Today’s market is flooded with compact crossover SUVs, and limiting your choices to the premium segment does little to thin the herd. But Infiniti’s new mid-level Sport trim cleverly uses contrasting dark and light and an attractive shape to capture your attention.
More intrigue comes from the sole engine offered, the VC-Turbo 2.0L. That’s variable compression turbo. And yet, its power and fuel economy outputs do not appreciably exceed that of other in-class crossovers.
I spent a few days driving my favorite variety of Michigan roads to see if its feel on the road matches its looks.
In short: There’s no denying Infiniti nailed the design. It’s a great combination of sinister and sexy. And, practically speaking, the QX50 provides nice levels of standard equipment at a competitive price. But at this price, the drive isn’t as engaging as the best of its competition.
Turbocharged 2.0L I-4
- HP/ Torque
FWD 23/29/26; AWD 22/28/25 City/Highway/Combined
- Cargo (seats up/down)
31 cu. ft., 64 cu. ft. max
Flexible second row
Large amounts of cargo space
Standard wireless phone charger and Apple CarPlay
Wishing for more results from impressive engine tech
CVT is not as good as traditional automatic transmission
Fake exhaust outlets detract from the otherwise fantastic design
2023 Infiniti QX50: New Clothes
Many premium-segment, compact crossovers roam our streets these days. The ubiquity stems from their pleasing combination of attributes: relatively small size, spacious, fuel-efficient, and nice touches of luxury. But ubiquity quite often leads to homogeneity, blending into the point of obscurity.
Enter the 2023 Infiniti QX50 Sport, a beautiful blend of swoopy styling, broad shoulders, and a wide stance to give it and its driver real presence. Instead of the typical polished metal look, parts like the front grille, window trim, and roof rails get doused in gloss black, adding a bit of mystery to the visual experience.
As you roll down the road, onlookers watch 20-inch wheels slice through the road with strategically placed polished metal steaks in an otherwise black wheel, creating a cool effect as the wheel spins.
The QX50 elegantly mixes bold curves with sharp creases and fluidity in the general shape. And it does all this while providing good and useable space inside.
Infiniti QX50 Sport: Flexible and Ample Space Inside
Swing your leg under the rear bumper of the QX50, and the electric liftgate flashes its lights and beeps in recognition as the door opens hands-free to reveal 31 cubic feet of space behind the second row. In that space lies a 12V charge port, tie-downs, and hooks to hang light bags too.
Two quick pulls of levers on either side fold the back row to offer 64 cubic feet of space.
But if it’s people, not stuff you need to carry, the second row offers enough space for two adults, even on longer trips. And feel comfortable with the idea of squeezing in a third for a quick jaunt here and there. Moreover, the seat backs adjust to several different recline levels. And the seat bottoms move fore and aft, allowing you to choose between legroom or additional storage space. The second row gets two USB ports to charge devices too. Nice!
Of course, you find most of the comfort in the front row. Infiniti upholstered the QX50 Sport with soft semi-aniline leather seats and plenty of ways to adjust the seat, including, critically for me, ample amounts of lumbar adjustment. My lower back says thank you.
While not as much of a showstopper as the exterior, Infiniti styled the QX50 with class and purpose. It’s comfortable and easy to operate. And that includes a higher-than-average amount of standard screens and gadgets.
QX50: The Right Tech and the Right Price
Standard equipment on the QX50 includes two center console touchscreens, an eight-inch screen stacked on top of a seven-inch screen, with a myriad of menus to play with. As well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, the former connects wirelessly, and the later needs a cable.
And my personal favorite; beneath all those screens lies an also standard wireless smartphone charging pad. Love it!
In this new Sport trim, you also get a panoramic moonroof, which floods the interior with natural light (but does also rob you of one cubic foot of storage space), heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. Finally, a 12-speaker Bose sound system wraps all that equipment in an aurally pleasing bow.
Many competitors, especially German manufacturers, like to stuff much of the above in “Premium” or “Executive” packages and charge some four figures for it, soaring the final cost well past expectations. I appreciate Infiniti resisting that temptation.
Infiniti QX50 Sport: What’s Under That Pretty Hood?
Of the five trims offered in QX50, four of the five come standard with front-wheel-drive (FWD) and offer all-wheel-drive (AWD) for a $2,000 upcharge. The top, Autograph trim comes standard with AWD. Aside from that, all of them run the exact same powertrain, a 2.0L VC-Turbo engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The variable compression turbo is a 4-cylinder engine that literally moves around to adjust the displacement of the engine, which in turn adjusts the compression ratio between 8.0:1 and 14.0:1. Amazing! A quick explanation — the compression ratio is the difference in space between the piston and the top of the combustion chamber from the bottom to the top of the piston stroke. And different driving conditions and driver demands change whether having a lower or higher compression ratio is better. This Infiniti doesn’t have to compromise.
Instead, it simply changes the ratio with the conditions to give the QX50 incredible flexibility. All in all, you get 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. You also get 22 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway, and 25 combined in an AWD crossover. If you instead get a FWD version, everything increases by one: 23/29/26 city/highway/combined.
But Wait, There’s Always a Caveat
While Infiniti created impressive technology with the VC-Turbo engine, other manufacturers seemed to net similar results using other means, like variable valve timing and lift. With it, simply give an engine an inherently high compression ratio and only utilize it when you needed.
For example, we recently reviewed the 2023 Porsche Macan T. Its turbocharged 2.0L manages negligibly less horsepower (261 horsepower) and actually superior peak torque (295 pound-feet). Granted, the QX50 delivers better fuel economy. But the expression “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” applies here.
Regardless, peg the throttle, and the QX50 jumps to action with no hesitation. You feel good pull from the 2.0L throughout the rev range. And the CVT generally does a good job of keeping the acceleration party going. Though, I’d personally prefer the 9-speed automatic used in the Infiniti QX60.
Once moving, you feel a soft and comfortable ride, softer than what you typically get from German makes. Infiniti tuned in plenty of compliance to handle all the bumps and heaves in those friendly Michigan roads. The yang to that particular yin? The QX50 leans more into corners and generally feels less responsive when the going gets twisty. More luxury than sport here.
That luxury fades slightly at interstate speeds as the QX50 does allow a bit of wind and road noise into the cabin. On the plus side, all that standard-equipped technology is there to keep you entertained. And the highly adjustable seats keep you comfortable.
2023 Infiniti QX50 Sport Review Summary
If you part with $41,495, a dealer will happily hand you the keys to a 2023 Infiniti QX50 Pure (its base trim) with FWD. To get that new for 2023 sexy styling in the Infiniti QX50 Sport, you’ll need at least $49,695. Add another $2,000 to go AWD. Since I mentioned it earlier, that compares quite nicely against the nearly $60,000 needed for any Porsche Macan.
Closer competition includes the $47,195 base BMW X3 and the $43,965 Lexus NX 350. The more you search, the more reasonable the Infiniti QX50 price looks.
And the Infiniti QX50 looks good. Making it an easy decision for the form-over-function, always-trending crowd. You look good in the QX50, and there’s plenty of space for your designer bag.
Driving enthusiasts, on the other hand, should steer clear. Even with Sport in the name, the QX50 leans luxury and a fair amount in the corners too. Ultimately, you, the driver, will struggle to engage with it and never truly feel connected. You might look better in the QX50, but you’ll smile more in the Macan T.