Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Long-Term Test Drive: 2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential

Let me start off by saying that this post is long overdue. We've had this particular vehicle for almost two years now, but here I am just getting to it now. Better late than never?

I also want to preface this post by saying that I genuinely dislike CUVs with a passion. Why? It's simple:

1. The average driver does not actually need the extra height of a CUV. Unless you plan on taking it off road at some point, which the average CUV driver never will, YOU DON'T NEED THE EXTRA HEIGHT!
2. The extra height actually makes the car less efficient and more prone to flipping over
3. If you claim you want the extra cargo space, get a wagon or hatchback, which are infinitely cooler than these stupid things
4. The price premium CUVs carry over their sedan, wagon, and hatchback counterparts is often ridiculous considering the loss of efficiency.

But enough about my own personal biases towards these rolling wastes of space. What do I think about this particular vehicle here? Let me start with what I actually do like about the QX50. I find it to be one of the best looking vehicles in its class. Infiniti, despite all their current shortcomings, can still design a good looking car. The lines of the car all flow nicely into each other, and create a very cohesive and classy look. Of note is the high center line, that starts at the hood and actually flows all the way to the back of the car. Another nice design feature is the kink on the rear three-quarter panel. This design element fits nicely with the rear hatch design, and creates a visual cue that isn't disjointed like a lot of other CUVs out there. Lastly, the QX50 is one of the few Infiniti vehicles that actually pulls off that bull shark looking front end well. Considering this was a new vehicle design, it gave the designers and opportunity to design the car around the new corporate front end instead of tacking it on, thankfully.

Unfortunately, the way the car looks is really its only redeeming feature. Everything else is subpar, at best. Let's start with the biggest glaring flaw of the QX50: its packaging. This isn't just an issue with the QX50, but with the general Infiniti line up all together. Looking specifically at the QX50 though, it's a pretty glaring issue. Our particular QX50, the QX50 Essential, is the highest trim package available. Yet, despite it being the highest trim package with a starting MSRP of $45,500 in 2019, it is missing A LOT of features that its competition has as standard features. In fact, many of the missing features of the QX50 Essential come as standard equipment on lesser, non-luxury cars as well. Despite its price tag, the QX50 does not have as standard equipment: heated seats, memory seats, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay (which was remedied in the 2020 model year, thankfully), full driver assist package (the car does have radar cruise but no lane keep assist), LED headlights with adaptive lighting, wood trim. In order to add these items, you have to add a bunch of packages to the car, which can easily bring the MSRP beyond $50,000. Just as an example of how absurd the QX50's lack of equipment is, our 2016 Honda Accord Touring, which had an MSRP of about $35,500 at the time, has all of the missing bits from the QX50 as STANDARD equipment. To add insult to injury, my current 2020 Honda Civic Si has most of the same features as our old Accord (no memory seats or wood trim) at an MSRP of $25,000.

But enough about the QX50's lack of equipment. How does it drive? I will say that the 2.0 liter turbocharged inline-4 is actually quite good. It definitely provides some good mid-range power and the turbo lag is thankfully not very noticeable. At 268 horsepower, it puts it around mid-pack for power in class. Unfortunately, it's strapped to Nissan's godawful CVT. I've experienced Nissan's CVT in various applications in the past, and while the CVT in the QX50 is admittedly one of its better iterations, it still sucks. In the car's eco and normal driving modes, the CVT feels lazy and slow. In sport mode, the CVT can't seem to figure out where it wants to be, making manual shifting a necessity just to get the darn thing to work normally. It's not that Infiniti doesn't have a regular torque converter automatic to use, it's that Nissan is absolutely infatuated with CVTs for whatever stupid reason. Oh yeah, and whoever worked on the intake and exhaust sound engineering for this car? What the hell were you thinking? The engine sounds like straight up garbage. To this, I say to you:

The handling of the QX50 is pretty much what most people would expect of any CUV in this class: just very "meh." Because of the added ride height, the car rolls quite a bit during cornering and can feel quite nervous when needing to execute quicker maneuvering. The biggest problem though is the vehicle's lack of adaptive dampers, which is now becoming standard equipment on CUVs of the same class (hell, my Civic Si has adaptive dampers). Some adaptive dampers would go a long way to making the car more sporty when the driver wants it, while maintaining the car's ride comfort when the sporty handling isn't needed.

Lastly, there's the problem of the interior. It's certainly not bad, but boy is there a ton of plastic for a $45,000 car. It would be forgivable if said plastic was of the soft touch variety, but it's not. A lot of the surfaces that are commonly touched are of the rough, hard, hollow sounding variety. Even if you got the package that includes wood trim, I'm not positive it would really class up the interior much. There's also the issue of that dual touch-screen infotainment system. My family has owned quite a number of Hondas and Acuras with their iteration of the dual screen system. They've all sucked, as far as I'm concerned. Infiniti's version sucks just as bad. It's slow, the graphics are outdated, and it's hugely distracting. Why anyone still thinks this is a great idea is beyond me.

OK, so I've shit on the QX50 quite a bit, and we still have the car for another year or so. In analyzing the QX50 though, I've come to the conclusion that Infiniti is not long for this world. Many of the company's decisions have been moronic at best when it comes to vehicle packaging and which models to keep. With former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn out of the picture, is there a chance Infiniti could recover? I'm not so optimistic. In fact, car blogger/reviewer Doug DeMuro recently put out a video on his More Doug DeMuro channel about how Infiniti is pretty much done for, and I more or less agree with it. Check it out for yourself below:

But as I've mentioned above, we still have the QX50 for another year. Even though it's not the most interesting vehicle, we will continue to post about it until we have to hand the keys back over to Infiniti. I'm just hoping in that time we'll find some sort of redeeming quality about the car that we missed the first time around.   

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