By on February 13, 2018

One thing is clear — with variable compression comes a newfound lack of thirst.

Infiniti’s previous midsize QX50 crossover didn’t astound in its thrift, garnering 20 miles per gallon on the EPA combined cycle. The move to a new, front-drive platform and addition of a years-in-the-making gasoline engine for 2019 has done wonders for the model’s drinking habit, however, and Infiniti engineers pegged the MPG figures right on the nose.

With the 2019 QX50‘s fuel economy now confirmed by the EPA, it begs the question: just how much of the model’s thriftiness can the variable compression engine take credit for?

By adopting a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with revolutionary internals, the front-drive 2019 QX50 delivers 27 mpg combined, 24 in the city, and 31 on the highway. Shave off 1 mpg from the highway and combined figures for the all-wheel-drive model.

This is exactly the estimated 35 percent (FWD) and 30 percent (AWD) increase in fuel economy touted by Infiniti reps at a recent first drive event. Last year, chief powertrain engineer Shinichi Kiga said the VC-T engine would help the new QX50 top the old one by 27 percent on the combined cycle.

To put the mileage into perspective, Acura’s MDX Sport Hybrid, available only in AWD, rates 27 mpg on the combined cycle. But the Infiniti, devoid of any pricey electrical trappings, beats it by 3 mpg on the highway.

Image: 2019 Infiniti QX50 VC Turbo Engine

It would be interesting — and informative — to see an engine swap performed on an existing model, with no other changes. That’s because, for 2019, the QX50 donned more than just a new skin and beating heart. Its engine went from a 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6 to a turbocharged four-banger designed to make up for the lost displacement with varying piston reach. Horsepower shrunk from 325 to 268, with torque seeing a boost from 267 to 280 lb-ft.

While engineers shaved some weight from the new model, the lost heft didn’t amount to more than 100 pounds. The previous seven-speed automatic transmission also disappeared in favor of a continually variable unit programmed with economy in mind. It’s no secret CVTs are the go-to ‘box for ultra-thrifty models, but combined MPG gains well into the double digits are not something you’ll attain with a simple tranny swap.

In the absence of significant lightweighting, the new engine looks to be the main culprit. It’s certainly a win for Infiniti engineers and the brand itself, but it remains to be seen if the new engine (and styling) helps win the QX50 more fans than the previous-generation model, which never became a huge player in the all-important premium crossover segment.

As for reliability, we can only trust Infiniti did its homework there, too.

[Images: Infiniti]

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31 Comments on “Infiniti Wasn’t Fibbing When It Estimated the Revolutionary QX50 Engine’s Thirst...”


  • avatar
    ihateyourmustache

    You had me until CVT.

  • avatar
    dwford

    While we continue the frantic rush towards electrification, the plain old gas engine shows there is still plenty of efficiency gains to be had. Look at this engine, the Mazda Skyactiv-X, and even the new Camry’s plain old 2.5L.

  • avatar
    johnnyz

    I can hardly wait until these are out on the road and real world reliability is tested.

    CVT’s are no longer for ATVs and 3cyl Suzuki’s. They have evolved, can simulate an auto transmission and deliver power quite well. People need to drive a modern cvt without being predisposed to bias.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      While I haven’t driven a new Honda or Toyota with a CVT, I have driven a couple of newer Nissans and the CVT is awful.

      • 0 avatar
        Crossed Up

        That’s surprising.

        I LOVE to shift, HATE automatics, generally (until I found out just how amazingly-well our 2014 Tundra 5.7’s six-speed shifts) but we’ve had a CVT in our 2009 Highlander Hybrid, and we bought it new.

        (Re: the Tundra–you can’t buy a 5.7L Tundra with a a std. shift–at least not a DCLB–and I also wanted my wife to be able to drive it, in an emergency, so that made the autobox pill easier to swallow. But the Tundra’s shifting and lock-up torque converter are M-Benz smooth, and the .59 over drive means it’s only turning 2,000+ at highway speeds, and I doubt I could shift a six-speed std. any more efficiently than this truck’s ECU does….)

        It’s not only seamless, it GOES, for a (4,500lb?) SUV. IIRC, it’s 240hp. from the engine, and 60hp. from the motor-generator, and even with all that hybrid-related nonsense going on, the CVT has just been…there.

        It’s smooth, quiet, offers intense engine-braking if you shift it by hand, into that mode and, again, hauls ***. YMMV.

        MPG has not been great (18-20?) but I attribute that to my (very heavy) right foot, and am also considering getting a “re-flash,” as I’ve read that that can help the MPG.

        • 0 avatar
          Crossed Up

          Please read my response, above, as if the Tundra-related info, in parenthesis, were NOT there. Because everything I was writing, e.g., “it GOES,” etc…, was related to the 2009 Highlander Hybrid, like it’s getting 18-20mpg, etc….

          I only had 38 seconds left to “Edit” (my fault), or I would have put the Tundra-related stuff at the bottom of the post.

          (The Tundra is hovering around 12-13mpg, but we just got it-used-and it’s been in-town, only. The Tundra WILL RUN AWAY from the Highlander, however, in terms of acceleration. It will rip off 0-60’s in something under 6.5 seconds, which is not bad for a 5,000lb+ 4×4, IMO.)

