black leather. Quilted white semi-aniline leather upholstery contrasted blue suede accents and a brown suede headliner that makes you feel like Elvis before the downfall. Sexy metallic trim gives a slick edge to break up the touchy feely party. If not for the lower screen lifted from a Nissan Rogue, or the two-screen center stack that looked old even when new, the interior shines in enough places to convince buyers of its worth. The 60/40-split rear seats can recline and slide a couple inches to increase cargo space or rear leg room as needed, which is a nice touch.

Miss: Infotainment

The best part of the two-screen infotainment system is the simplicity of the console dial to zoom in and reorient the map. The worst part is the three hard buttons for climate, audio, and settings on the cramped bottom screen. Apple CarPlay couldn’t be initiated while driving, the screen layout and typography looks like a Nissan knock off, and its overall user experience is one I’d rather not experience again. The digital display in the instrument cluster offers little relief, with a horizontal menu limited to one data point per icon.

Hit and miss: All the safety features

The QX50 Autograph came with all the driver assist systems, including automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control that restarts from a stop, adaptive headlights, parking sensors, a surround-view camera system and more. Some luxury automakers (from Germany) bundle those options as a package that costs extra even on the top models. I appreciate Infiniti including it, but in practice they fail to impress. The active lane control and adaptive cruise control enable about 10 seconds of hands-free driving before notifying the driver to take the wheel. Some Hyundai and Kia models last for much longer at a much lower price, and with greater accuracy. The standard systems on the Nissan Rogue seemed more certain of itself. 

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

2021 Infiniti QX50

Miss: Speaking in tongues

The 2021 QX50 features an innovative 268-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 with a variable compression ratio that optimizes performance or fuel economy based on how hard the driver presses the pedal. It’s a smart dual solution, but it doesn’t enhance the QX50. We averaged less than 25 mpg in mostly highway driving (80%), falling short of the EPA-rated 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 25 combined. It’s punchy enough, and at midrange speeds above 2500 rpm, there’s plenty of passing power in Sport or Comfort mode; Eco mode taps out at about 80 mph and deadens the accelerator pedal.  

Around town, the variable engine and continuously variable transmission behave...variably. Together, they speak a language as foreign as Tolkien’s Elvish tongue meeting George Lucas’s Droidspeak. At low speeds, these languages progressively talk over each other under more throttle. There’s a lag from a stop, then a surge before the stepped ratio shifts programmed into the CVT, almost like rev matching in reverse. It’s nothing shocking or unsafe, but it’s unpredictable, uncanny, and undermines the smooth operation expected from a luxury-leaning crossover. 

Miss: Road noise, engine noise, all the noise

Despite the sumptuous appointments of the Autograph trim, the QX50 doesn’t insulate the cabin from the road. Or the wind. Or the engine. Laminated side windows new for 2021 intend to diminish some noise, but at highway speeds the cowl rattles like static through a speaker. I hope it was just my abused tester, but it’s not how a luxury car should sound. Yet, after a day of skiing, my passenger napped fitfully with and without ear buds. 

With such cutthroat competition—not just from automakers in the premium segment— for compact crossovers, Infiniti needs to revisit where the QX50 fits in the luxury spectrum. 

_______________________________________

2021 Infiniti QX50 Autograph AWD

Base price: $56,850, including $1,025 destination

Price as tested: $61,765

Drivetrain: 268-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 with a continuously variable automatic transmission and AWD 

EPA fuel economy: 22/28/25 mpg

The hits: Interior upgrades, standard safety features

The misses: Balky powertrain, loud at highway speed, bad infotainment. 


2021
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2021
The Car Connection
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from The Car Connection. I understand that I can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.