By on March 29, 2019


Think of an occasion in which something really good appeared in a place where it was underappreciated. A fantastic steak at the downtown greasy spoon, perhaps? Beautiful new windows installed in a student rental house? My writing on this website? Wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that last one out loud…

Buried in the mire of Ghosngate at Nissan is some nifty new tech that should be turning the car world on its ear. The company’s variable compression engine, displacing an industry-typical 2.0 liters from a turbocharged four pot, is actually about as far from industry-typical as Yugo was from being a class leader in fit and finish. It’s able to vary its compression from 8:1 to 14:1, thus offering the best of power and economy characteristics. It’s been called the “holy grail.”

So where does this engineering marvel and technological triumph first appear? In the company’s sports car? Don’t be silly. It’s under the hood of a grey crossover, of course.

Talk about being underappreciated.

First, a tech lesson for all you boneheads who slept through Tim’s First Drive of this car one year ago and have no idea how a variable compression engine works. If you’re still not interested today, I’ll tell you that magic beans are doing all the work so you can jump down a couple of paragraphs to my driving impressions.


With those losers out of the way, I’ll remind the eggheads in the room that compression is achieved by a piston hammering air up into the top of a cylinder until the piston reaches the top of its stroke. Compression ratio is calculated by comparing the space into which the air is squeezed to the cylinder’s volume. In an engine with a 12:1 compression ratio, for example, the latter has been pressed into an area that’s a dozen time smaller than when the piston is at the bottom of its stroke.

[Get pricing on new and used Infiniti QX50s here!]

High performance scenarios are best handled by a lower compression ratio, while maximum efficiency prefers a high compression ratio. By deploying a multi-link system, the piston’s stroke is altered, which changes the compression ratio. (Technically, it also changes the displacement slightly, by 7cc.)


Does it work in the real world? From an economy standpoint, yes. The last time I spent a week with a QX50, your author struggled to get 15 mpg in daily driving out of its 3.7-liter V6. This time around, in comparable weather over similar driving conditions, it was easy to haul 23 mpg out of this Infiniti. Had I deployed even a modicum of mercy on the loud pedal, it would have been even higher.

Speaking of the loud pedal, throttle tip-in can be abrupt even in Normal mode, leading to embarrassing head-tossing moments if you’re driving Miss Daisy. This abruptness is generally brought on by impatience, as throttle response can be a bit lethargic around town [“Nothing’s happening! Press harder! TOO MUCH!”]. Acceleration won’t set anyone’s pants on fire, but is more than acceptable for a grey AWD crossover.


The typical Nissan CVT moans at speed like a sixth-grader asked to clean his room, but does a passable job of simulating gears when getting up to speed as you give it the beans to enter a highway. Sport mode is your author’s choice; steer clear of Eco mode, as it simply stuffs the accelerator full of Novocain. ProPilot works as advertised and does its job of reducing driver fatigue on the highway.

But it is, with certainty, an innovative engine that delivers on its promises. Drivers won’t feel the change between compression ratios, like you would with a cam profile change yo, which is largely the point in a vehicle like this. Most buyers in this segment desire an unobtrusive and comfortable all-wheel drive machine that goes silently about its business while returning good fuel economy. In this, the QX50 succeeds.


I can’t help but feel the engine would have made a much bigger splash if it were poked into a sportier car from the Nissan/Infiniti line. In a world where gearheads and influencers are often relied upon to relay a manufacturer’s message, debuting this mill in a something like the Z (and yes, I know, that’s rear drive vs. this car’s front-drive architecture) would arguably generate the kind of buzz this innovation deserves. With that approach, the conversation would have shifted to “this comfy crossover has the same tech as our sports car!” rather than the other way around. Underappreciated: thy name is VC-Turbo.


Elsewhere in the QX50, one will find pleasant interior materials, particularly on the top half of the dash where creamy leather and wood trim line the dash. The works of it wraps around nicely to the doors, along with suede/alcantara uppers on the A-pillars and headliner. The steering wheel itself feels great with a quality leather wrap and stitching.


The center console reveals a tiny gearshift, one of the smallest this driver has ever handled in recent memory. We’ll assume Infiniti expects drivers of a slighter stature than this 6’6” male to be the primary pilots of this QX50, which is probably spot on. The shifter itself is a return-to-center design with a dedicated button for Park.


