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First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

2012-06-02 3
   
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FortsetzenNo car has sat on the sidelines waiting for its moment longer than the Infiniti QX50. As all of its peers grew in popularity, few buyers picked it, despite the fact that it showed up early to the game. Launched as the EX35 for 2008, Infiniti had the
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First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

No car has sat on the sidelines waiting for its moment longer than the Infiniti QX50. As all of its peers grew in popularity, few buyers picked it, despite the fact that it showed up early to the game.

Launched as the EX35 for 2008, Infiniti had the right idea to produce a smaller SUV that was sportier to drive. Unfortunately, it really didn’t take off and faded into obscurity at Infiniti dealerships quickly. Sales peaked in 2008 at less than 13,000 cars sold in the U.S. Things perked up in 2014, the first year of the name change, but only to 2,737 vehicles. Add a zero at the end of that and it’s what the BMW X3 sells in the U.S. in a slow year.

The QX50 finally gets some significant attention eight years into its life, though it’s less a facelift and more of a series of corrections to address some of the car’s biggest shortcomings when put up against other luxury SUVs.

But Infiniti is on the verge of a huge new model wave and the QX50 is very much a product of regimes long past. Has enough done to keep it fresh, not just against other luxury crossovers, but even among its own family?
First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends


A rugged stretch

The QX50’s biggest news is the 3.2-inch stretch to the wheelbase, which is coincidentally what the better-looking QX70’s wheelbase is. Other changes include Infiniti’s attempt at butching up the QX50 with a nominally higher ride height, faux bumper guard and faux skid plate.

While the front and rear ends look fussier than before without actually appearing to be rugged, the side profile has improved in my book. No longer does the front end look twice as big as the rest of the car, as the elongated wheelbase refines the proportions a bit.

But the car still looks a lot like the one that arrived before Barack Obama won his first caucus. And it doesn’t exactly convince you it’s an SUV in the same way a BMW X3 or Acura RDX or even a Lexus NX does – three of the QX50’s chief rivals. The Infiniti still comes off like a wagon version of the old G37, only now it’s like a Volvo Cross Country-esque take on the old G37. Hey, the strategy has worked for Volvo in the States.

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends


Space oddities

The additional four inches of rear legroom in the 2016 QX50, thanks to the wheelbase stretch, makes the rear seat of the car usable for the first time. Four adults will no longer feel like they’re sitting in a leather-lined sardine can.

Yet unlike other stretched cars, including Infiniti’s own Q70L, the QX50 offers reasonable space, but nothing impressive. Cargo space with the rear seats up still comes in at a stingy 18.6 cubic feet, roughly what subcompact crossovers manage.

Infiniti notes the EX was among the first vehicles to have a rear seat that could be folded down at the push of a button, as well as raised back up from switches in both the cargo area as well as up front next to the driver. That really is the most impressive practical feature of this car. At least there’s OK room for bags and pies in the back of the Infiniti.

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

Settle into the QX50 and you’re taken back into the world of mid-2000s luxury. Very little has changed up where the driver sits. That’s unfortunate, because you sit on overstuffed seats and look at overly glossy wood and switchgear that’s now more dated looking than what Nissan puts in cars like the Altima.

At least there are some pluses to the old controls. The navigation system, while using a low-quality map, is still extremely intuitive. There are physical knobs and buttons for the radio, as well as one that shuts off the stability control. I’ll get to why that’s such a good thing.
First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends


From A to Z-Car

It’s very 2008 under the QX50’s skin, too. The 3.7-liter V6 with 325 horsepower remains, attached to a seven-speed automatic sending power to the rear wheels, or all four if you pony up $1,400 for the all-wheel drive system. And here is where the QX50 makes its best sales pitch.

On some back roads east of San Diego, there was proof that the Infiniti’s bones have aged well. The front-mid platform is still used on the Nissan 370Z, and the lineage shows through when you push the QX50 on a challenging road. While the engine’s power doesn’t really liven up until about 4,000 rpm, it makes some good noises getting there. The steering is nicely weighted and The added ride height doesn’t really affect the fun-to-drive characteristics so much as those damn seats.

Still, apart from a Porsche Macan, there isn’t anything quite like the QX50 that can come so alive on a good road while still being able to carry your friends or family. They may not be so comfortable, but you’ll be entertained.

The main irritations from the driving experience, however, come from the optional Technology Package, with forward collision and lane departure warnings that are far too sensitive even on highways. While I don’t usually mind devices such as these, it took about five minutes for the beeping to become incessant to force me to fumble around for the switch to turn the system off. Which, ironically, caused more beeping.

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends


Own one and someone will understand

During the product spiel, someone from Infiniti stopped just short of saying the company forgot about the QX50. And that’s still apparent in the way this new, 8-year-old car has been taffy pulled and jacked up for 2016.

The QX50 isn’t a bad car, despite it being a relic from another decade. Prices start from just under $35,000, which sounds like a bargain when you figure it’s not much more money than the less substantial Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. But the ones we drove last week were loaded with a lot of things people shopping for this kind of car might want, such as the navigation, around-view camera and the trick coat hanger in the back of the driver’s headrest – all pushing the price past $43,000. As a way to carry people or things around, the RDX or even the Nissan Murano are better ways to spend your money.

Yet the QX50 is sparkling to drive, though. Apart from hyper-luxury-performance SUVs, there’s very little in this segment that's as smile-inducing as the Infiniti when the moment calls for it. Ignore the attempts funky upholstery and wood trim from your grandmother's furniture, and the QX50 makes a convincing case as the enthusiast's compact luxury crossover. Never mind it still looks like a wagon.

Infiniti isn’t setting sales expectations too high with this midsection enhancement. But given the Q70 sedan’s sales went from horrible to 79 percent better than horrible when a longer version was added, the QX50 stands a chance to improve incrementally.

After several miles, I finally figured out who would pick the 2016 QX50. It’s for the person who wants to, but can no longer, buy a six-cylinder BMW X1. Raise your hand if that’s your thing.

(Infiniti invited me to San Diego to drive the 2016 QX50, put writers up in a nice hotel and stuffed us all with pies.)

Photos: Zac Estrada/Carscoops

Photos

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Returns From Camp Longer, Taller To Win More Friends

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