Infiniti QX50 — Providing a sense of luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(March 5, 2023) When Infiniti debuted its current entry-level compact QX50 sport utility crossover in 2019 we heaped it with a fair amount of praise. The current generation QX50 is now in its fifth year with only minor modifications and design tweaks here and there and we still find a lot to like. But in the intervening five years a host of competitors have brought fresher and more appealing vehicles to the segment, which makes the QX50 a tougher buying decision.

For example, when the 2019 QX50 was introduced it came with new engine technology. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder has the ability to raise or lower the reach of the pistons, depending on whether power or efficiency is in order, changing the compression ratio from a low of 8.0:1 to a high of 14.0:1. This promises to maximize efficiency whether cruising at part throttle or running toward redline with foot to the floor. It's a project that, according to the company, took more than 20 years to develop.

But the new crop of competitors has caught up with Infiniti's variable-compression engine with conventional turbocharged fours such as the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3 xDrive30i, which accelerate quicker and have equal gas mileage. For instance the QX50 AWD is rated at 22 mpg city, 28 highway and 25 combined. Now both the Audi and BMW get an nearly equal EPA rating to the Infiniti measured at 23/29/25.

One of the things that lets the the "cutting edge" variable compression VC-Turbo engine down is the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that it's paired with providing inconsistent power delivery and lacking the refinement found in most rivals. Acceleration is actually pretty quick (measured at 6.4 seconds from 0-to-60), but it's slow to start, and its real-world fuel economy is disappointing — measured at an overall 23.7 mpg by the vehicle's computer in our 250 miles of mixed driving.

We did enjoy the performance,  but we found the engine to be noisy under full or near full acceleration with the CVT — we prefer to hear and feel the snaps of a stepped 8-speed transmission.

Beyond the drivetrain there are a lot of attributes in the QX50 that should appeal to the buyer of an entry-level luxury crossover. In fact, a couple of our usual ride-alongs were highly complimentary of the luxurious-looking interior, the pleasing ride, and the quiet cabin. And we figure for a lot of people those things are more important than what drives the car and gas mileage — as long as it is in line with competitors.

Our test vehicle was endowed with a fashionable interior that included premium-quality materials, carbo-fibre trim, Ultra-suede headliner, and heated and cooled leather seats, which we found especially comfortable. Rear-seat passengers were not cramped — but don't try to sit three across.

The standard power rear liftgate opens to a large cargo area measuring 31 square feet with plenty of space for golf clubs, luggage and other larger items. There’s even a small cargo hold under the rear floor to store items you don’t want left in plain sight.  Cargo space with the seats folded is 64.4 cubic feet.

Although Infiniti's stacked two-screen interface has been called "old technology," we think it's still a good way to handle the navigation and infotainment. It separates the navigation screen from the infotainment screen and its myriad of audio and climate controls. But maybe a bit long in the tooth and in need of a refreshening. For example, the heated steering wheel and custom drive-mode settings are only accessible through the touchscreen. A simple on-off button on the steering wheel or steering column would have been a much simpler operation. On the other hand, we did like the stacked climate controls along the infotainment screen.

Every model has Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. Both 12- and 16-speaker Bose stereo systems are available as is mobile WI-Fi hotspot. Our test vehicle did have several power points, with three USB ports up front and multiple 12-volt outlets, including one in the cargo area.
For 2023 QX50 is offered in five trims — Pure, Luxe, Sport, Sensory, and Autograph — with a choice of standard front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and an advanced Drive Mode Selector, which allows the driver to select from Standard, ECO, Sport or Personal, depending on preferences and road conditions. The Sport trim replaces the Essential trim in the lineup, but the Sport name may be a misnomer since it adds no performance-enhancing features.

It does look sharp with its Gray exterior and dark-painted 20-inch wheels.

We drove the mid-level Sport, and we think it's the sweet spot offering considerable standard equipment including adaptive cruise control, around-view monitor (something we really find helpful in parking situations), automatic high beams, and forward and rear emergency braking. Our Sport carried a bottom line of $52,815 including destination. Prices for the 2023 QX50 range from $41,495 for the Pure to $58,545 for the Autograph.

2023 Infiniti QX50


Base price: $41,495; as driven, $52,815
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 268 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 280 pound-feet @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all-wheel
Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
Length: 184.7inches
Curb weight: 4,105 pounds
Turning circle: 36.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 31.1 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 64.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 22/28/25
0-60: 6.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Genesis GV70, Audi Q5, BMW X3

The Good
• Roomy, attractive interior
• Quiet at highway speeds
• Smooth ride

The Bad
• CVT amplifies engine noise

The Ugly
• Disappointing fuel economy