Being charitable, its infotainment system will take some getting used to for most drivers. Deploying stacked touchscreens is an odd choice and the whole thing must initially be studied like tax forms. The top screen displays a map, and only a map, as its main feature, which seems a tremendous waste. Yet, the same screen also pops a volume overlay on top of the map when adjusting volume…. but the audio information is displayed on the lower touchscreen, which is far out of the line of sight. Redundant buttons for climate flanking the lower screen, however, do a great job of their intended function. Seats are all-day comfortable and the cargo area is well-shaped to accept the random detritus of daily life.

Infiniti prices the QX50 starting in the mid-30s, showing a sticker of $36,550 for an entry-level Pure trim. The tester shown here is an all-wheel drive unit in Essential trim, costing $45,150. ProPilot Assist adds $2,000. An expensive Sensory Package, which ladles on the cushy interior trim mentioned earlier, adds a wallet-flattening $7,500 to the sticker. This is a Sentra-sized price gap between the base model and our loaded-to-the-gunwales tester.


But you will get that engine no matter how much you spend on a 2019 QX50. It just seems like it would have been a better play to raise awareness and create buzz for the VC-Turbo by offering it in a sporty car before giving it to a crossover whose owners are, by and large, apathetic as to what’s under the hood.

A lonely (and unappreciated) heart, indeed.

[Images: Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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31 Comments on “2019 Infiniti QX50 Review – Owner of a Lonely Heart...”

  • avatar

    I just realized the irony of that you can get the QX50 with 2.0t and AWD but for the Alitma we are told that the AWD system can’t handle the power of the 2.0t.

    • 0 avatar

      “…Acceleration won’t set anyone’s pants on fire, but is more than acceptable for a grey AWD crossover.”

      And yet it is still faster than a Acura RDX 2.0T!

      • 0 avatar

        you mean, quicker. . .

        • 0 avatar

          Motor Trend says the RDX 2.0T is slower than the 2019 QX50 2.0T with it’s new engine where the RDX new Accord 2.0T is putting out less.

          “…The 268-hp crossover recorded a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds and a 15.1-second quarter mile at 91.6 mph. That’s a good bit slower than the last 280-hp Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport we tested but slightly quicker than the 272-hp Acura RDX A-Spec.”

          So C&D 6.6 second 0-60 mph was correct on calling it a Bspec or Cspec. Even Consumer Reports’s 7.0s 0-60 was also correct. No sub 6-second time for RDX 2.0T.

  • avatar

    I guess for all the “Holy Grail” fanfare I don’t see how the juice was worth the squeeze.

    The fuel efficiency over the old QX50 is there. But, the engine isn’t the only thing that changed. It used to be a much more powerful RWD vehicle with a conventional auto. And that V6 family goes back to 1994.

    Let’s compare it to the competing 2.0T offerings of other brands. They pretty much all are rated 24 or 25 in AWD trim. The QX50 gets 26. And, the Infiniti is generally looking a few tenths slower.

    That’s a lot of technology to get 26 instead of 25.

    • 0 avatar

      You stole my comment. Exactly. Take bigger v6 Highlander AWD and it has mechanical tranny. And its 295HP and yet, it does slightly wose than this overly complex 4 banger, mated to hated CVT. So, it is not so much an achievement for this engine as much as modesty of an old nissan v6

  • avatar

    “Acceleration won’t set anyone’s pants on fire, but is more than acceptable for a grey AWD crossover.”

    Still faster than a RDX 2.0T.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s because my dad owned an I35 for 14 problem free years. Maybe it’s because I still remember being a teenager and seeing a G35 for the first time in the pages of Motor Trend, thinking it looked like the future. But at any rate, I root for Infiniti, and I like this car.

    • 0 avatar

      I had one of the old Maximas. This is cost-cutting Renault management now. This ain’t your father’s Nissan.

      Does anybody trust this carmaker to execute this technology without cheaping it out or screwing it up? I don’t.

      Side comment: I know the diagonally pleated leather is the flavor of the month, but I hate how it’s executed here. It looks like bubble wrap.

  • avatar

    That nav screen looks like its powered by a Commodore 64.

    Add the laggy drivetrain and there a very few compelling reasons why anyone would choose this over the competition.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, the infotainment and CVT spoil what should be a premium luxury experience. I dont know anyone who is a fan of Infiniti (and by extension Nissan) cabin tech and/or CVT transmissions.

  • avatar

    In general Nissan / Infiniti’s throttle tip in IS aggressive. Due to work I rent monthly and you start picking up on how different OEMs handle these things. Just had a Buick Encore (ick) this week and the first 1/8 of the pedals travel results in… well nothing. My wife currently has a Q60 (G37 coupe) and just resting your right foot on the go pedal results in an immediate launch with quickly climbing revs. I wonder if the programing isn’t an effort to impress people as it makes the car seem much quicker and more responsive.

