2019 Infiniti QX50 Autograph: Elaborate engineering in a luxury package

    Posted by Shane Kalicharan about 3 months ago

    The modern vehicle may not always seem like it, but it’s quite a technological marvel. Where mechanical components once existed, electronics and computers have replaced a number of key features of vehicles. Even steering can be done through wires, as seen on the Infiniti Q60. But the heart of the car, the engine, is still a very old-school approach. Internal combustion has been around for over a century now. While engineers and scientists have made great advances in making the decidedly inefficient process far more effective, it is still not the most efficient process, averaging about 20% thermal efficiency. So when Infiniti announced what may be the next step in internal combustion, we were curious.

    Infiniti say their engineers have been hard at work for the past 20 years with an industry first – a variable compression engine. Two decades and over 300 patents later, it’s finally here and seated in the new QX50 crossover. Without getting overly technical, Infiniti’s new engine can, on the fly, adjust what’s called the compression ratio of the engine. Put simply, an engine tuned for economy and another tuned for power will have different compression ratios. Since this engine can change its ratio depending on the need of the driver, you should, in theory, be able to have both power and economy on tap when needed. So let’s see if it works and how well it fits in the newest offering from Nissan’s luxury department.

    The QX50 is the successor to the former EX line in the brand and retains its status as a compact crossover. Technological achievements aside, Infiniti did a fantastic job aesthetically, and it makes us excited for their long overdue new generation of vehicles. The Q70, QX60 and QX80 have been on the market for far too long and are frankly quite antiquated compared to new offerings like the QX50. The QX50 carries over much of the design language from the QX Sport Inspiration Concept and looks virtually identical to the QX50 concept from 2017 – even down to the wheels.

    The luxe treatment continues indoors too. The cabin of the QX50 is a collective of mixed materials and contrasting colours that on paper, may seem like a scatterbrained mess, but in person, works elegantly well. On our Autograph trim level, the cabin is festooned with wood, chrome, brushed metal, leather and suede in a blend of navy blue, black, chocolate brown and a creamy off-white. The colours, materials and textures play nicely together and add to the luxurious look and feel of the car. As well the so-called Zero Gravity Seats, in which Nissan’s engineers used data derived from NASA research, does keep you feeling comfortable and fresh as a daisy, even after a long drive. We’d love if there was a little less plastic however. The black plastic buttons around the console and the window switches detract from what is otherwise a beautiful interior. We’d also love if Nissan/Infiniti switched to a new key fob design.

    Speaking of driving, let’s talk about that engine and how it feels. The 2.0L powerplant is punchier than expected, almost feeling like a larger 6-cylinder when the power comes on, reaching 100 km/h in under 7 seconds. It’s mated to a CVT transmission which Infiniti’s engineers designed to simulate traditional gear shifts. It works well enough and is light years ahead of the sloppiness CVT’s used to feel like, but the droning of the gearbox is still an issue. The quiet cabin does dampen some of the noise. And if you turn your music up enough, you likely won’t even notice it anymore (the QX50’s sound system is great, by the way). But, droning aside, the power is there. How about fuel economy? Infiniti’s numbers give it an average rating of 9.0 L/100km. We averaged about 10.5 L/100km with a mix of city and highway driving. In the best conditions with efficient driving and without using amenities, we would imagine the fuel return would be close to what Infiniti claims, but in real world driving conditions, that may not necessarily be the case.

    So what does this mean for us, for Infiniti and for the industry? If after 20 years, the differences appear to be almost underwhelming? Depending on your level of optimism, this could be the future of internal combustion. Think back to when the iPhone originally launched. The very first generation didn’t perform well. It was very limited. It was overpriced. But despite that, it was a technological marvel and indeed paved the way for the smartphone as we know it today. It’s hard to say if Infiniti’s variable compression technology will have that same impact, but at a stage where internal combustion seemingly has reached a plateau, new technology like this can breathe new life into the platform and is likely to only get better and better with time.

    The new Infiniti QX50 is more than a worthy replacement to its predecessor. Not only is the luxury, technology and premium feel seriously amped up, but style-wise, we’d easily put this up there with the best. With the amount of technology that went in to the engine, some drivers might expect a night and day difference. But in some ways, the best technology is that which you may not even notice. An electric car that operates just like a gasoline model. A nighttime shot with your smartphone that was once grainy. A gluten free beer that tastes just like a normal one. And in this case, a smartly engineered vehicle that makes small, but meaningful improvements. Not only that, but this could be the beginning of an entirely new generation of engines that will, hopefully, continue to improve with age.

    Infiniti, Infiniti QX50, QX50, Compression Ratio, Compression, Variable Compression, Nissan

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