The QX50 has style, but does it need more substance?

When Infiniti radically overhauled its naming scheme for the 2014 model year, the compact EX became the QX50. For the 2019 model year, Infiniti released an all-new QX50 that is still around today with a few minor updates. Despite it being the freshest model in the lineup, the 2021 Infiniti QX50 is outsold by the much older QX60, which has been around since 2013 when it was called the JX35.

There must be a reason why Infiniti’s newest model, one that sells in the hottest luxury segment on the market, isn’t the company’s best-seller. To find out, we borrowed a 2021 QX50 Sensory AWD for a week. After spending some time with the QX50, we found some glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed and a few areas where Infiniti succeeded.

Love: Curvy Styling

Styling is highly subjective, but we don’t believe for a second that Infiniti’s design language plays any role in the recent lack of sales. The QX50’s styling is heavily based on the QX Sport Inspiration Concept that debuted back in 2016. We think the curvaceous body panels and unique C-pillar design give the QX50 an appearance that stands out from other compact luxury crossovers. Infiniti may be late to the SUV Coupe party, but a more stylish variant called the QX55 is coming this year.


2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Rear Angle ViewCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Lateral ViewCarBuzz

Rear Angle ViewInfiniti

Hate: Cabin Technology

It may look modern and curvaceous on the outside, but the QX50 feels anything but forward-thinking inside. The cabin still uses Infiniti’s InTouch dual-screen infotainment system, which we’ve never got on with since it debuted. The top screen looks like it came out of a different car than the bottom and only comes in handy to view the map and use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The bottom screen is a jumbled mess that controls the radio, climate, and entering in map destinations. Infiniti is reportedly working on a completely overhauled infotainment system, but we’ve heard those rumors since 2018.

Putting the car into reverse reveals a bird’s eye camera with resolution that lags behind the Nissan Rogue, a mainstream non-premium counterpart to the QX50. This is not the only area where the Rogue outshines the QX50, boasting a digital gauge cluster, while the Infiniti makes do with analog gauges. Nissan clearly didn’t give Infiniti the full toybox of technology to play with on the QX50.

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Central Control PanelCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Infotainment SystemCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Rearview Camera ScreenCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Interior DetailsCarBuzz

Love: Seat Comfort

Among the QX50’s key selling points are its seats. Nissan’s Zero Gravity chairs are among the most comfortable we’ve ever sat in, and the QX50’s leather-wrapped seats are no exception. Though they lack a massage function, the QX50’s seats draw inspiration from NASA and Japan’s Keio University to deliver maximum support. A special foam used inside the seats helps curve with the spine, keeping passengers more comfortable.

The back seats are also quite spacious, thanks to the QX50’s front-wheel-drive platform. Rear occupants receive 38.7 inches of rear legroom, among the most in the compact segment. Unlike many rivals, the QX50 features rear seats that slide forward and backward. Optionally, the rear seats can include sunshades on the windows.

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Front SeatsCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Back SeatsCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Rear Passenger SeatsCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Sun BlindCarBuzz

Hate: Disappointing Drivetrain

The QX50 was the first model to receive Nissan’s revolutionary VC Turbo engine. With variable compression, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder can raise or lower its pistons, creating either a high or low compression. The high compression ratio gives greater efficiency but can knock, while the low compression ratio allows for greater power and torque. It all sounds pretty cool but we don’t see a substantial benefit to the added complication.

The engine produces 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which is not class-leading, and the full economy tops out at 23/29/26 mpg city/highway/combined, which is on par with four-cylinder rivals. Coupled with the continuously variable transmission, the QX50’s drivetrain doesn’t feel premium or sporty enough to justify its price increase over a Nissan.

Love: Bountiful Storage Space

As with the rear seats, the QX50 places a heavy emphasis on cargo capacity. 31.1 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row feels like plenty, and the cargo area opens to 64.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Speaking of which, Infiniti cleverly places seat release latches in the back seat and the cargo area, making it easy to put the second row down from anywhere. There are clever innovations in the cargo area too, including well-placed grocery hooks and a configurable floor.

Hate: No Mission Statement

The Infiniti QX50 is a fine crossover that we’d happily drive on a road trip, but that’s not saying much in the hottest luxury segment on the market that includes standouts like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, and Volvo XC60 to name a few. The QX50 has a major fault; it lacks a headline to justify itself over competing models. Is the VC Turbo the big selling point? If so, the power and efficiency aren’t any better than most turbo four-cylinder in this class. Compared to its hybrid competitors, it’s at an even greater deficit.

Inside, all of those aforementioned rivals have better technology, and although the QX50 is pretty, the Volvo XC60 isn’t exactly camera shy. We think Infiniti needs a rethink here because the mainstream Nissan Rogue currently executes its mission statement better than the QX50 does and at a much lower price point. Instead of coughing up for the Sensory AWD trim’s $54,920 as-tested price, we’d happily save almost $20,000 to get the fully-loaded (and similarly-equipped) Nissan Rogue Platinum.

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Forward VisionCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 TaillightCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 DashboardCarBuzz

2019-2021 Infiniti QX50 Steering-Wheel-Mounted ButtonsCarBuzz