With a handsome design and an innovative engine, the 2021 Infiniti QX50 has some desirable and unique qualities for a compact luxury crossover. The Infiniti’s upscale outward appearance, as well as its posh and spacious interior, will entice shoppers who might otherwise consider segment stalwarts such as the Audi Q5 or the Mercedes-Benz GLC-class. However, the QX50’s one-of-a-kind engine that’s meant to maximize fuel efficiency and performance fails to do either better than competitors such as the BMW X3 or the truly sporty Porsche Macan. Without the compelling personality of those alternatives, Infiniti’s compact two-row crossover does little to upend the status quo. Sure, the 2021 QX50 is sophisticated enough to satisfy anyone upgrading from a Nissan, but that’s about it.
What’s New for 2021?
Infiniti updates the 2021 QX50 lineup with some minor alterations. Every model now comes with a Wi-Fi hotspot, laminated front side glass, and side-mounted airbags in the rear seat. Mineral Black joins the list of optional paint colors, too. Along with heated front seats, the Luxe model now comes standard with more driver assists, as well as a blackout package. Driver assists include adaptive cruise control, an enhanced blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist, and a semi-autonomous feature called ProPilot Assist. The new appearance package on the Luxe model adds black-painted 20-inch wheels, dark chrome accents, and black mirror caps and grille mesh.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We think the mid-level Essential is the best choice. Those who want all-wheel drive will have to dole out another $2000. There’s also a decent amount of standard equipment, including a 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, front parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and more. However, upgrading from the lesser Luxe model unlocks more options. We think the Convenience package is worth selecting since it ups the luxury quotient with a power-adjustable steering column, a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, and enhanced memory settings.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every QX50 is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that uses variable compression—called VC-Turbo. The engine makes 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque and pairs with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that directs power to either the front or all four wheels. The engine seamlessly swaps between high compression during steady cruising and low compression during hard acceleration. While it never exhilarates when the pedal hits the metal, only those seeking a seriously quick crossover will be disappointed. Unfortunately, the engine is loud under heavy throttle, and the CVT makes this worse, especially around town. The Infiniti prioritizes comfort and luxury, with a compliant ride that is composed on rough roads and smooth on the highway. Passengers are also well isolated from choppy sections of road. The steering feedback is balanced, and it firms up in the selectable Dynamic and Dynamic+ steering modes. While the steering wheel provides little communication with the road surface, it has accurate reactions and light effort. Unfortunately, the Infiniti’s soft brake pedal operates inconsistently. This leads to more than one shoddy stop in rush-hour traffic where the QX50’s nose dives forward under heavy braking. Still, it only needed a competitive 164 feet to stop from 70 mph in our emergency-braking test.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Despite a revolutionary engine touted as maximizing power and fuel economy, our test vehicle was less efficient than advertised during real-world testing. The EPA rates the front-wheel-drive QX50 at 23 mpg city and 29 highway, and the all-wheel-drive version is rated at 22 mpg city and 28 highway. All these estimates align with the similarly equipped BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, but that’s disappointing when you consider the VC-Turbo engine is intended to be more efficient than traditional alternatives. Likewise, the last all-wheel-drive QX50 we tested on our 75-mph fuel-economy route—part of our extensive testing regimen—fell short of its EPA highway figure and returned 27 mpg in the real world.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the QX50 can be fitted with quilted leather seats, wood interior trim, and a faux-suede headliner. However, these upscale appointments are available only on the most expensive model. Still, every QX50 has a comfortable and quiet cabin that includes a spacious second row with reclining seatbacks that have so far been the highlight of the 2019 QX50 in our long-term test fleet. The QX50 has 31 cubic feet behind the back seat and up to 65 cubes with the 60/40 split-folding rear bench folded flat. We managed to fit nine carry-on suitcases with the seats up and 22 with them down. Both results were two more than the X3 held. While our top-of-the-line test vehicle had the motion-activated power liftgate, none of the lower trims have this useful feature.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The dual-touchscreen infotainment system will bother some more than others. We also were annoyed that the heated steering wheel and custom drive-mode settings are only accessible through this interface. While we appreciated the familiar volume knob, the rotary controller on the center console only operates the top screen. Every model has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. A 16-speaker Bose audio system and mobile hotspot are also optional. Our test vehicle did have several power points, with three USB ports up front and multiple 12-volt outlets, including one in the cargo area.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The QX50 has earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the last version evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was not named a Top Safety Pick. While every model has a host of standard driver-assistance technology, some of the other assists are not available on the bottom two models. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Available adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Although many luxury brands offer complimentary scheduled maintenance, Infiniti does not. It does provide competitive limited and powertrain warranties, along with four years of roadside assistance.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers six years or 70,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
More Features and Specs