- Sport-sedan handling
- Shape's still sleek
- A richly appointed cabin
- Supportive front seats
- Finally, a more usable back seat
- Cargo space behind the second row is small
- Engine noise
- No paddle shift controls
- Even with surround-view cameras, visibility isn't great
The 2016 Infiniti QX50 finally lives up to its billing as a sport-utility vehicle—with a tilt toward the sporty side.
The Infiniti brand continues to redefine itself, slotting new models into new names as it ushers in a new generation of cars and crossover SUVs. The latest to join the fray: the 2016 Infiniti QX50.
Formerly known as the EX, the Infiniti QX50 is one of the more driver-focused crossover SUVs on the market today. And until now, that position's also made it one of the least useful vehicles, thanks to a cramped rear seat. This year, Infiniti has adopted a longer body style it already sells in other world markets, and for this crossover SUV, it makes all the difference in living up to the "utility" side of its sport-utility mission.
The QX50 doesn't have much SUV in its profile; it's very nearly a shooting brake, with its sloping roofline and low stance. The rakish roofline and pert proportions hardly look like those of a crossover. The coupe-like profile and organic sheet metal altogether make the QX50 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.
Built as it is on a legitimate sports-sedan chassis, the QX50 isn't trail-friendly or rugged. Instead, it over-delivers on driving dynamics and responsive road manners. It starts with a 325-horsepower V-6 that pairs with an excellent 7-speed automatic transmission, with quick responses and throttle-blip-style rev-matching on downshifts. The engine and transmission work eagerly together, though when it's pressed, the engine doesn't have a great backing track to support its performance—it's loud and relatively unrefined for a luxury vehicle.
When it comes to ride and handling, the QX50 isn't quite up to the par of the sweetly balanced Q50 sport sedan—but it's not far off the mark, thanks to a smoother ride, helped along by the longer wheelbase and lighter wheels, and responsive steering. There's a bit too much heft that builds up as you move the wheel off center, but the hydraulic-assisted steering has real feedback, the kind we're missing as most cars transition over to electric power assist. Standard wheels and tires are 18-inch, eight-spoke aluminum units, while 19-inch split-five-spoke wheels are available as part of the Deluxe Touring package.
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.
Where the QX50 really ups its game is in back-seat accommodations. Until this model year, the QX50's rear bench could rightfully be called cramped—whereas the front seats offer plenty of room, and snugly bolstered backrests. By adding 3.2 inches between the wheels, absorbed visually in the rear doors, the QX50 not only looks better, it's actually suitable for four adults—one of the prime directives of pricey crossovers. There's more interior space, more rear-seat knee room, a slightly higher ride height (which makes access easier), and an available power-raise function for the fold-down rear seat. Where's the utility? Ah, there's the utility.
The driver’s seat offers eight-way power adjustment, while the front passenger’s seat is four-way power. Heated front seats are standard across the line, but there's no ventilation for the seats, and no power tailgate offered at all.
The QX50 hasn't been crash-tested fully, but recent scores from its short-wheelbase days were reasonably good. The boost in safety technology is more impressive in this year's model: it offers a standard rearview camera, optional surround-view cameras and parking sensors, and a host of active-safety touches from lane-departure warnings and blind-spot monitors, to forward-collision alerts with automatic braking on the most expensive models.
For 2016, the QX50 lineup has been streamlined into two basic models, one with rear-wheel drive, one with all-wheel drive. Prices start in the mid-$30,000 range, and all QX50s come with power features, cruise control, automatic climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and leather upholstery.
Inside the QX50, a 7.0-inch color display with Infiniti controller handles the infotainment and vehicle information duties. Optional hard drive-based navigation brings with it a touchscreen display, lane guidance, and 3-D graphics, as well as real-time traffic and weather information, voice recognition, and streaming Bluetooth audio—but the system has a more dated, lower-resolution look than its best-equipped rivals. It's a puzzle why Infiniti didn't adopt the new dual-screen setup from the Q50.
On the options list, A $500 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 $2,750 Technology Package. A Premium Plus package, in the middle, adds navigation, the surround-view cameras, and parking sensors—and represents the best value in the lineup, with a base price of just below $40,000.