          The point is, the CVT in the 2009 Highlander has been flawless, and I abuse it, by using the engine-braking function too much. We’re at 70,000 miles now.

          And I’m NOT a Highlander “fanboy,” by any means. It’s got a garden tractor-sized battery (under the hood) for the COMPUTERS, but the engine won’t start if that battery even gets LOW. When that happens, the (25?) computers can’t access the 600v battery under the back seat, to use the motor-generator to start the engine–which is how it normally starts–actually, that’s the ONLY way it starts. (We now carry a jump box.)

          Also, despite those 25 computers, IF you leave a dome light on (of which there are 4 or 5) it WILL DRAIN the garden tractor battery.

          I find this ridiculous, as my neighbor’s 1986 Ltd had a “smart” dome light, that would cut out after a certain time, so you did NOT have a dead battery in the morning.

          So, NOT a fanboy of Hybrids, or CVT’s but can’t say anything bad about 70,000 miles living with a CVT.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Just had a Rogue for a rental and can concur – terrible. And CVTs don’t even usually annoy me that much more than any other automatic. But the Rogue’s combination of engine that sounds like a dying cow, extra weight, and CVT that seems determined to elicit max dying cow noises while minimizing forward progress made for a very annoying couple of days.

  • avatar
    ex007

    Honda CVTs are terrific. Infiniti/Nissan CVTs in my experience are why people are biased against CVTs.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Subaru also has a great CVT.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I’ve driven recent examples from Honda and Nissan. To be completely honest I’m not sure how anyone could come to conclusion that one is better than the other in any meaningful way, much less hands down a better unit.

      If anything, Nissan probably gets slammed even to this day for having used them in larger numbers earlier than other automakers when they were not as well refined, when people were not accustomed to them and, maybe more importantly, for putting them in cars with sporty and or luxury pretensions.

      Being a manual transmission driver for most of my adult life, I’ve always maintained that CVT’s are no less and no more soul sucking than any other slushbox with fixed ratios.

      I can’t say the same for every manufacturer, but the two examples you use…I just don’t see it.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        It’s the bewitching Honda Halo, where the aura of the genuinely excellent elements of the brand like the manual transmissions, the Si, the J35, and the Ghost of Integra Past causes such euphoria that the merely decent elements like their 4 cylinder slushboxes are described as absolutely superb.

        Our Nissan CVT performed very well, very responsive. The thrashbox engine was the unpleasant aspect, but an Accord 2.4 sounds pretty depressing at fixed CVT revs as well.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        *apply throttle*

        mooooooooooooooooooooo

        *apply more throttle*

        MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      I’m old enough to remember the old Dynaflow trannies in the Buick’s of the ’50s. I thought they were pretty cool because they didn’t shift like other auto trannies and felt much smoother. The unfortunate side effect of a Dynoflow was acceleration – the light turned green, the “go” pedal went to the floor, the engine would wind up to 2000 rpm or so, and – 10 or 15 seconds later – the car started to move off slowly and creep up to the desired speed. Flash forward to modern times. My wife drives a CVT (not a Nissan product) and I am okay with it. I don’t even notice its operation unless I’m on a steep incline in areas other than highway driving where a manual or conventional slush box would downshift. I learned that, if driven in what I believe is correctly, it will move out pretty quickly. My method is to hit the “go” pedal and bring engine rpm up to the sweet-spot (4200 in my case) where the max torque is available and modulate the pedal to keep it there until you reach the desired velocity. Constant acceptable power noises from the engine without jerks/velocity transients while accelerating. You’re not chirping the tires but acceleration is as good as a conventional auto. Alternately you mash the “go” pedal to the floor and you get a bunch of noisy rpm without much work being immediately transferred to the power wheels and Dynaflow-style acceleration – a lot of noise and wasted time and, for me, the downside of big ol’ Buick memories. Yes, I know Dynaflow’s weren’t CVT’s but the same characteristics moving a vehicle. YMMV.

  • avatar
    johnnyz

    I have mentioned this before. I own a 2016 Maxima and the CVT works very well. It has a very direct feel with the motor. There is no leg like you would have with a torque converter and the fake shifts are very well executed. The newest generation of cvts from Nissan and others are nothing like the first 10 years…

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Yea, I think the opinions of Nissan CVTs depend on what engine + car its attached to. I’ve driven various CVT equipped cars- Versa, Civic, Accord, Murano, Maxima- Maxima and Accord were tops, I’d imagine due to nothing more than them boasting the best power to weight ratios.

      I’d go as far as to say the Maxima had the best automatic transmission I’ve ever driven, including the ZF8. The programming was spot on with the way I drove, and that was in D mode- S mode was actually too aggressive for me, which really surprised me.

      The jury will be out on reliability and the experience with this- I imagine this CVT experience will err on the “less than great” side of the scale. But that’s an unfair indictment, because I think the real culprit here is the engine, which is tuned for thrift and not equipped with power to get this thing leaping forward.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The last (and only) CVT I drove was a 14 Versa Note. I thought its responsiveness was excellent – second only to an EV.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    How much more does it weigh?

