QX50 gets ma­jor in­te­rior makeover

The Labradorian - - Editorial - BY KELLY TAY­LOR WHEELS

The new QX50 is down a bit in horse­power from the out­go­ing model, but it’s up 13 pound-feet in torque, which is a more im­por­tant bench­mark than horse­power.

The new QX50 also rep­re­sents a ma­jor makeover on the in­te­rior, with a more driver-cen­tric dash that an­gles key fea­tures to­ward the driver. There’s also an up­grade to the in­te­rior fin­ish­ing, with suede leather ac­cents, wood trim that ac­tu­ally looks like real wood and a new shiftby-wire trans­mis­sion se­lec­tor that saves con­sid­er­able room on the cen­tre con­sole, no longer need­ing to shift from park to re­verse to neu­tral to drive to low.

In­stead, you push on the re­lease lever on the front of the shifter and push it for­ward for re­verse and pull it back­ward for drive. It may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but it works, es­pe­cially since it means a typ­i­cal mo­tion of the lever to move from drive to re­verse and vice-versa. A but­ton be­hind the shift lever se­lects park.

De­vel­oped at the same time as the VC-turbo engine, but for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son other than co­in­ci­dence, is a new tech­nol­ogy in engine mounts, which In­finiti calls ac­tive torque rod.

“It’s like noise-can­celling head­phones for the engine,” said Kyle Wierzbicki, chief mar­ket­ing man­ager for In­finiti Canada.

The ac­tive torque rod reads data from the engine com­puter, as well as vi­bra­tions hap­pen­ing in real time, and ap­plies an off­set­ting vi­bra­tion, which ef­fec­tively can­cels the vi­bra­tion.

There are other fac­tors at play, in­clud­ing in­su­la­tion on the fire­wall and acous­tic glass in the wind­shield, but the net re­sult is a cabin that is ex­cep­tion­ally quiet, even un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion. Mu­sic is eas­ily heard, con­ver­sa­tion is ex­cep­tion­ally easy.

The big­gest sur­prise for me was the QX50’s trans­mis­sion. I hate con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sions with a pas­sion. In many ve­hi­cles, it’s like driv­ing a snow­mo­bile. The QX50 is the ex­cep­tion that proves the rule.

Ow­ing to the engine’s torque, and the trans­mis­sion’s abil­ity to mimic shifts, the CVT in the QX50 is also re­mark­ably un­ob­tru­sive, from a con­ven­tional au­to­matic, that is. I re­ally can’t say I had any com­plaints about how it trans­ferred power. It may be the one CVT I ac­tu­ally don’t mind.

Now, all is not with­out the odd lit­tle wart, how­ever. The VC-turbo and CVT com­bi­na­tion seem to con­spire, slightly, against ef­fort­less ac­cel­er­a­tion.

It’s likely a com­bi­na­tion of slight turbo lag, a slight de­lay in ad­just­ing the com­pres­sion ra­tio and a bit of de­lay in get­ting the trans­mis­sion to down­shift, but there’s a bit of a lag and you re­ally have to put your foot into it to get the ac­cel­er­a­tion you seek.

Once you do, how­ever, you are re­warded, and one peek at your fuel bill means all is for­given.

The QX50 does, how­ever, have all the power on tap av­er­age driv­ers will want.

In Canada, the QX50 is avail­able only as an all-wheel driver, un­like the U.S., where a front­drive model is sold. Which ex­plains the trans­verse mount­ing of the engine: Wen­del says trans­verse mount­ing is bet­ter suited to front-drive ve­hi­cles, of which In­finiti U.S.A. ex­pects to sell a lot.

The AWD sys­tem de­liv­ers 100 per cent of torque to the front wheels, and up to 50 per cent torque to the rear wheels when slip is de­tected. Wen­del said the sys­tem is also able to trans­fer torque from side-to-side when re­quired.

Cana­dian mod­els also come with a cold-weather pack­age as stan­dard, in­clud­ing heated front seats, heated steer­ing wheel, engine block heater, wiper de-icer and re­mote engine start.

ProPILOT As­sist, Nis­san’s first step to­ward au­tonomous driv­ing, is avail­able on QX50. You have to take two steps up the grade­walk, to the ProAc­tive trim level, to get it. That takes the price from the base model

($44,490) to $52,990.

The QX50 tops out with the Au­to­graph model, at $57,990. Here, you get all the toys plus pre­mium leather seat­ing with hand-stitched quilt­ing and blue ul­tra­suede on the up­per door, in­stru­ment panel and con­sole.

It gives the QX50 a strik­ing nau­ti­cal look, but that the leather in this model is white is a bit of a chal­lenge for the parental set, not to men­tion I wouldn’t rec­om­mend wear­ing blue jeans.

The QX50 will tow 3,000 pounds, but in Sen­sory ($56,490) and Au­to­graph ($57,990) mod­els only. Other mod­els are not rated for tow­ing, how­ever a hitch re­ceiver is pro­vided for ac­ces­sories only, such as a hitch-mounted cargo or bike car­rier.

Cargo ca­pac­ity ex­ceeds all ri­vals, aided by a slid­ing rear seat that ei­ther adds cargo space or moves a child seat closer to the par­ents. Push­ing the rear shock tow­ers out to the sides also cuts down on in­tru­sions.

When it first ap­peared in 2007, the QX35 ar­guably launched the pre­mium com­pact cross­over seg­ment. Since then, it’s been joined by ri­vals from Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Acura, BMW and Land Rover. If the new QX50 doesn’t raise the bar, it at least meets any new bench­mark.

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