In­finiti re-imag­ines the en­gine’s in­ter­nals

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - MOTORING - DAMIEN REID

Has the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine just earned a stay of ex­e­cu­tion against the ral­ly­ing elec­tri­fi­ca­tion army? De­spite im­prove­ments such as fuel in­jec­tion, tur­bocharg­ing and vari­able valve tim­ing, the en­gine as we know it has barely changed over the past cen­tury.

Now, just as we’re about to farewell the petrol burner and switch to elec­tric­ity, In­finiti – Nis­san’s pres­tige arm – has fit­ted a re-imag­ined en­gine to its new QX50 premium mid-size SUV.

The re­sult of two decades of de­vel­op­ment, the 2.0-litre turbo (200kW/380Nm) fea­tures a rev­o­lu­tion­ary vari­able com­pres­sion ra­tio to op­ti­mise power, torque and econ­omy at the same time.

Due for an Aus­tralian launch late this year, the QX50 slots between the QX30 and the QX70 to take on the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Its en­gine is reck­oned to match the power of the 3.5-litre V6 fit­ted to the pre­vi­ous QX50 sold in the US, but with more torque and nearly 30 per cent bet­ter fuel econ­omy.

The com­pany also claims it is 10 to 15 per cent thriftier than ri­vals.

The QX50’s con­stant vari­able trans­mis­sion feels un­der­whelm­ing, a trait of its kind, even with eight pre­set “ra­tios” to take the power to all four wheels. It claims 6.7 se­conds for the 0-100km/h sprint and a top speed of 230km/h.

In­finiti fits its semi-au­ton­o­mous ProPilot As­sist – the em­pha­sis is firmly on “as­sist”, as it can par­tially steer along on a well-marked high­way. In stop-start traf­fic, it main­tains a set dis­tance to cars ahead, stop­ping com­pletely if nec­es­sary.

Sev­eral of the func­tions re­quire elec­tric rather than me­chan­i­cal steer­ing but this comes at the price of numb, game con­sole-like feed­back.

With V6 lev­els of power, diesel-like torque fig­ures and the un­com­mon fuel econ­omy for an SUV (10.4L/100km), the QX50’s en­gine rep­re­sents ar­guably the big­gest ad­vance in in­ter­nal com­bus­tion tech­nol­ogy since Honda’s VTEC vari­able valve tim­ing break­through on the NSX nearly 30 years ago.

It could just buy the tried and proved petrol pow­er­train another decade be­fore we make the main­stream jump to elec­tric or hy­dro­gen plat­forms.

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