Virtually every automaker has at least one compact crossover, with most of them offering several trim levels. That’s a lot of competition and it takes a lot of ingenuity and marketing prowess to stand out in the crowd. The 2023 Infiniti QX50, with its chiseled lines and long nose, will stand out in any crowd, including the uber-competitive premium compact crossover segment.
Infiniti offers five trim levels for the QX50. Four of the five come standard with front-wheel drive and offer an upgrade to all-wheel drive for $2,000. Not a bad deal for a vehicle this size. The top-level Autograph trim comes standard with AWD. My tester featured AWD and it no doubt would have plenty of uses in Chicagoland’s many climate variables throughout the year.
My Infiniti QX50 Sport tester arrived with an impeccable Graphite Shadow paint job, illuminated kick plates, cool 20-inch fan-spoke black rims with all-season run-flat tires, black exterior accents include roof rails, and its best feature – the sporty front fascia.
When the QX50 Sport is coming at you, it looks amazing. It is both ominous and sexy. The low-slug front cowl, wrap-around headlights, inset lamps, and bold, extending nose feature the black grille as the centerpiece. There’s a lot going on, but none of it fights with any other aspect of the design.
As cool as the Graphite Shadow paint job is on the outside, the Monaco Red interior upholstery may be even better. A red, leather interior says a lot about a driver’s attitude, tastes and intentions while driving. There’s nothing subtle about it, though it does feel sophisticated and classy.
This QX50 cabin is comfortable and filled with intuitive technology. Featuring two center-console touchscreens, an 8-inch screen stacked above a 7-inch screen, it is convenient for addressing all audio/climate/mechanical needs within easy reach of the driver.
Tech convenience and intuitive use are at the center of the QX50s front cabin space. A few of my favorite features include a wireless phone charging pad, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity – the former connects wirelessly, and the latter needs a cable. The 12-speaker Bose audio system is outstanding.
The cabin features a panoramic moonroof in the Sport trim and it really adds a ton of natural light to the cabin. Upfront seating is heated and vented with power adjustments for a perfect seating position and lots of lumbar support. Both rows feature soft semi-aniline leather that is supple and feels pretty durable.
In the second row, there’s room for three adults and the seat back has a couple of positions for comfort. The seat bottoms move forward to allow for more legroom or additional storage. The second row gets two USB ports for charging devices.
In the rear, you can move your leg under the rear bumper 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. Herein lies a 12-volt charge port, tie-downs, and hooks to hang bags. Two quick pulls of levers on either side fold the back row to offer 64 cubic feet of space.
All of the QX50 trim levels feature the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder Variable Compression-Turbo engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. Infiniti is Nissan’s premium brand, and they are wizards at getting big power out of tiny powerplants and this QX50 is no exception.
Infiniti’s VC technology, unlike other automakers who employ higher compression ratios, simply changes the displacement of the engine’s pistons (on the fly) to increase power on demand. It’s a means of achieving decent power with a small four-cylinder, 268 horsepower, and 280 pound-feet of torque.
The standard QX50 achieves a respectful 22 mpg city, 28 highway, and 25 combined in the AWD format. If you opt for the FWD version, add one: 23/29/26 city/highway/combined.
I guess my only gripe is the CVT’s slight hesitation and the oft-heard groan of adjustments made when instant speed is on demand from the driver. This is by no means a dog, it’s a responsive turbo powerplant but an automatic 9-speed like big brother QX60 features would be more formidable.
The No. 1 selling point for the Infiniti QX50 Sport is its sexy and sporty looks. This is a compact crossover that has a nice combination of competitive price with a level of standard equipment that’s impressive. The sportiness of the performance is more name than actual engineering, though it is still a spirited drive.
At $41,495 for the base QX50, there’s a lot to like. My Sport trim had a base of $50,500, with my tester landing at a very respectable $52,815. If looking classy and sporty is more important to you than zipping through traffic, this premium crossover is a must to consider.
• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations and vehicles.