Luxury crossover vehicles are expected to be many things, but you’ll usually find most emphasize some attributes and inevitably ask for compromises in other areas. The 2015 Infiniti QX50 is no exception: It’s designed to appeal to buyers who first and foremost want a crossover with the agility and fun-to-drive factor of a sport sedan – and don’t mind sacrificing some utility to get it.
The 2015 QX50’s performance is top drawer: sharp responses and brisk acceleration contrast with the more conservative-minded abilities of most crossovers. You also get an upscale cabin, a high level of standard equipment and most of the electronic features you expect from a premium vehicle. But there’s no avoiding the tighter packaging and reduced passenger and cargo capacity the QX50 trades for its nimbleness and easy-to-park dimensions. Rear-seat width and legroom is skimpy enough that adults won’t want to spend significant time back there, while cargo space is more akin to a hatchback than an SUV.
There are other premium crossovers with their own ideas about the balance between "sport" and "utility," and we’d suggest you try them all to understand the spectrum. If the QX50’s size appeals to you, the similarly compact BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class are compelling alternatives that emphasize sport. A step up from there, the 2015 Lexus NX 200 may also lack cargo-carrying potential, but it boasts more passenger space and compelling engine choices. If utility is more of a priority, the 2015 Acura RDX and 2015 Volvo XC60 are two of the most functional and family-friendly compact crossovers.
There’s no question the 2015 Infiniti QX50 is oriented well toward the sporty end of the crossover spectrum, so if that’s your priority and you view a crossover’s extra utility mainly as a bonus when compared to a sport sedan, you’re likely to find the 2015 Infiniti QX50 has the balance just right.
Infiniti’s aim with the modest dimensions of the QX50 was to create a crossover that has genuine handling ability. If that’s a priority, you won’t be disappointed: The QX50 handles more like a sport sedan than just about any compact crossover. Accurate and communicative steering and the QX50’s relative absence of body lurch during cornering give you a lot of confidence, even on challenging back roads. The brakes also snap to your commands, a trait not always present in utility vehicles, even those with premium badges.
Meanwhile, the QX50’s compact size pays another performance dividend: It’s got less weight to carry around, so the V6’s throaty 325 hp should accelerate this crossover more quickly than most competitors. When accelerating, you might hear a little more engine and wind noise than in other luxury crossovers, but it’s never an annoyance and mostly underscores, in a pleasant way, the small Infiniti’s genuine sport orientation. Whatever extra noise might be generated is more than balanced by this crossover’s agreeable and compliant drive quality.
The 2015 Infiniti QX50 is a five-passenger luxury crossover that comes in two trim levels: base and Journey. Rear-wheel drive is standard for both, with all-wheel drive optional for either trim.
Standard equipment on the entry-level QX50 includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, power-folding heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, leather upholstery, power front seats (eight-way driver, four-way passenger), heated front seats (all-wheel-drive models only), 60/40-split-folding rear seats, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 7-inch display, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary sound jack and an iPod/USB sound interface.
If you want additional equipment, chances are you’ll be required to get a fair bit of stuff you don’t want. This is because options first require the Journey trim and then are grouped into a package that likely requires at least one other options package.
Stepping up to the Journey model gets you a sunroof, heated front seats (includes rear-wheel-drive models), wood interior trim and a power-adjustable steering wheel.
Selecting the Journey trim brings access to the QX50’s three option packages. The Premium package includes a 360-degree camera maneuvering-assist system, front and rear parking sensors, roof rails, an air purifier, Bluetooth sound connectivity, a navigation system, real-time traffic, voice controls and an 11-speaker Bose sound system.
With the Premium package selected, the door opens to the Deluxe Touring package. It includes 19-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, driver-seat functions, driver two-way power lumbar adjustment, an eight-way power passenger seat and a folding rear seat with power raising.
Finally, with all of the above on board, you can then select the Technology package that includes lane-departure warning and prevention systems, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic braking and a blind-spot monitoring system.
Infiniti’s reputation for meticulously assembled interiors is fully on display with the 2015 QX50. The standard leather upholstery joins high-quality plastics and a pleasing overall design for a cabin that has a distinctly premium look and feel despite being unchanged since this model was introduced seven years ago. This age makes the QX50’s user-friendly electronics interface all the more impressive, as it continues to shine in contrast to the fussy arrangements of many other luxury vehicles. You find yourself quickly orienting to operating the system, which deftly integrates aspects of touchscreen, voice and multifunction controller operations.
The QX50’s elevated driving position offers good visibility and the front seats are supportive and long-distance comfortable. It’s mainly in the rear seat that the QX50’s comparatively compact packaging becomes evident. The rear seat can literally accommodate three occupants, but they won’t be comfortable. There’s also enough of a legroom shortage that normal-sized adults will feel squeezed. Most competitors and even some sport sedans are more spacious.
As you might expect, cargo space is not this crossover’s strong suit, either: There are just 18.6 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats and with them folded, 47.4 cubic feet in total. Though similar to the BMW X1, it pales in comparison to the majority of compact luxury crossovers.
Standard safety features on the 2015 Infiniti QX50 include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side-curtain airbags and active front head restraints. A rearview camera also is standard.
The optional Technology package adds forward-collision warning and mitigation through automatic engagement of the brakes. Also included are blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and a lane-keeping assist system.
In SUVS brake testing of previous model years, we recorded a 60-0 miles per hour stopping distance of 118 feet, which is a very good result for this class.
In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the QX50 earned a top score of "Good" in the moderate overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. Its head restraints and seat design also received a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The 2015 Infiniti QX50 has a single engine and transmission pair: a 3.7-liter V6 that generates 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. A 7-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is an option for either the base or Journey trim. The EPA’s estimated fuel economy is 20 miles per gallon combined (17 city/25 highway) with rear-wheel drive and 20 miles per gallon combined (17/24) with all-wheel drive, which infringes marginally on highway fuel efficiency.
Sharp handling; strong V6 engine; compliant ride; easy-to-use electronics interface.
The 2015 Infiniti QX50 is one of the most engaging small luxury crossovers to drive, and the price is right, too. Just don’t expect it to haul people and stuff like its roomier competitors can.