  • avatar
    stingray65

    The new BMW X3 with 2 liter turbo gets 25mpg combined with AWD, so all this added complication nets you 1 mpg better in the Infiniti? Doesn’t seem very impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      earthwateruser

      Yeah, I think maybe there’s a typo or something in the article. Those new model numbers seem quite low.

      “By adopting a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with revolutionary internals, the front-drive 2019 QX50 delivers 27 mpg combined, 24 in the city, and 31 on the highway. Shave off 1 mpg from the highway and combined figures for the all-wheel-drive model.”

      then…

      “To put the mileage into perspective, Acura’s MDX Sport Hybrid, available only in AWD, rates 27 mph (sic) on the combined cycle. But the Infiniti, devoid of any pricey electrical trappings, beats it by 3 mpg on the highway.”

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      That’s about what I get with my Envision 2.0T Awd 24 mpg on the 8 mile commute to work with half of it highway. The short range doesn’t and the fluids barely get warmed up ot it might be a couple mpg higher.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      So, same combined MPG (27) as the Acura MDX Hybrid…which is a lot bigger and a lot more powerful.

      Even my 2014 plain jane 6-spd auto MDX gets 27 mpg highway with AWD

      It is a pretty impressive engine though.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I am a fan of the Nissan CVT, but it needs to be connected to the right chassis and engine. 300HP + ~3600lb Maxima + CVT? Brilliant, possibly the best auto transmission I’ve ever used. 240HP + 4200lb Murano + CVT? Yea, now I see what everyone’s complaining about.

    This seems to split the difference with power to weight, and adds turbo lag + the wacker 4 cylinder sound to the equation, so I’m guessing it’s not going to be the enthusiast’s choice. But that is OK. Infiniti knows its market. I just hope they make a follow up to the FX.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    One MPG. It beats a basic housewife Q5 and X3 by one MPG. All that added complexity, all the promises made, all the potential reliability and servicing nightmares, for one MPG and no change in driving character (if there was, it’s nullified by that terrible time bomb of a transmission). One MPG is a rounding error.

    • 0 avatar
      Crossed Up

      @IBx1,

      Re: “…all that added complexity….”?

      Have you seen the guts of a typical automatic tranny, spread out on the Technicians bench? I have, and it ain’t pretty…. LOL

      CVT’s are far SIMPLER, mechanically, than traditional auto-boxes (if we’re talking sheer numbers of moving parts), so that any “added complexity” would be in the CODING for the ECU, right?

      I humbly suggest you meant “newness” instead of “complexity,” in that CVT’s surely have far less parts inside them. And as for “newness,” how long have snowmobiles been around? 60 years?

      One difference is snowmobiles used a required-to-replace rubber belt, but I believe modern, auto-based CVTs use some type of steel rope/cable/spring thingy, which I do not believe is considered a “maintenance item.” Meaning, I think it’s supposed to last for the life of the car.

      And re: the Buick Dynoflow “lag” mentioned by others? There is ZERO lag in our 2009 Hybrid Higlander. With a combined 300hp on tap, there is ZERO windup, prior to movement. I (frequently) floor it (we had planned to sell it, b/f the warranty was up, so I beat it like a “company car”) and it just GOES when you hit the skinny pedal.

      Obviously, not all CVTs are created equal, but Toyo’s got their knocked, IME.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The added complexity is in the motor. That is the secret sauce here – the CVT is a tangent. I doubt the numbers would be any different with a ZF 8spd attached to that variable compression motor. I too fail to see what the fuss is about, but then again BMWs turbo 4 is kind of magical in the efficiency department. They probably just haven’t been caught cheating yet. :-)

        The big gripe with car CVTs has been durability. Buddy of mine went through four transmissions in a V6 Altima. Another is on #2 in a new Pathfinder. The older Honda CVTs were utterly terrible. The Chrysler CVTs which I think are the same as Nissans are utter junk. About the only ones I have not heard horror stories about are Subarus. And of course the Toyota and Ford Hybrids which are “CVT” but use a completely different and far better technology that requires electric motors to work so is only suitable for hybrids. And not comparable to belt-drive CVTs.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    “By adopting a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with revolutionary internals, the front-drive 2019 QX50 delivers 27 mpg combined, 24 in the city, and 31 on the highway. Shave off 1 mpg from the highway and combined figures for the all-wheel-drive model.”

    This is outstanding? This is spectacular? I was getting this kind of mileage out of an ’02 Saturn Vue (about the same size) with a 2.5 i-4na and even getting decent performance numbers without all that gimmicky rigamarole that cost 3 times as much to design and build, using a 5-speed manual transmission.

    That’s not improvement; that’s falling backwards. That kind of technology should have added no less than 50% to those numbers.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    The MDX hybrid is geared toward performance over outright fuel economy. It’s also bigger and heavier. The Lexus RX 450h is closer and rates 30 mpg combined.

  • avatar
    MyerShift

    Nightmare engine guts, unproven durability plus CVT? Nissan?!
    The only way for that combination to be worse is substitute “Nissan” with something German.
    A neat experiment, but I feel long term reliability is questionable.

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