Skip to main content

The 2023 Infiniti QX50 has struggled against other compact premium SUVs from top brands despite its appealing looks and beautiful interior. However, the QX50’s lackluster performance against its luxury-grade classmates is due to its variable-compression 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that’s touted as revolutionary but falls short of the promised fuel efficiency and performance.

QX50 owners have expressed satisfaction with the QX50’s exterior styling and driving feel. However, the QX50 suffers in other aspects, particularly the powertrain and fuel economy. Infiniti might want to beef up these attributes, and we hope the new Sport trim will help bridge the gap between the QX50 and its rivals. 

J.D. Power ranks the Infiniti QX50 in 10 primary categories

A Lexus QX50 parked indoors in front of a blue and white background.

A JD Power 2022 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study collected data from verified QX50 owners to find out what aspects of the car they loved most. According to the surveillance report, females account for 55% of QX50 buyers (38% for the segment), and the median age of the in-market QX50 shopper is 59 years (55 for the segment).

The APEAL study asks car owners to rank their vehicles in 37 categories, ranging from the thrill they experience when they put their foot down on the pedal to the comfort they feel when entering the car. However, for the QX50, J.D. Power asked owners to rank the SUV in 10 primary attributes: driving feel, driving comfort, exterior styling, the feeling of safety, fuel economy, getting in and out, interior design, infotainment, powertrain and setting up and starting. 

Infinity QX50 excels in exterior styling and driving feel

Among these characteristics, QX50 owners voted exterior styling and driving feel as their favorite attributes of the compact SUV. The QX50 looks fresh in the marketplace, thanks to its beautiful curves and fine lines, chronicled by its powerful-looking clamshell hood, double-arch grille, and 20-inch alloy wheels (and 20-inch tires) that give it a bold and beautiful look. 

For the 2023 model year, Infiniti introduces a new “Sport” trim in place of the previous Essential trim, which comes with a more virile and street-savvy appearance to court its target buyers, predominantly females. It also features a bold, black treatment that extends to the 20-inch wheels, roof rails, nameplates, front grille, and other exterior elements.  

Driving the QX50 feels great. A hard acceleration sets the turbocharger into high gear, which causes a dip in compression ratio to prevent engine knocking. With the Sport mode engaged, the continuous variable transmission (CVT) maintains a steady gear with no upsets, keeping the engine right where you want it. Overall, the QX50 provides a smooth ride with optimum dynamic behavior to easily navigate rough roads while providing a quality ride on the highway.  

Appealing cosmetic touches and an excellent driving feel aren’t enough for the QX50 to win over its competition in the compact premium SUV segment. In the J.D. Power 2022 APEAL Study, the QX50 ranked No. 12 out of 15 luxury-grade compact SUVs, while its bigger sibling, the Infiniti QX60, topped the mid-sized third-row SUV category.  

More room for improvement for the Infiniti QX50 powertrain and fuel economy

Under the QX50’s clamshell hood is a 268-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with revolutionary variable-compression technology. Even so, the car’s mid-6-second acceleration from 0-60 mph makes it slower than other brands, such as Audi Q5 and BMW X3, which are spritelier despite not having the novel engine design. 

Additionally, the car comes with a dual exhaust that releases a sporty growl at wider throttle openings. Unfortunately, even with active noise cancellation and active sound enhancement that function through the car’s speaker system, the engine releases an awkward noise that’s a bit antonymous with the SUV’s scrupulously-crafted interior atmosphere and ride quality. 

The revolutionary variable-compression engine doesn’t deliver the promised levels of power and fuel economy, as real-world tests show the car is less fuel efficient than what Infiniti claims. According to Car and Driver, the front-wheel QX50 is rated at an average of 23 mpg in the city and on the highway, while the AWD version’s efficiency levels are estimated at 22 mpg city and 28 highway. The truth is that these figures are no better than competitor brands with simpler engine designs.