LOS ANGELES, California — I must admit I’ve been having a hard time falling in love with the 2019 Infiniti QX50 we have in for a Four Seasons evaluation, despite logging the first 1,000 miles or so in it on a road trip to Phoenix. Blame not the new car, but the old: I have a particular fondness for the outgoing QX50 (née EX), a close relative of the G, and miss it dreadfully. The new car simply isn’t a direct replacement for the old.
Still, as much as I love living in the past (oh, we won’t give in!), that’s not fair to the QX, so I decided to compare some of its features to a couple of its modern-day competitors we recently had in from Germany, Britain, and Sweden. How did the Infiniti stack up against the Europeans?
QX50 vs BMW X3
I was surprised by how much the X3 reminded me of the QX50. The BMW and the Infiniti are the most car-like of this quartet, with low driving positions and a view out the windshield over a broad hood that emphasizes width rather than height. Like the QX50, the X3 is bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside, but to my eyes at least the QX50 has sexier proportions.
When it comes to the cabin, though, I prefer the layout of the X3. Granted, it’s a carbon-copy of our Four Seasons M550i. And the X4 I recently drove. And pretty much every BMW I’ve been in over the past three years. Present-generation BMW interiors prioritize buttons over menus for stereo and climate controls—something that is almost true of our QX50—but compared to the X3’s well-organized dash, the Infiniti’s is a bit of a hot mess, with two screens that don’t quite match and buttons scattered hither and thither. Of these four vehicles, to me the X3 has the best dashboard layout.
The driving experience did come as a bit of a surprise. I’ve been roundly poo-poo-ing those who say BMW has lost its way, but the X3 provides a reasonable argument in their favor. The suspension tuning is softer than I expected, though the ride was firmer than the Volvo and the QX50 and more comfortable than the F-Pace. It floated a bit over larger bumps, and while the handling was good for a crossover—and arguably appropriate given the X3’s family-friendly mission—I was surprised at how well our QX50 fared in comparison. Chalk it up to an inferiority complex, but the QX seemed to attack the curves with more gusto, and it didn’t help that the X3’s base 2.0-liter engine in the model we tested felt pokier than the others.
QX50 vs Jaguar F-Pace
The Jaguar F-Pace delivered the driving experience I was expecting from the BMW, and now that I’ve experienced it, I’m not sure that’s really the best thing. No question, the Jag is the sports car of this bunch, with a firm ride and minimal body roll. That’s exactly what we want in a sports sedan, but is it what we want in a family truckster?
The F-Pace was less comfortable than the QX50 and it hit the bumps harder—not terribly surprising given its sporting intentions. Additionally, I found that the F-Pace’s stability control system triggers way too early, cutting power when you need it most. You can turn it off, but on the canyon roads between Malibu and Thousand Oaks, one risks falling off the side of the road and into a canyon, where the wreck is unlikely to be found until a wildfire comes through and clears the brush. Not fun. And not family-friendly.
Another frustration from the Jag: Compared to the others here, the cabin feels woefully dated, and that’s worrying as it’s only in its second year. I’m not one to complain about Jag/Land Rover’s infotainment system; once you learn its foibles it’s pretty straightforward, and arguably easier to use than that of the Infiniti. But the plastic buttons, chunky graphics, and lagging dash display make the F-Pace feel a decade old when compared to the modern interfaces in the Infiniti, BMW, and Volvo. We know the company can do better; the closely-related Range Rover Velar’s cabin décor is better in every way. It’s a shame that Jaguar got the short end of the stick.
QX50 vs Volvo XC60
The XC60 reminded me of the QX50 almost as much as the Bimmer did—in the case of the Volvo, because of the steering and handling. The Volvo shares the Infiniti’s light steering feel, a trait I rather like. The QX50 goes one step further thanks to a feature called “Park with Easy Steering,” which reduces effort to nearly nil at parking-lot speeds. This feature can be switched off, but why anyone would want to is beyond me.
From there, though, the similarities start to fade. The XC60 feels bigger than the QX50, with a taller driving position more in line with what one would normally expect from a modern day crossover. (I’m noting that, not passing judgment.) It also feels wider on narrow canyon roads. Body control is good in the curves, just like our QX, but selecting “Sport” mode doesn’t do enough to tighten up the handling; it just makes the ride feel jittery. I did like the power of the XC60’s T6 engine, but the transmission hunted between gears during demanding driving—something our QX50 doesn’t do, as its CVT has no fixed gear ratios.
Let’s talk about the infotainment system. When Volvo first introduced its tablet-like interface, which groups nearly all secondary controls on the portrait-mounted touch-screen, I raved about it. But the more I use this system, the less I like it. The QX50’s dual-screen setup may be overly complex, but I like being able to display the map on one screen and satellite radio info on the other. The Volvo requires constant switching. And complicated as the QX50’s climate controls might be, at least the buttons to change the temp or fan are easy to use (once you find them). I never thought any infotainment system could make me miss the QX50’s, but the Volvo came close.
In a way, the Volvo’s touch-screen is a metaphor for the way it compares to the QX as a whole: It looks better at first glance, but the more you use it, the more you appreciate the Infiniti.
After driving some of its competitors, I came away with a renewed respect and appreciation for the Infiniti QX50. I still miss the muscle car EX, but even a curmudgeon like me must come to terms with the pace of time, and the new QX50 compares well against its European competitors. One thing’s for sure, I like the QX50 a lot better after my comparison drive than I did before.
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