Auto Weekend Wheels

Weekend Wheels: Infiniti’s 2020 QX50 is a spa on wheels

Photos by Howard Walker.
Luxury Living Tampa Bay

Since when did picking out a new car feel like choosing a spa treatment? 

Anyone in the market for Infiniti’s delectable new QX50 mid-size crossover gets to pick from one of four versions: Pure, Luxe, Essential (I wonder if oils come with that) and Sensory.

Me, I kinda like the sound of the Sensory version, though I’m disappointed it doesn’t come with massaging seats. Who wouldn’t want a Sensory massage?

I guess it’s Infiniti’s marketing gurus just being playful, trying to get this latest QX to stand out from the crowd. 

Probably works better than trying to create some buzz with a QX50 Buzz Lightyear “To Infiniti and Beyond” edition. 

I’ve had the “hots” — no, not hot rocks — for this high-luxe SUV since it landed on the market just over a year ago. Priced from around $38,000 to almost $60k, it locks horns with rivals like Lexus’s NX 300, Acura’s RDX, Audi’s Q5, the BMW X3, Cadillac XT5 and the Range Rover Evoque.  

At launch, the head-turning QX made headlines for featuring the world’s first variable compression engine. Infiniti called it the VC-Turbo, and it was the result of 20 years of painstaking development.

OK, stay with me, because there’s some pretty tricky stuff going on here. 

What it does is vary the compression ratio of this 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder by means of a motorized lever that adjusts the length of the piston’s stroke. 

What it delivers is much beefier torque at lower revs — an impressive 280 lb-ft from just 1,600 rpm. Plus plenty of power — 268-hp —and excellent fuel economy with its combined 27mpg average. 

All that said, when I drove it last year, I wasn’t overly impressed. It just didn’t really feel or perform that differently from every other four-cylinder turbo engine out there. 

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a terrific little engine. But I guess I expected more from such ground-breaking technology. 

Thankfully the new QX50 is much more than a fancy engine. There’s a new front-drive chassis that offers big benefits in interior space. With rear seats that slide backwards, legroom in the back is positively limo-like.

Yet perhaps most important in this style-focused segment of the market, the QX50 looks positively stunning. 

From its bold, gaping front grille, bulging hood and swept-back LED headlights to its sculpted waistline and funky zig-zag rear roof pillar, it’s a shape that will spin heads faster than a Beyoncé sighting at Best Buy.

But what really sets this sexy-looking Infiniti apart is its gorgeous cabin, especially in the top-trim versions. I’ve just spent a week with the range-topping $56,875 QX50 Autograph AWD and could happily have lived inside it.

While the Premium White Leather package costs an extra $2,000, it’s worth every cent. It comes with best-of-the-best white semi-aniline leather that’s diamond-quilted and perforated, brown leather accents and blue Ultrasuede on the center console. Trust me, it’s gorgeous.

Even without the fancy white leather, the QX50’s interior is a cut above, with lovely upscale materials, terrific fit and finish and a feeling of quality and craftsmanship.

And even though the QX50 has only been out for just over a year, Infiniti has given it some worthwhile upgrades for 2020. 

The twin infotainment screens get crisper, clearer graphics and better touch sensitivity. And both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard.

More important, a number of once-optional technologies — like lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking — are also now standard. 

As for the driving experience, the new Q offers just enough agility to be sporty, while still focusing on comfort and refinement.

And just like your favorite spa treat, this head-turning Infiniti will relax and revive you, and wrap you in a warm glow.

Just remember not to put the cucumbers over your eyes while driving.

Test drive the new QX50 at Infiniti of Tampa, and Lokey Infiniti in Clearwater. 

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