What would happen if you took Infiniti’s old G sedan, turned it into a swoopy wagon, and then gave it a three inch lift? In short you would have created the old EX crossover that debuted in 2007. Since it first broke ground, the EX has gone through an engine change, and then a name change, to become the QX50. Now for 2016 the QX50 retains its 3.7-liter V6, but it gets a new nose, longer wheelbase, more interior space and revised equipment. We just got out of the refreshed Audi Q3, will the 2016 Infiniti QX50 win us over more than its German competitor?
From the outside, the QX50 isn’t exactly a stunner. It uses most of Infiniti’s older design language that looked great a decade ago, but its starting feel a little aged. The new grille, with its slightly outward curvature matches the current corporate face, but its diminutive size looks odd on a car this bulbous and round. The new wheel design is nice, and the slight wheelbase stretch helps the whole machine to look a little lower and sleeker, but I just can’t love it. A dash of chrome and a different bumper do not a new car make.
The cabin does see a bit more improvement though. The 3.2-inch wheelbase stretch means there is an extra eight cu. ft. increase in interior volume, with most of the extra space heading to the rear passengers. Leg room in the back is up by more than four inches. Otherwise the interior of the QX50 is similar to the rest of Infiniti’s lineup. A large portion of the cabin is swathed in leather with accents in metal and wood. Our tester features the flamed maple interior wood trim, some of my favorite looking trim pieces from any manufacturer.
Along with the fancy optional wood, our tester featured a two-toned color scheme that was black and “Chestnut,” a sort of burgundy and brown combo that looked pretty great. Mounted high in the center stack was our 7-inch color touchscreen for navigation and infotainment purposes.
Making this 5-door move is the venerable VQ37 3.7-liter V6 that is found up and down the Nissan family tree. This particular iteration is good for 325 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. This engine is easily the most attractive piece of the QX50’s package; it’s more powerful than any of the Germans offer in this class. Beyond the smaller Q3, X5 and GLA, the QX50 outmuscles the Mercedes GLC300, Q5 3.0T and the BMW X3 35i. That extra power does come at the cost of fuel, however. At an EPA-estimated 24 mpg highway, it falls below the German’s on the frugality scale. But more horsepower is more fun, so that might not matter so much to many of you.
The actual driving dynamics of the QX50 are entertaining, if not exemplary. Considering its little more than a lifted Q40 wagon, it should come as no surprise that is handles as such. It has the same aggression and willingness that you find in the sedan, just with a bit more weight and body roll behind it. It feels playful in a fun way that you usually don’t get out of this segment. If anything, it makes me upset that Infiniti won’t actually build a proper wagon out of their sports sedans. Just the thought of a Q50S Red Sport 400 with a hatch makes me weak in the knees.
As is typical for most of Infiniti’s products, the ride quality and NVH quality is slightly sub-par for the luxury class. In its drive to appeal to a younger audience with its sportier handling and more powerful engine, it has had to cut a few corners in the refinement department. The VQ motor is notoriously for its droning exhaust note, and the engine gets pretty harsh at higher RPMs. Road noise from the tires is higher than some of its competitors as well. While the QX50 feels at home when things get a little twisty, in an effort to control body roll, the stiffer suspension has resulted in a harsher ride over broken pavement. It’s far from unacceptable, but if you are used to the butter-smooth sensation of a Mercedes or Lexus the QX50 will feel rough.
It may not be quite as luxurious as the other guys, but it is certainly cheaper. A base QX50 will run you $34,450. Our car added the Tech Package for $2,750 bringing a host of safety equipment like radar cruise control, collision warning, lane departure prevention and blind spot monitoring. The sweet 19-inch alloy wheels and adaptive HID headlamps came with the $2,400 Deluxe touring package. Our last big-ticket item was the Premium Plus package that carried a cost of $2,000 and it added the navigation, around view monitor and SiriusXM capabilities. A few extra options like illuminated kick plates filled out the rest of the sheet until we had an as-tested price of $43,535. Considering the cheapest Audi Q5 you can buy is $41,000 and comes with a 2.0-liter engine making just 220 horsepower. Our Q3 we just reviewed rang in at $40k and the QX50 beats it in horsepower, torque, and interior space.
If you want as much equipment, space and performance as you can get for your dollar, and you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of refinement and luxury, the 2016 Infiniti QX50 seems to be the answer. I still think the QX50 looks too dated, inside and out, so I would probably wait for the next generation model to arrive. That said, I certainly wouldn’t fault you for parking this machine in your driveway tomorrow.