Infiniti’s smallest SUV is big on tech features.
Infiniti’s mark in the luxury sphere is limited to five models. That’s a far fewer number than many of its top competitors, but Nissan’s luxury marque makes a vigorous undertaking with the products it does have.
The 2021 QX50 is a noteworthy exemplar of a model that makes a strong claim in the small SUV segment. It does so through handsome styling as well as by delivering cutting-edge technology and advanced engineering features.
2021 Infiniti QX50 Review
Infiniti offers the 2021 QX50 in five trims: Pure ($37,950), Luxe ($41,500), Essential ($44,700), Sensory ($50,000), and Autograph ($54,200). You’ll find standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive, the latter incurring a $2,000 price differential. In addition, this model has a $1,025 destination charge.
We enjoyed a 2020 Infiniti QX50 Autograph AWD and took it to some of our favorite places around central North Carolina in early October. This model costs $61,220, including the destination charge. This means that there were several upgrades included such as a Premium White Leather Package with blue accents and piping ($2,500). Other add-ons included a Tow Package ($650), Welcome Lighting ($425), illuminated kick plates ($485), Cargo Package ($285), splash guards ($225), and a rear bumper protector ($275).
Because we’re transitioning between model years, the pricing information covers the 2021 model.
Infiniti makes do with three utility vehicles and that’s about half the number of what its chief competitors offer. But Nissan’s luxury emblem manages quite well with the QX60 and QX80 joining the QX50 in reaching consumers.
All three models share an elegant look marked by a substantial grille and muscular lines. The QX50 utilizes a fair amount of chrome; most noticeable is where the beltline and roofline intersect to form a resplendent crimp. The requisite LED lighting, alloy wheels, and rear fascia elements add poise and refinement.
Most trims feature 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 20-inch wheels available. Each wheel choice is set within run-flat all-season tires. This means you won’t find a spare tire unless you purchase one separately.
All trims come with high-and low-beam LED lights, LED daytime running lights, and LED taillights. All but the base trim comes with LED fog lamps. An adaptive front lighting system appears beginning with the Sensory trim.
Curiously, heated outside mirrors are not standard – they’re optional with the Luxe trim and standard with the Essential. A power liftgate is standard; a motion-activated liftgate is included with the Autograph. Aluminum roof rails and a panoramic moonroof are included with the Luxe trim; rear passenger window sunshades are optional with the Sensory and standard with the Autograph.
The Infiniti QX50 lives up to its claim of seating five people. This is where the model is more midsize than a compact with ample legroom front and back.
Lots of curves and layering give the QX50 form and distinction. The controls sit high, are easy to read and decipher. There isn’t much of a “wow” factor with the instrumentation, but that’s not its mission.
We like the materials Infiniti uses throughout the cabin, including available leather hides, elegant wood and the blue imitation suede material found in our Autograph model. Most other trims are simpler, but the overall look is still quite pleasing.
All trims come with a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, dual-zone climate control, and rear heating ducts under the rear seat. Imitation leather seats are included with the Pure, Luxe and Essential trims, while the Sensory and Autograph trims have real hides, the latter in semi-aniline.
Standard 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way lumbar support and an 8-way front passenger seat are among the standard features. Heated or heated and cooled front seats are available. Some models come with three-zone climate control.
The standard tech features for the 2021 QX50 include a 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a CD player and a USB port. Bluetooth and smartphone integration with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is also included.
Choose the Sensory or Autograph editions and Infiniti swaps out the standard audio package with a 16-speaker Bose audio system. This arrangement was in our test model and it makes a significant difference in sound quality and balance throughout the cabin.
The standard driver-assist safety features include high-beam assist, forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear automatic braking. That makes for a laudable standard package.
Move up one notch to the Luxe edition and the QX50 gains such features as lane-departure prevention, steering assist, distance control assist, and blind-spot intervention. You’ll also find ProPILOT Assist and adaptive cruise control with full speed range.
The ProPILOT system imbues the Infiniti with semi-autonomous driving characteristics that essentially motivates this utility vehicle. You’ll still need to control it, but various inputs keep the QX50 centered even as it navigates curves. Of course, if the road you’re on isn’t clearly marked, then the system won’t detect everything, thus your involvement is required. Yet, we like that ProPILOT gives us a glimpse into what is soon to come.
Two other safety-related features include traffic-sign recognition (Essential trim) and a head-up display (Sensory). Beginning with the Essential trim, Infiniti swaps out the standard rearview monitor with an around-view monitor bundled with a front and rear sonar system.
