The QX50 is a crossover that every single carmaker in the world would love to have in their lineup.
Just think about its core package: a standard 3.7-liter V6 making 325HP, to the back wheels, through a 7-speed automatic. A balanced chassis, and roaring Z-car-like performance from a base price of just under $35k! Sign me up.
Is the QX50’s rare offering the one you want leading your fleet, though? Let’s find out…
The QX50 is the kind of anti-minivan, performance SUV that typically carries pricing in the 50s as a BMW X4, Mercedes GLC or perhaps Dodge Durango R/T. What else can be purely rear-drive and with an enclosed SUV trunk? Very few. And fewer every day.
And that is the core of the QX50’s appeal in 2016, with its light facelift and LWB stretch mostly enhancing these inherent skills.
To people who will quickly reject the front-drive/AWD chassis and handling of the upcoming QX30, as well as recoiling at the idea of even the new Audi Q3. These guys want the pure, G37-style handling of a Z-car platform and drivetrain, but want room for dogs or bikes in back. Or skiis, perhaps, with the QX50’s available AWD.
Standard section heads below to explore the places the QX50 still makes great sense as a sport-crossover in 2016. And a bit of devil’s advocate points too, when needed.
Why? This QX50 — renamed from the EX35 a few years ago — is seriously ancient in a number of ways.
The improvements for the 2016 model year are meaningful, but fall extremely short of a complete, modern take on the RWD SUV theme.
Let’s address the unavoidable: the QX50 looks extremely familiar from all sides. In fact, there are new bumper details front and rear — and a giant stretch in between. The back doors are a full five inches longer than before — and all this space goes right into the very-roomy knee and legroom of this five-seater. The roof can’t hide its excitement: there is a bit of a tent-like new look in the pure profile of the Infiniti.
This is unusual, to say the least, but at least it is something fresh. Beyond the new grille element in swirling mesh, tacked-on LEDs and fresh alloys… this is exactly the same design that looked funny when the EX35 was launched. The low hood, sloping nose and vertical-oriented headlights were never a really gorgeous look — like their FX35/FX45 big brothers — and they still arent.
It just looks extremely awkward, to our eyes, from all sides. Like a giant sneaker, it was suggested…
The weirdest piece of a weird design has to be the roof rack. This tall and obtrusive item makes what should be a low and trendy cross-wagon shape into something else. Something awkward.
All the carryover brightwork is distracting and messy, to our eyes. The thick glasshouse accent in chrome, the lower door sills… blinding. But non-matching to the silver bumpers. Adding insult to injury are the black plastic lower bodywork and fender edges.
The new LED DRLs turn off at night, oddly, too. This leaves the white/blue LED foglamps down below in a strange contrast with the Deluxe Touring Pack’s xenon projector low-beams up above. These optional lamps have corner-swiveling functionality that works like a charm. But they glow a bizarre and low-tech white/yellow-ish hue that matches neither new LED light feature. The LED fogs and LED DRLs are standard, however, on all QX50s.
Standard bulb blinkers front and rear are carry-over for the 2016 model, and look it. Same goes for the little micro-dot matrix of LED brake lights in back.
It all just looks desperately old versus the latest crop of SUVs. Certainly not premium or modern, we regret to report.
The cabin of the QX50 is a highlight, certainly its second-best feature beyond its handling, discussed below.
Gorgeous leathers wrap almost every surface of the QX50’s cockpit, finished in Chestnut brown on this test car. Midnight Garnet is this dark red color’s name, by the way, and is not a favorite.
The cabin in a similar reddish-brown is stunningly plush, however.
The drive position is unusual at first, but adjustable from the optional eight-way seats through a decent range. Power tilt/telescope for the steering wheel is a great feature too… even if the wheel does not extend very far or very low. The seat base is also quite short, however, with little under-thigh support.
Good lateral support from the backrest is a great element of the QX50 — as is the posh rounding of the seat-tops and integrated headrests. Certainly no Nissan sharing here.
Beyond these core elements, this test QX50 should be pretty good inside. Why? It includes nearly every option. The big news for 2016 is a full active safety suite in the $2750 Tech Pack. Lane departure warning, blindspot assist, city braking and adaptive cruise control are very modern features — some that we advise you skip. The Infiniti’s active safety tech is shoe-horned into the controls, and is confusing to operate. In fact, even after 500 miles of driving and many menu forays… we could not actually disable the active cruise. It is an old-tech unit that keeps about a football field in front of you, even in its tightest follow pattern. It is a full-speed unit, but in general is too jumpy and overly cautious.
The rest of the alerts are frankly more irritating than they are helpful. No active lane keeping… just bings and bongs when it is unhappy with your driving. Many of these can be turned off, but you have to find their oddly-placed switches all around the menus and dashboard.
Next, a Deluxe Touring pack with the HID low-beams, 19-inch alloys and power-folding (up and down) rear seat. Lit-up sill plates add $500, as does the Premium Bose pack. This audio option adds the roof rails.
Finally, a $2k Premium Plus pack adds actual touchscreen and navigation to the 7-inch infotainment unit.
This thing is ancient too — serious yestertech in every way. Even its around-view, birds-eye parking cams are very, very low-res and not super helpful.
Listing all the tech the QX50 doesn’t have would actually be longer, though. A panoramic moonroof, paddle shifters, auto highbeams, auto wipers, deep-tinted rear glass, rear entertainment/HVAC/power ports, mid-cluster display, remote start, heads-up display, LED dome lamps…. it is a long list and barely-begun here. Most crucially, the iphone integration is very poor. USB, Aux and Bluetooth phone calls are possible, in theory. But trickier to make work than they should be.
Big Back Seat?
The QX50 is still a very intimate machine up front. The lower-than-normal roof and fast windshield angle create a sporty, ensconced feel overall in front.
That was always fine, of course. But the low roof made the old back seat feel tiny and cramped. This 2016 stretch dramatically improves roominess back there. Big thumbs up. Wish the seats could recline, however.
The overall space with the powerfolding seats down is very, very good. At least as big as a Subaru Outback for IKEA runs.
So, pretty faint praise for the old-world luxury of the cabin. And the styling outside.
Why, oh why, does Infiniti think this is a viable entry for 2016?
This QX50 is supremely fast and confidence-inspiring. It is FAST and super fun to throw around. Boundless grip and great traction off the line makes the QX50 a pure, sports-car drive wrapped in a crossover shell.
As a former G35 owner, the brilliant handling and chassis of the QX50 is just as wonderful now as it was then. In 2003-2005.
The engine has a great bellow from both nose and tail, and the seven-speed auto is very quick off the line. If a bit slow in kickdown. The QX50 also guzzles fuel: 17/24-mpg official ratings are pretty ambitious if driving fast.
The RWD and high ride height might make the QX50 a fun rally-road buddy…. but we could disable the stability control. Despite much trying, this car fights any sideways tail-out movement with aggressive braking.
Okay, on to the pricing – -a strong point for the QX50.