Infiniti's 2019 QX50 Compact Crossover Sports A New Engine And Semi-Autonomous Technology

Infiniti will add this month a new SUV to its quiver as it strives to distinguish itself in one of the fastest-growing, most competitive segments in the U.S.: compact luxury crossovers. But with the introduction 2019 Infiniti QX50, the brand has an ace up its sleeve: a turbocharged gasoline engine that functions with the efficiency of a diesel.

The redesigned mid-size premium SUV is intended to trump competition from the likes of Lexus, Acura, and Audi with the debut of two new technologies, the VC-Turbo engine and Pro PILOT Assist, the advanced driver assistance suite from Infiniti’s Nissan parent company. The QX50, which starts at $36,550 and slots between Infiniti’s smallest QX30 and largest QX80 SUVs, is integral to the brand’s continuing efforts to improve its name recognition and grow its sales.

The VC-Turbo engine, which Infiniti says is the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine, is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that runs on gasoline but performs like a diesel. It’s not as powerful – the new engine delivers 268 horsepower, compared with 325 for the V6 underpinning the QX50’s previous generation – but can vary its compression ratio for efficiency. In front-wheel-drive models, Infiniti says the new engine is 35% more efficient than the outgoing model’s. New all-wheel-drive models are 30% more efficient.

 

That adds up to significant fuel savings for the five-passenger SUV, an attractive proposition for Infiniti’s target customers: empty nesters. The QX50 gets 27 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models and 26 mpg combined for models equipped with all-wheel drive, pulling the SUV ahead in a pack crowded with popular nameplates including the Lexus NX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Acura RDX, a model which once led the segment and is poised for a comeback with a redesigned 2019 model.

“The VC-T engine is important for what it can deliver to customers: better efficiency for the power it delivers,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Markit. “Whether consumers all fully understand the technology is less important that how it drives and if it can deliver the promised benefits. As the engine will be a key powertrain for Infiniti’s portfolio going forward, it is critical that it deliver on the power, fuel efficiency and refinement it promises.”

The ProPILOT suite, which also powers the Nissan Leaf EV and Nissan Rogue SUV and serves as an umbrella for Nissan’s semi-autonomous driving technologies, helps control acceleration, braking, and steering on single-lane highway driving, which Infiniti says is useful for long-haul drives as well as the type of stop-and-go traffic endemic to cities like Los Angeles.

“The QX50 is important because the segment is the largest premium segment, but also because Infiniti is on a path to reviving its brand,” Brinley said. “One vehicle won’t re-establish the brand’s reputation, but it can move the needle substantially and provide a strong base for continued momentum.”

CarsRochelle GrenierForbes