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.
Miles per gallon can vary from driver to driver. We all know that. Now, Infiniti is trying out an engine that can vary its compression ration from scenario to scenario.
Miles per gallon is also a key spec for the new QX50, since the variable compression ratio tech is responsible for a claimed improvement in combined fuel economy – 35 percent for front-drive vehicles and 30 for all-wheel-drive units.
As is the usual case on first drives, I had no chance to verify those numbers – which, according to Infiniti, work out to 27 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 26 mpg with all-wheel drive. Improved fuel economy is just part of the picture when it comes to variable compression, which is making its production debut in the 2019 Infiniti QX50.
Infiniti is closing the casket lid on the QX70 after a lifetime of middling sales. Despite being on the cutting edge of the premium crossover craze, the model never garnered the same attention — or praise — it received when it was still called the FX.
Dealerships have been notified by the manufacturer that the model won’t return for 2018. The news was later confirmed by an Infiniti spokesperson who explained the brand wanted to focus its attention on the QX50 — which typically outsells the QX70 by a factor of two-to-one in any given month. The automaker sold 16,299 QX50s in North America in 2016, while only delivering 6,742 examples of the midsize QX70.
From krill-hungry Lincolns to Predator-style Lexus grilles, the automotive market is littered with luxury crossovers like rocks covering the landscape of my home province of Newfoundland. With few exceptions, they’re all ponderous boxes offering the driving dynamics of tapioca pudding. Adding a sport package to these machines simply upgrades them to slightly warmer tapioca pudding.
The 2016 Infiniti QX50, though, surprised me … and I like surprises — for example, buying a new type of beer and finding it to my liking, or having a tool work better than expected. These are all experiences that give me pure joy. Heck, I even bought my first house largely based on the fact its floorplan wasn’t what I expected.
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).
As Tested Price:
* 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.
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