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Infiniti is preparing to add a new SUV to its line, drawing inspiration from the old FX. The approach emphasizes “sport” in “sport utility,” prioritizing the driving experience and coupelike design over passenger space and cargo-toting ability. It’s what the BMW X4 is for the X3. Clearly, Infiniti concluded that if the German competitors offer such variants, there is a market potential.
Aside from its coupelike styling, a key selling point is its innovative engine. However, we have had mixed experience with that same powerplant in the QX50 sibling that we tested.
Nissan’s luxury brand introduced the QX55 online, teasing several key features, and leaving some details under wraps until closer to the crossover’s spring on-sale date.
Here’s what we know so far.
The QX55 looks like a coupe version of the QX50, emphasizing the front row over the rest of the vehicle. A key feature is its variable-compression turbocharged engine. We experienced this powerplant on our tested QX50, where it delivered quick acceleration with hardly any turbo lag. However, the continuously variable transmission allowed the engine to hold revs for too long, creating a decidedly non-luxurious sound and detracting from the driving experience. We found that the engine did not live up to the bold fuel economy claims. The company cited 26 mpg combined (city and highway) when the QX50 was introduced for 2019. We measured just 22 mpg overall in our tests, putting it on par with larger, more powerful SUVs. And it required premium fuel. Subsequently, the official EPA estimate was downgraded to 25 mpg.
It may be novel technology, but in terms of acceleration and fuel economy, the QX50 didn’t show an advantage over its peers. We hope the engine has been further refined, both in character and efficiency, for this new model.
The QX55 looks like a less practical QX50, with a sloped rear roof and short side glass. Visibility from the driver’s seat is likely compromised as a result. The angled headlights and prominent grille give the front an angry visage, with bold scoops at the corners that house fog lamps. The result is the first coupelike SUV from a premium Japanese brand since the original FX, aiming squarely at a segment that the German automakers have been cultivating in recent years.
Dimensionally, it shares its wheelbase with the QX50 and it has a near identical length and width.
Like the regular QX50, the cabin looks to be an intimate design, with numerous accents and panel sculpting creating a fluid appearance, rather than blocky, defined sections. Buyers can choose from three available color combinations, breaking the monotone tradition among many upscale models.
Leatherette upholstery and heated seats are standard, and real cowhide is available. Abundant stitching and open-pore wood trim promise to enrich the cabin with premium flair.
The cabin uses active noise cancellation and active sound enhancement to hush the cabin. We hope that helps tame the engine sounds.
The quiet can be filled with sound from an available Bose audio system. The dual-screen infotainment system is Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay-compatible.
To help stream media, the QX55 features 4G LTE WiFi that can support up to seven devices.
What Drives It
The QX55 is propelled by a variable-compression 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In an attempt to provide high-power output and high fuel efficiency, this unique engine is able to automatically alter its compression ratio between 14:1 and 8:1—this refers to the relationship between the greatest and the smallest volume above the piston as it moves up and down in the cylinder, where the air-fuel mixture combusts, thereby moving the piston and generating power. It sounds complex, but we haven’t found an unequivocal advantage, as outlined above.
Total output is 268 horsepower. The engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission. And drivers can tailor the response among Standard, Eco, Sport, and Personal (aka customized) modes.
Unlike the QX50, which can be had with front-wheel drive, every QX55 is equipped with all-wheel drive. The power is split evenly between the front and rear wheels on takeoff, and it can route up to 100 percent of the power to the front as traction needs dictate.
Safety and Driver Assistance Systems
Every QX55 will come with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, and rear cross traffic warning. Further, it will be offered with the ProPilot Assist suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features. Infiniti has stated that the package combines steering assistance and adaptive cruise control to try to make driving easier. These features can make driving more convenient, especially in stop-and-go traffic. Drivers still need to constantly pay attention and be ready to take over when needed.
We recently compared 17 driver assistance systems, and ProPilot Assist ranked among the bottom half in our overall ratings.