Test Drive:2016 Infiniti QX50

Christian Wardlaw | Oct 05, 2015
What is an Infiniti QX50? That's a fair question, given that Infiniti recently slapped new names on almost every one of its models, temporarily confusing consumers in the process. The QX50 is the compact crossover SUV formerly known as the EX37, itself a relatively rare derivation of the old G37 sedan. Boil that down and the QX50 is a G37 wagon dressed up for light off-roading, but its real talent rests in prowling paved roads.

2016 Infiniti QX50 photoFor 2016, Infiniti has updated the QX50, making changes that are designed to increase its appeal within a segment that is picking up sales steam. Do the updates resolve complaints voiced by owners of the previous QX50, while preserving those traits that owners liked most about this Infiniti? I attended a media ride-and-drive event to find out.

Likes and Dislikes

In order to set the stage, let's take a look at J.D. Power study findings related to the 2015 QX50. Based on owner responses to our 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS) and 2015 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 66% of Infiniti QX50 buyers are female, and 69% are of the Pre-Boomer or Baby Boomer generation.

According to J.D. Power research, just 15.9% of QX50 buyers do not cross-shop this crossover with competing models. Among people who do test-drive competing models, the Acura RDX, Lexus RX, and Audi Q5 are the most successful at wooing potential QX50 buyers, and in that order. People who choose the QX50 tell J.D. Power that they most enjoy the Infiniti's acceleration, dynamic response, and stereo system. Owners cite fuel economy, rear-seat room, and trunk space as areas ripe for improvement.

What's Fixed, What's Not

Based on my time with the updated 2016 QX50, it appears that Infiniti has retained what people like about this SUV, while resolving at least one of the major complaints about the vehicle.

By stretching the wheelbase 3.2 in. and the overall length 4.5 in., Infiniti makes the 2016 QX50 habitable for four full-sized adults. I spent nearly an hour riding in the back seat, and with no comfort complaints aside from a lack of thigh support. Additionally, the ride height is increased nearly an inch for 2016, making it easier to get into and out of the QX50. Check one item off of Infiniti's "to do" list.

2016 Infiniti QX50 Interior photoTrunk space behind the rear seat remains the same, a conservative 18.6 cu. ft., but because the center part of the cabin is so much larger, maximum cargo space grows to more than 50 cu. ft. of volume. Consider this a partial resolution to the complaints about trunk space.

Fuel economy is basically unchanged, Infiniti retaining the same 325-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and 7-speed automatic transmission used in previous versions of the SUV. Whether you stick with standard rear-wheel drive or opt for the all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, the QX50 is expected to return 20 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA. During my test drive, the QX50 AWD averaged 19.5 mpg.

The V-6 engine might not provide the fuel efficiency of some of the QX50's competitors, but it is one of the most powerful in the segment, contributing mightily to the acceleration that owners claim to like most about their QX50s. Furthermore, despite the longer wheelbase and slight increase in ride height, the QX50's underlying mechanical components remain as engaging as ever, their basis upon Infiniti's previous G37 sport sedan plainly evident in terms of the vehicle's ride and handling qualities.

For 2016, Infiniti also makes the QX50's premium Bose sound system, with 11 speakers, a more affordable upgrade, enhancing another QX50 characteristic that owners say they like about their vehicles. Included in the Premium option package at a newly discounted price of $500, the stereo is accompanied by an upgraded climate control system with air purification, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Maple wood interior trim, and several other convenience features.

Conclusions

Based on my observations, with the updates to the 2016 Infiniti QX50 the automaker retains what people like most about this small crossover, while fixing one of the most significant complaints about the vehicle. Fuel economy still can't match many competitors, but then again, many competitors can't match the QX50's acceleration or athleticism. There is no such thing as a free lunch, America.

2016 Infiniti QX50 Rear 3/4 photoAs terrific as the QX50's underlying front-midship (FM) sport sedan platform and mechanical components are, this is an aging vehicle. Infiniti understands that, and does not expect this refreshed QX50 to set new sales records. The company considers this to be a stopgap model until it can get a new 5-passenger crossover wedged between the upcoming QX30 and the existing QX60.

In the meantime, the QX50 delivers added value by virtue of its newly enlarged cabin and attractive pricing. Equipped with every option package, a 2016 QX50 AWD costs just hundreds more than a loaded Nissan Murano.








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