Fuel economy isn't the SUV's forte, either. It's rated at 17 mpg city, 24 highway, 20 combined, numbers that wouldn't be out of line in a three-row SUV.
2016 INFINITI QX50
It's tough to tell the stretched QX50 from last year's model; we approve.
In years past, the Infiniti QX50 has been perceived more as a tall sport wagon than as a crossover SUV. Adding a few inches to the rear doors and about an inch to its ride height doesn't change that much, and to our eyes, that's perfectly fine.
The QX50 shouldn't have any hardcore-SUV cues—it's built on proven sport-sedan underpinnings—and it doesn't, thank goodness. The shape cues up the right visual relationship with the Q50 and the five-seat QX70 crossover. The tall roofline looks low, thanks to some subtle sculptural surfaces on the body, and few cutlines and few unneeded details give the QX50 an especially clean look for its class. Big wheel wells and widely flared fenders taper into an arching roofline, all blending together to give it a bit more of a coupe look than most of its rivals.
For 2016, the QX50 changes in ways that aren't easy to spot—longer rear doors, mostly—but there are more nuanced details that register when seen side by side. There's a redrawn grille, new LED fog lights and daytime running lights, and new door mirrors with LED turn signals. Around back, there's a new rear bumper; restyled 18- and 19-inch wheels; and a ride height raised by 0.8 inches.
Inside, the QX50 sports a sophisticated look that's simpler and more streamlined than that of the Acura RDX. 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—maple trim is available in a relatively inexpensive option package.
2016 INFINITI QX50
The QX50 hasn't lost its handling edge, and its ride quality is much improved.
While other luxury crossovers have been more content to coddle drivers, the QX50 (and before it, the EX) has staked its claim on handling prowess. Built on an architecture that also underpins the Nissan 370Z and Infiniti's own Q50, that's not an outrageous task at all.
But like the BMW X3, the QX50's found out that having a more capacious back seat doesn't have to kill all the driving joy.
The 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 7-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, shy of BMW's turbocharged inline-6.
The transmission has its part down pat; there's a sport mode for slightly quicker shifts. But it lacks paddle shift controls, and in normal drive mode, it's a maddening reach to the shift lever to change gears manually.
Our lingering 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. The big V-6 wants to be pushed hard—peak power and torque arrive high in its rev band—and by that point the V-6 sounds bored and cranky.
Handling and body control aren't quite as great as those of the Q50 sedan on which the QX50 is based, but they're impressive for a crossover SUV. Steering weighting and feedback are far better than what you'll find in other such vehicles. The steering's actually quite heavy compared to the feel in some rivals—it's still hydraulic assist, not electric, so while it's hefty off-center, it doesn't dither or lose its sight on straight ahead like those digital racks.
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 this year (by 0.8 inches). 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 to boot.
Ride quality is good here—firm, but compliant—and the independent suspension hits the ideal balance of smoothness and athleticism. If anything, it's gotten more calm, thanks to the wheelbase stretch (it helps damp out bumps better), slightly more forgiving spring rates and damping, and lighter-weight wheels that don't transmit so much harshness into the cabin.
2016 INFINITI QX50
Comfort & Quality
Infiniti's finally cured the QX50's rear-seat blues.
Since it was introduced as the Infiniti EX, back in the 2008 model year, the chief criticism of the QX50 has been a very cramped back seat. By simply adopting the longer-wheelbase body of the QX50 sold in other markets, that problem's been neatly solved.
Just last year, the shorter QX50 ranked near the bottom of our ratings because it didn't make much room for back-seat passengers. We called it more of a "luxurious, sporty hatchback for single folks and empty nesters."
Nothing's changed in the front seats, where the driver and front passenger travel in snug, well-shaped front seats, with just the right amount of side bolstering for curvy roads. The QX's front seats have a higher cushion than in newer crossovers, and it's aggravated a bit by a steering column that doesn't extend far enough from the dash as it telescopes. The driving position, as a result, is more utilitarian than sporty.
