2016 Infiniti QX50 Test Drive and Review

Photo (c) Infiniti

Bottom Line

As a general rule, we at SUVs.About.com are big fans of Infiniti. They build powerful, distinctive SUVs that have strong personalities and are a lot of fun to drive. The QX50 (introduced in 2008 as the EX35 and little changed until this year) fit the mold, though its small back seat made it hard to recommend.

After years of neglect, Infiniti has finally gotten around to improving the 2016 QX50 by stretching its length and improving back-seat room.

Is that enough to put it on our list of recommended SUVs? Let's drive it and find out. The 2016 Infiniti QX50 has a starting price of $35,445 and is covered by a 4 year/60,000-mile warranty with 6 years/70,000 miles of powertrain coverage.

Pros:

Big fun to drive, more like a sports car than an SUV

Rides more comfortably than Infiniti's sporty cars

Now offers adequate back-seat legroom

Cons:

V6 engine prefers premium fuel… and lots of it

Review: 2016 Infiniti QX50

When the Infiniti EX35 hit the market in 2008, we liked everything about it except the cramped back seat. It's taken them a while—two Presidential terms!—but Infiniti has finally gotten around to fixing this flaw, which they've done by making the QX50 (Infiniti changed the name in 2014) four and a half inches longer, 3.2 inches of which has been added between the wheels. In order to maintain the QX50's proportions, the ride height has been increased by eight-tenths of an inch, and despite a new bulging hood and jutting bumper (which appears to give the QX50 a bit of an underbite) it's hard to tell the new model from the old one at first glance.

Handsome as the QX50 is, that's a good thing.

Most of the extra length has been used to increase back seat legroom, and the difference is astounding: The QX50's back seat has gone from cramped to comfortable. There's still a massive driveline “hump” running down the middle of the car; the QX50 is based on a rear-drive platform, so it lacks the flatter floors of front-drive-based models like the Audi Q5 and Acura RDX.

But with about four inches more knee- and leg-room, two adults can now sit in back in reasonable comfort. Luggage space with the back seats folded down increases slightly to 50.1 cubic feet, but with all seats in place it's still a meager 18.6 cubic feet.

We'll have more of the same, thank you

Other than that, not much has changed for the QX50, and that's a good thing. The fact that the dashboard still looks modern and fresh is testament to the skill of Infiniti's designers. I've always been a fan of the Infiniti's infotainment system, which uses both touch-screen and dial inputs; it's a sensible choice that many automakers are just discovering, but that Infiniti has offered for years. And I can't say enough good things about the quality of materials and switchgear. A good luxury SUV makes the owner feel like they can afford a premium vehicle, and the QX50 does just that at every turn.

Speaking of turns, the QX50 remains a favorite of mine to drive. Power comes from a 3.7-liter V6, and if the 325 hp figure doesn't sound impressive, the acceleration is, though the seven-speed automatic transmission can be a little slow to downshift and serve up all that power. The QX50 harks back to the days when all SUVs offered stout V6 engines; unfortunately its EPA fuel economy estimates are woefully behind the times at 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

If you give in to the siren song of the V6's power, expect mid-to-high teens in everyday driving. Bear in mind that Infiniti recommends (but does not require) premium fuel, making this an expensive SUV to feed. (Infiniti has announced a more modern and fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder for the Q50, sedan equivalent to the QX50, but there's no word on whether this engine will make it to the QX50. Let's hope it does.)

A sports car among SUVs

Powering the QX50 through the turns is an utter joy; the QX50 corners with verve and grips the pavement firmly, though the ride is commendably subdued. This is a sports car among SUVs, and I loved driving it. In situations where more couth is required, the optional Distance Control Assist (a distant relative of adaptive cruise control) comes in handy—it eases off the throttle and applies the brakes as the QX50 approaches other car.

It sounds horribly obtrusive, but in practice it's like having an invisible co-driver to work the brakes when needed. Once I got used to it, I love it. (I worry, though, about QX50 drivers who will get used to the system, then get into their spouse's car without DCA and rear-end someone in traffic.)

Pricing starts at $35,445 (all-wheel-drive models are $1,400 more), and there's good value to be had with leather upholstery, heated front seats and a sunroof all standard. A Premium Package bundles a Bose stereo, power-adjustable steering column, maple interior trim, and a memory function for the driver's seat and mirrors, and at a mere $500 it's not so much an option as it is a giveaway. With all the add-ons, including adaptive cruise and the around-view monitor (which gives a top-down view that makes parking a breeze), the 2016 Infiniti QX50 tops out at $44,995, though dealer-installed accessories can raise that by another $1,700 or so.

Infiniti QX50 vs. the competition

With its sporty demeanor, the most obvious competitor is the BMW X1, which is great to drive and offers a more fuel-efficient and modern turbo engine—though the QX50 now bests it on back-seat space. The Audi Q5 is another wonderful alternative, with a roomy back seat and a powerful and surprisingly fuel-efficient diesel engine offered as an option. But its interior is more austere than the QX50. The Porsche Macan may be the sportiest SUV in the class, but it is also the priciest.

The QX50 stands out as a luxurious, athletic, value-laden luxury SUV—and now we can add “roomy” to its list of accolades. Would I recommend it? That thirsty V6 engine under the hood makes it very difficult; a spike in gas prices will give Infiniti owners a punch right to the wallet. Other than that, the Infiniti QX50 remains a favorite. Aaron Gold

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review. For more information, see our .