For the past three years, the QX50 compact luxury crossover has pretty much stayed the course. Infiniti, it seems, figures it got everything right back in 2019 when this guy debuted and, thus, is reticent to mess with it. Other than some trim shuffling, it's pretty much the same QX50 as ever.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, QX50's exterior styling is a home run.
It starts with a mug that blends a catfish maw with raptor-eye headlights and slashing front-fascia vents. That face is capped by an astonishing hood that shows raised character creases sharp enough to cut steak and hood edges that overlap the fender crowns!
Finally, that draping hood-edge melds into a flank-long character line that runs aft through the door handles to conclude near a forward-kinked D-pillar.
Have mercy! Cover the children's eyes! But that hey-look-at-me zoot-suit persona covers mechanicals that write a check its turbo four engine can't quite cash.
Dubbed at its introduction by Infiniti as "the world's first production-ready VC-Turbo" -- "VC" being shorthand for "variable compression" -- this techy 2.0-liter turbo four, depending on engine load, alters how high the pistons rise within the cylinder cans, an industry first. In so doing, it alters engine compression for -- in theory -- the "best combination of power and efficiency."
True, we found the engine surprisingly willing, given that it's lashed to a standard CVT automatic. Despite the inherent sponginess of the gear box, the engine proves gutsy as it unloads its full complement of 280 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 1,600 rpm. Bury the skinny pedal into the carpet and even the CVT, like a science-fiction-collectibles enthusiast trying to be hip, works hard to get into the spirit of the proceedings by mimicking step-gear ratio trades and, in so doing, mostly eliminating the dreaded CVT drone.
Throw in paddle shifters and QX50's driver-selectable chassis modes -- Personal, Sport, Standard and Eco -- and drivers will find themselves greeting 60 mph in a blink over 6 seconds.
In 140 miles, mainly on interstates and two-lane twisties, we got 25 mpg in our top-of-the-line all-wheel drive QX50 Autograph.
In other words, QX50's efficiency, though competitive, really is not much better than such rivals as the base turbo-four versions of the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC or Volvo XC60, all of which are within 1 mpg of the QX50 in their EPA combined ratings. The Infiniti, however, does outdo them all in horsepower.
For 2021, QX50 is available in five trims: Pure, Luxe, Essential, Sensory and Autograph. Each is available with front- or all-wheel drive and all are managed by the CVT. For 2021, every QX50 boasts Wi-Fi hotspot talent and rear side-mounted airbags.
Inside, 50 has more screens than the local Cineplex. There's a reconfigurable display in the gauge pod for various trip, mpg and other vehicle info; an upper center-stack touch-/knob-controlled screen that's mainly for navigation, although other talents can be called up; and a lower center stack touch screen that's mainly for audio, although, again, other information can be displayed. A knob is provided for radio volume but -- drat! -- not for radio tuning. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility are included.
Inside, room is fine up front and good in back, where seats are fore/aft and rake adjustable. Rear access is made easy with back doors that open nearly 90 degrees.
Our top-of-the-line Autograph added the optional -- and gorgeous -- $2,000 Premium White Leather Package, an absolute knockout blending, as it does, white leather with blue suede accents and blue piping on seats. Just beautiful.
Complex in its engineering, techy in its infotainment and audacious in its styling, it's easy to forgive QX50's somewhat over-enthusiastic boast about efficiency.