    • 0 avatar

      If so, it works. I still remember the G37S I had for a week. Jumpy as a meth addict at a Starbucks. But I really, really, really liked that car. Yeah, it rode like a truck and got someteen MPG and had a hard plastic dash, but it was good looking, powerful, narrow enough to whip through traffic, well isolated, a good handler, and…ya know, jumpy is fun.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    It is fascinating to note that the “Latest Car Reviews” in my right column is led by SIX! SUV/CUV/Truck write-ups…with the Corolla review at bottom. A very telling illustration of the contemporary vehicle market.

  • avatar

    Wow! Finally beating out a Model T. Seriously, the bar for efficiency is mighty low.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah but this one can go up hills in a forward direction!

    • 0 avatar

      It is quite likely that we will see some fairly impressive technological innovations with ICE powertrains over the next, say decade. Stuff which has been on the shelf/in development but hasn’t been ‘forced’ by competition until now.

    • 0 avatar

      the Model T weighed 1,300 lbs and had a 20 horsepower engine.

      your argument is invalid.

      • 0 avatar

        Um, tell me again why this vehicle weighs 3,900 pounds?

        My general ideas (estimates could be off):
        – Airbag plus wiring plus sensor = 700 pounds
        – Blow-out tabs on front windows 2 @ 275 pounds per side = 550 pounds

        Must be something else going on, cause I’m still missing the weight of an entire Model T.

        Hmmm… aluminum vs iron engine block no that’s the wrong direction… thicker sheet metal no it’s thinner… unibody no that should help the QX50… modern materials are more dense? no that doesn’t sound right…

        I’m going with ‘bloated lazy ass engineering’ – but I’m open to other explanations.

  • avatar

    This is a nice CUV. Went for a drive and absolutely loved the interior design, materials and colors. Great to see Infiniti take some chances and create a really nice looking interior. Like the exterior especially in their pearl white paint. It looks great.

    It drove and rode very non-descriptly though and the infotainment needs to get cleaned up. The 2 screen set up is odd.

    It’s a small CUV in the back seat, but the hatch space is good and front seats are good.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Edmunds’ long term test team had this to say about their QX50’s drivetrain:

    “In February, we tooled around close to home but still managed to add more than 1,100 miles to the QX50. That’s remarkable considering the near-universal disdain we have for this car now. The engine and transmission combination is just so bad that no one wants to drive it.”

    They hate the car and don’t want to drive it. Edmunds is usually pretty generous with their comments, so this car must be pretty bad. And, their QX50 is eating gas like crazy.

  • avatar

    This article is the very reason I purchased my 2017 QX50 when I did. I knew a 4 cylinder front wheel drive with a CVT was on it’s way as a replacement. The robust and proven V6 has been around for ages. Yes is likes gas, but it’s reliable with more than ample power. The transmission is conventional and it shifts effortlessly. I understand the industry is going with 4 cylinder, front wheel drive CVTs, but I wasn’t. I hope my car lasts a long time and I’m not going to plunk down between 40 and 50 big ones for a 4 cylinder Nissan.

    • 0 avatar

      if you paid what i think you paid, you received incredible value for your money. the value proposition alone of the previous generation was quite tempting. not so much in the looks department however.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Luxury SUV buyers could afford a sports car, if that’s what they wanted. I think we’re at the point where most buyers aren’t impressed by sports cars. They expect the best technology to be developed for the vehicle they’re about to buy, not trickled down from something that almost nobody purchases.

  • avatar

    Illustrations show a lot of metal in the crankcase. Have not heard any discussion of inertia. Wouldn’t this engine be kinda “rev-resistant”?

  • avatar

    It is cool technology, but it isn’t fair to compare this to the previous gen EX50/QX50. The old one was RWD and a blast to drive. Almost ridiculously fun – and fast, just not great interior space utilization until the latest, longer iteration. This looks better than the old one, but Infiniti is driving away their small, loyal core customers.

    This new one is FWD w/ CVT set up for fuel economy. The fact that it has the same name is horrible. This should really be a trim option of a Nissan rogue.

    I’m sure people love the new QX50, but not people who drove the old one.

  • avatar

    Can’t they make this a lot simpler with some variable valve work? I’d imagine a pseudo Atkinson cycle like those Prius engines would be just as efficient if you were to make the peak compression 14:1, with a lot fewer parts and things to go wrong. Or turbo a smaller engine like everyone does.

    But the JATCO CVT with a 3.7 V6 in a 3900lb vehicle…..

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