2016 Infiniti QX50 RWD Review - Long, Strong, But Same Old Song

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole
2016 infiniti qx50 rwd review long strong but same old song

2016 Infiniti QX50 RWD

3.7-liter VQ37VHR V-6, with Variable Valve and Event Lift (325 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm; 267 pounds-feet of torque @ 5,200 rpm)

7-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and Downshift Rev Matching

17 city/24 highway/20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

19 mpg on the 70/30 city/hwy grocery loop (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Technology Package — $2,750 (Intelligent cruise, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning); Deluxe Touring Package — $2,400 (19-inch wheels, power folding up second-row seats); Illuminated Kick Plates — $440 (!); Premium Package — $500 (Bose 11-speaker sound system, maple interior accents, aluminum roof rails); Premium Plus Package — $2,000 (Navigation, 7-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth).

Base Price:


$35,445*


As Tested Price:


$43,535*

* All prices include $995 destination fee.

Cars will be built in China.

Scratch that — cars are being built in China already, but cars sold in America will soon be built in China.

It’s an inevitability that American car buyers will understand when Volvo brings over its long-wheelbase S60 that promises to be the first Chinese-made car sold in America. It’s already happened in most markets around the world — including Canada — but Americans are averse to cars being built in the C-word like, well, the C-word.

The 2016 Infiniti QX50 (formerly the EX35 in old-Infiniti nomenclature) was not built in China — but for all purposes that we’ll discuss, it was made in China. That’s because the car, which sold at a phenomenally slow pace in the U.S., has been thrown a lifeline from overseas. In China, the QX50 launched six months ago with a longer wheelbase to satisfy that country’s appetite for driving everyone, everywhere, all the time. It was a no-brainer for the U.S., but to justify significantly updating the car for our market, it needed sales — and to sell, it needed to be upgraded. And you can see where this is going.

We’ve had plenty of chances to buy one before now, it’s that just Infiniti hasn’t really ever given us a reason.

As one of the first luxury compact crossovers launched in 2007, the Infiniti EX35 had plenty of head start on the competition. The athletic crossover didn’t suffer in its first eight years from anything other than a helping of Nissan’s parts inside and an aging mill up front. That car — with its 3.5-liter V-6 — never gained traction with U.S. buyers, who were enamored with more efficient cars from the likes of Lexus and Acura. In following years, its biggest selling point — available rear-wheel drive and Nissan’s potent 3.7-liter V-6 — would be eclipsed by other automakers including, ahem, Porsche.

To make a long story longer, the “driver’s” compact crossover has been swamped in the race for buyers, despite having an eight year advantage out of the gate.

Exterior


Outside, the QX50 improves on its looks from last year by adding a sharper nose and more aggressive wheels than it had before — but the exterior is still on par for the segment, which is sleepier than a Sunday afternoon.

The 2016 QX50 over here now sports the same 3,2-inch longer longer wheelbase sold in China, which benefits rear passengers who get more than 4 inches of additional legroom versus the last iteration. That may seem like a common sense decision in the States, but sales of the EX35 languished heavily because of that car’s cramped rear quarters. It’s large enough now for my lanky frame, but we’ll talk about that more later.

If I had to sum up its initial pitch, the QX50 separates from competition such as the Lexus RX and Acura RDX in two ways: first, its squat stance and curvy lines are moderately attractive; and second, the limited sales mean that it’s relatively uncommon in a sea of compact luxury crossovers. (The rear end looks a little too wagon for me, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I like the short spoiler over the rear glass though, for some reason.)

The extended wheelbase has one casualty: the rear doors are impossibly huge. Not AMC Pacer-huge, but abnormally big, in my opinion.

Interior


Inside, the QX50 makes its case with much of the same equipment found on the outgoing car. The seats feel soft and supple, without being over-enveloping for a car with “sporty” pretensions. I easily found a natural seating position and the pedals and steering wheel felt closer to my feet than most cars, which is something I prefer.

The interior materials and optional maple accents were pleasant, and probably something I’d find room for in the budget if I were inclined to buy. The $440 illuminated kick plates — which cost almost as much as the maple accents, Bose 11-speaker stereo, power tilt steering column and intelligent keys combined — are something you may want to pass on.

The complex array of controls in Infiniti and some Nissans have their fans, but I’m not one of them. [I am. Aaron also likes MyLink and I don’t, which just emphasizes how much personal preference factors into infotainment usability. — Mark] It took a long look for me to discover the power folding rear seat button (it’s not in a weird place, it’s just awkwardly positioned flush with much of the rest of the D pillar inside) and I’d give $100 to an average car buyer to tell me what the IBA Off button does. (Intelligent Brake Assist, after I looked in the manual.)

