Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 9, 2021
The Infiniti FX, also known as the QX70, was one of the first SUVs to really catch our attention when it launched back in 2003 - hard to believe that was nearly 20 years ago. Its shark-like nose, long masculine hood, and fastback styling was the first of its kind in the SUV segment, and the resulting stance and aggressive shape made it incredibly unique. The FX drove remarkably well too with its rear-wheel drive platform borrowed from the Nissan 350Z and Infiniti G35 sports cars.
You could say that the new Infiniti QX55 is the spiritual successor to the FX, aiming to capture the provocative shape and road-handling magic that made it so successful. Initial impressions? It is one of the best looking SUV coupes on sale today, and manages to balance its visual weight from all angles without appearing hunched and awkwardly proportioned like the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. Hermosa Blue has always been our favourite Infiniti paint colour but the Dynamic Sunstone Red on our test vehicle is undeniably eye-catching.
The front end of the QX55 is very similar to the current QX50 with the double-arch grill and complex inner mesh, but it’s from the C-pillar onwards where the QX55 starts its own chapter. The new ‘piano-key’ taillights with 45 individual LEDs give the rear end some extra three-dimensional depth, while the license plate holder has been relocated down and separated from the trunk lid, shifting the visual weight even lower. It’s also one of the only times you will see an INFINITI script plastered on the trunk lid. 20-inch wheels come standard and further augment that low, sporty stance.
The QX55 cabin is carried over from the QX50 and its interior appointments are first-rate with a heavy mix of leather and nicely dressed up plastics. It’s better arranged than the messy Lexus NX cabin but doesn’t hold a candle to the upscale Range Rover Evoque. We’re glad the Fruit Gusher steering wheel has remained due to its ergonomic design, and the petite leather-wrapped gear knob looks and works just like the one in the Mercedes GLA - perhaps something Infiniti learned from their joint venture with the QX30. We do have to give them credit for being more adventurous and daring with their cabin design - nothing here feels sourced from the Nissan spare parts bin. Seat comfort is beyond excellent with wide cushions and a good range of adjustment. Hilariously enough, the semi-aniline leather on top trim Sensory models are so soft that we actually keep sliding off the seats.
For an SUV coupe with a sloping roofline, rear seat accommodations in the QX55 are very impressive, with enough head- and legroom for my six-foot figure to position behind myself and find comfort for long journeys, not something you could say with the rivaling X4, Evoque, or GLC Coupe. Could be due to the fact that there is no panoramic sunroof stretching to the rear and digging into the real estate, whereas its rivals do. On a positive note, the QX55 boasts more trunk space than its European counterparts, and though it may lose some cargo depth versus the QX50 SUV, the rear seats can be easily lowered with the flip of a latch. They do not fold flat to the floor, though, and sit at a slight 20-degree angle upwards. Clever how they integrated the trunk button into the rear Infiniti badge.
We did notice a few downsides during the limited few hours we spent with the QX55. The headrests don’t adjust fore and aft, only up and down. The dual-screen infotainment unit is also half disappointing. The 8-inch top screen can now display things other than the camera view and maps, like a digital clock and fuel economy screen, but the graphics are heavily dated and seem to be pulled straight from a 2008 Infiniti. Luckily the 7-inch bottom screen is much higher definition and is the one you will be looking at and playing with more often. It can be quite confusing at first figuring out which screen and dial does what, often taking several steps to perform simple tasks, but over time it becomes more intuitive than the notoriously clumsy units in the Acura RDX and Lexus NX. Still, it’s leagues behind the BMW and Audi systems in definition, clarity, and learning curve.
Fingerprints tend to mar the screen easily. Luckily, hard buttons are located below the bottom screen to control the infotainment, as well as a rotary dial situated next to the gear shifter to control the top screen. HVAC controls have their own dedicated buttons, as they should. Connectivity is not lacking either with Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, and 4 USB plugs with both Type A and C. The Bose speaker system is booming with bass, and we can never fault Infiniti for keeping with its sleek set of analog dials in the instrument cluster.
Infiniti is the first automaker to develop variable compression (VC) ratio technology for their four-cylinder engine, which changes how far the pistons rise in its cylinders. The compression ratio changes anywhere from 8:1 for maximum performance to 14:1 for optimal fuel efficiency. That means the QX55’s 2.0-litre turbo-four engine can automatically flip between performance and efficiency without the need to alter any internal parts. It offers the best of both worlds, so they say, and while it may not sound like much, it took Infiniti more than twenty years to get this technology into production.
When we tested the QX50 that uses the same VC Turbo engine, we noticed a slight delay when pouncing on the throttle. We weren’t sure if it was just the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) being indecisive or if it was some half-baked throttle tuning, but it made the power delivery off-putting. The power never seemed to cut off right when we lifted the throttle pedal either. We’re happy to report that we experienced none of these issues in the new QX55, and it instead revealed a more polished powertrain with a more direct connection between driver and machine.
With a healthy 268 hp and 280 lb-ft being sent via all-wheel drive, the QX55 accelerates with verve and feels more like a naturally aspirated V6 than a turbocharged four-pot. Flip it into Sport mode and there are even brief moments where it sounds good, exhibiting a throaty roar around 6,000 rpm.
Still, the cold hard truth remains: CVTs don’t belong in premium products, and Infiniti should contemplate carrying over the 9-speed gearbox that they are building for the new QX60. We can’t deny the CVT’s responsiveness, fuel efficiency, or its clever method of mimicking gear shifts via the paddle shifters, but its noisy behaviour under acceleration and unpleasant rubberband power delivery doesn’t feel sporty and undermines its premium pretense. The numbers back up that claim. The QX55 will sprint from 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds, hardly enough to keep up with its four-cylinder rivals like the BMW X3 xDrive30i (6.3 seconds) and Mercedes GLC 300 (6.2 seconds).
On the bright side, after 100 kms on our regular test route, we averaged an impressive 9.5 L/100km with about 60% highway and 40% in city traffic. Just highway driving alone yielded an even more appreciable 8.6 L/100km. That’s better than most of the field, and the QX55 similarly requires 91-octane premium fuel.
The overly boosted steering rack is disappointingly numb and distant, and a far cry from the directness and responsiveness offered by an Alfa Romeo Stelvio or Porsche Macan. The good news is that the QX55 rides really well. Its body motions are far from surgical but are taut, steady, and controlled with an underlying firmness that could be attributed to the large 20-inch wheels. We found it incredibly compliant on long stretches of highway, and it easily holds a candle to the Lexus NX, which we deemed as one of the most comfortable in the segment.
From our short time with the Infiniti QX55, we were instantly drawn to its handsome design that successfully pays homage to the original FX. While the performance from its trick powertrain leaves some room for improvement, we admire Infiniti’s effort in advancing the effectiveness of smaller engines. The CVT results in incessant engine noise and a driver disconnect that undermines its premium pretense, meaning it’s not as enjoyable or as satisfying to drive as the BMW X4, but the resulting power response and fuel efficiency is undeniable. The cabin design is ergonomically sound and though the infotainment could use some streamlining, rear seat space is far from lacking. Unlike its FX forefather, the QX55 is following the trend rather than blazing its own, but it manages to be a competitive product dripping in style and with few penalties to boot.
Model: 2022 Infiniti QX55 AWD Sensory
Paint Type: Dynamic Sunstone Red
Base Price: $60,998
Price as Tested: $62,198
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,732 / 1,902 / 1,620
Curb weight (kg): 1,843
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four with variable compression ratio
Horsepower: 268 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 4,400 - 4,800 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.5