Infiniti offers just one powertrain combination with the 2021 QX50 and it’s a strong one.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Power travels to the wheels utilizing a continuously variable transmission.
What’s special about the engine is that it is the first mass-production engine with variable compression ratio technology. Instead of a fixed compression ratio, the Infiniti’s engine adjusts and that’s a good thing.
How so? Because a blend of high and low compression ratios enable the engine to work more efficiently by delivering more power when it is needed and conserving it when it is not.
The Infiniti VC engine ups the compression ratio when the turbo isn’t being called on as much. When the turbo spools, the compression ratio lowers. This combination is possible thanks to an electric motor that moves an actuator arm that shortens the reach of the pistons within the engine. The dreaded knock is also avoided.
The VC-Turbo is also surprisingly quiet because Infiniti (Nissan) eliminated the two balance shafts inherent to four-cylinder engine design. Instead, the engine includes a mount that dampens vibrations. Specifically, embedded sensors within the upper engine mounts read vibrations, then deliver opposing vibrations to eliminate them. Nissan says that the VC-Turbo is much quieter than the previous QX50 engine and nearly matches the smoothness of a V6 layout.
So, what does this mean for the QX50? Well, quite a lot. We found the step-off power robust and the passing power strong. It’s a small engine for sure, but it doesn’t lack the “oomph” we think luxury buyers demand. And that’s a good thing: if you can’t have the power of a V6, then a potent turbo four is usually a fantastic substitute. And in this case, Infiniti nailed it.
What surprised us was the continuously variable transmission – it did its job almost silently in the background. It also simulates eight forward gears in sport mode, allowing for a more engaging driving experience. We’re not big fans of CVTs, preferring the shift changes of an automatic, but in the QX50’s domain, it consistently rose to the occasion.
Yes, Infiniti could have gone with its commendable 7-speed automatic or the company’s new 9-speed automatic, but they chose the CVT. Likely, this move squeezes out another 2 or 3 mpg that wouldn’t otherwise be realized. Since we averaged about 30 mpg during our week of testing, we were pleased with the results.
Just how many small luxury SUVs are out there? Plenty! Indeed, every luxury manufacturer (except for Genesis) has at least one. The market is strong and can sustain multiple models as consumers prefer utility vehicles over cars.
Among the competing models are the Lincoln Corsair, Cadillac XT5, Mercedes-Benz GLC Class, Audi Q5, and the BMW X3. But there are many other models to consider including the Land Rover Range Rover Velar, Jaguar I-Pace, Volvo XC60, Porsche Macan, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Acura RDX, and the Lexus NX. Prices in this segment start in the mid-30s and top $70,000 for some trims. We omitted the electric offerings, but they’re also worth exploring for some consumers.
There’s always much to consider when weighing trim choices and available packages. With five trims to choose from, Infiniti offers an unusually large number of steps from the base to the top trim. That spread is about $20,000, which isn’t unusual in the luxury realm.
As per our usual recommendation, we rarely suggest a base trim for any model. Here, the standard Pure lacks some safety and comfort features we’d prefer. We think starting your search with the Essential trim is reasonable, although if you want a better sound system, then you’ll need to move up to the Sensory trim. At this point, you’ve just crossed the $50,000 threshold which isn’t unusual for this segment. Infiniti includes a Climate Package here and does so at no charge. Specifically, you’ll find climate-controlled front seats, rear passenger sunshades, and a three-zone climate control system.
2021 Infiniti QX50 Specifications
|Segment||Small luxury SUV|
|Price Range||$37,950 to $56,850|
|Standard Engine||2.0-liter, Turbo I4|
|Horsepower||268 @ 5,600 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||280 @ 1,600 to 4,800 rpm|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,838 to 4,178|
|Head room (f,r…inches)||41.0, 39.1|
|Legroom (f,r…inches)||39.6, 38.7|
|Shoulder room (f,r…inches)||57.9, 57.1|
|Hip room (f,r…inches)||55.6, 53.8|
|Storage (cubic feet)||31.4/54.4|
|Gross vehicle weight rating (pounds)||4,916 to 5,075|
|Payload (pounds)||862 to 1,107|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||16.0|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||23/29/26 (FWD); 22/28/25 (AWD)|
|Manufacturing Plant||Aguascalientes, Mexico|
Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.
See Also — New and Improved! 2019 Infiniti QX50
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