Like I said before, my 6-foot-3-inch frame fit well into the back seat, making use of the newly found 35.3 inches of rear legroom. Indeed, rear legroom is dramatically improved in the new QX50, but context is necessary — the Volkswagen Golf has 35.6 inches of rear legroom and doesn’t have abnormally long rear doors like the QX50.

Cargo volume is a respectable 18.6 cubes, slightly larger than the 2016 Lexus RX, but much less than the BMW X3’s 27.6 cubes if you can stand how the Bavarian looks/drives. (If you can’t, the X4’s cargo room is an unshockingly smaller 17.7 cubes.)

Technology


Infiniti’s navigation system is bright and sharp, but feels oddly outdated to the systems that Nissan now uses in its cars such as the Murano and Maxima.

Infiniti has also added a suite of available safety features including lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and forward collision braking, which I dutifully tested in a parking lot behind a nervous grocery getter. The added tech and features add up quickly: The base retail price of $34,450 swelled to more than $43,500 in our tester.

Oddly, Bluetooth streaming audio isn’t available with the $500 sound upgrade, but rather it’s part of a $2,000 Infiniti Premium Plus Package, which feels like a big ask to stream Sir-Mix-A-Lot from my phone to the car.

Powertrain


Up front, the car’s 3.7-liter V-6 is its biggest asset and liability. The potent, but somewhat old, powerplant pushes 325 horsepower and 267 pounds-feet of torque through a seven-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels — or all wheels when equipped.

The throaty 3.7-liter sounds great and presses forward with urgency — especially when you engage “Sport” mode — but its 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/20 mpg combined range penalizes any enthusiasm. Its peak happens at 7,000 rpm, which is impossibly high for an SUV designed to comfort people in the rear.

Mileage in the Lexus NX (22/28/25) and Acura RDX (20/28/23) is predictably better, although both of those cars power the front wheels first, which is less fun than homework on a Friday night.

It’s wholly accurate to say that rear-wheel drive models are the most fun to drive, but as someone who can honestly say that I’ve been stuck in a snowstorm in an EX35 without all-wheel drive, I wouldn’t have one without four-wheel locomotion.

Drive


Driving around town and on the highway is pleasurable, but not wholly exciting. Standing on the gas is rewarding — briefly. When we dropped the hammer in our rear-wheel drive tester, the 7-speed kicked down and planted our poor pup near the rear cargo door. Its thrust is impressive, but the QX50 isn’t necessarily a performance vehicle.

When comparably equipped, the Infiniti QX50 ranges some $500-$1,000 less than its rivals, but it’s noticeably older in key areas such as mileage and powertrain. In a car without towing capability and costing more than $34,000 to start, not including direct injection or other powertrain improvements to reduce fuel consumption seems like a massive oversight.

But then again, this car may not have been developed for my American tastes.

Comments
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  • Memremkr Memremkr on Oct 09, 2015

    We own a 2012 and it has been a problem free car. One point that a 6'3" tester would totally miss is how nice the car is for someone "short of stature". My wife is 4"9" and it is a perfect car for her (We sat in dozens of other vehicles before buying this Infiniti). Easiest in and out of any vehicle in its class for someone short. That may be why it does much better in Japan and China. with nearly 300 horses (3.5 Litre) this 2012 version will "git" when called upon. I would agree the car does not have standout styling, but then again it does not look bad either. Gas mileage is not great, as noted in the article, but resale value is actually very good. Also, if sitting in the back seat behind my wife while she is driving you get about 10" of additional legroom, which is more than the 4 you gain with the 2016 stretched wheelbase!

  • JonKessler JonKessler on Oct 09, 2015

    EX owner since the beginning. It's everything the Pacer dreamed of. Back seat perfect for anyone with no other choice but to walk, like my kids.

  • Redapple2 C2 is the best. C3 next. Then C7 (looking at you jimII).
  • Jeff S Vulpine--True the CAFE rules are for ICE.
  • Gray I grew up in the era of Panther and Fox platforms. If only they developed a good looking two door Conti. The four doors became a cult in their own right. And kept the 351W as a top line option.
  • Vulpine ABSOLUTELY YES!!! Bring back the TRUE compact trucks. The demand for them is far higher than the OEMs want to admit.
  • Brn More likely, with Google having troubles, the money tree isn't as ripe as it once was and cutbacks are needed.I hope the overall industry continues to evolve. When I get the the point I can't easily drive, I would still appreciate the independence that autonomous vehicles can bring.
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