A wide center console also provides useful stow space, but the door-side pockets aren't as useful—they won't tote a water bottle—and the cupholders can't share a pair of two grande-sized mochas.
The back-seat gains make up for those minor affronts. The 2016 QX50 is some 3.2 inches longer between the wheels; with reshaped front seatbacks that carve out more leg room for rear passengers, Infiniti says there's 3.9 inches more knee room in the back seat. Six-footers can now ride comfortably behind 6-footers.
What's better are a couple of details that make accessing the QX50's cargo space easier. There are 18.3 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row; folding it down is as easy as touching a button mounted in the cargo area on either side of the tailgate opening. When the seats are down, the QX50 has about 50 cubic feet of space, up 2.7 cubic feet—and when it's time to reset the seats for passengers, it's just another tap of those buttons or a pair of switches on the center console, to power-raise the seatbacks into their passenger seating mode.
There are some oddities on the convenience front. The QX50 has an integrated coat hanger on some trim levels, built into the driver headrest—but it lacks a power tailgate, a standard feature on most rivals. There's no ventilation option for its front seats, either.
It does come with standard leather trim, and choices of metallic or maple wood trim. There's no lack of soft-touch trim, and the QX50's cabin is quite nicely finished. The only thing that's missing, we think, is a little extra insulation from engine noise.
2016 INFINITI QX50
The QX50 has good, but very limited crash-test scores.
The 2016 QX50 as received fairly good scores for safety, although the ratings aren't complete. The IIHS gave the QX50 top "Good" scores on its tests, which included a moderate front overlap crash test. The insurance institute hasn't rated the QX50 for small-overlap crash safety, side impact, or roof strength.
Federal regulators haven't tested the QX50 for several years and it's likely they never will considering the limited sales of the luxury SUV.
Standard safety equipment in the QX50 includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control; and a rearview camera. Infiniti offers surround-view cameras, which stitch together images to provide 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 cameras are included in a $2,000 Premium Plus package, while a host of new safety technology—from lane-departure warnings to forward-collision warnings and automatic braking—are a $2,750 Technology package option.
2016 INFINITI QX50
Infiniti piles on the standard features with the 2016 QX50, but some de riguer add-ons are nowhere to be found.
Formerly offered in four different trim levels, the QX50 lineup has been streamlined into two basic models, one with rear-wheel drive, one with all-wheel drive. Prices start at $34,450 plus $995 for destination; for all-wheel drive, it's $1,400 more.
All of the expected luxury car features come standard here: heated leather seats, a sunroof, keyless ignition, and a universal garage door opener.
In the new $500 Premium package, the QX50 gains a Bose 11-speaker audio; automatic climate control; memory seating; maple wood trim; power telescope/tilt steering; and roof rails.
The Premium Plus package runs $2,000 and adds navigation; surround-view cameras; and parking sensors. For $2,400, the Deluxe Touring package applies 19-inch wheels and 245/45-19 all-season tires; adaptive front lights; power lumbar adjustment for the driver seat; an integrated coat hanger on the driver's headrest; a power passenger front seat; and a power-folding second-row seat.
Finally, for $2,750, the Technology package adds lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist; adaptive cruise control; forward collision warnings with automatic braking; and blind-spot monitors.
What's missing from the options list entirely are an updated infotainment system, which has been applied to the Q50 sedan, while the QX50 soldiers on with a lower-resolution screen, less data-rich mapping and information services, and a more fiddly set of piano-style hard keys; ventilated seats; and a power tailgate. They're all features found in newer crossover SUV rivals.
2016 INFINITI QX50
Gas mileage has gone down slightly for the 2016 QX50.
The QX50's gas mileage isn't very good in its class—in fact, it's no better than many three-row crossovers, including those built by Infiniti.
For 2016, the QX50 is rated at 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, 20 mpg combined, no matter which driveline is specified, rear- or all-wheel drive.
In real-world drives with the smaller 2015 model, we didn't see much more than that. And compared with EPA ratings for the 2015 model, the 2016 actually drops by one mile per gallon on the highway cycle for rear-drive models. Credit—or blame—goes to the gutsy V-6 engine as much to the stretch in wheelbase and its resulting extra weight.