2020 Infiniti QX50 Review

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Infiniti’s slinky QX50 is more than just a pretty face—its creased sheetmetal is hiding a revolutionary new powertrain. It’s a first-ever variable-compression-ratio turbocharged engine, good for 268 hp. In our testing, we saw 27 mpg. Steering is lively but the ride and handling are uninspired. The interior is roomy, with space for four adults to ride comfortably. Standard features such as forward-collision warning and options including natural wood interior trim should please luxury customers.

There’s a new kind of engine under the hood of the new Infiniti QX50. Like many of its competitors, it’s a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, but what goes on inside is radically different from anything that has come before it. For the first time in a production vehicle, there’s an engine that can change its compression ratio and even its displacement (a tiny bit), a project that, according to the company, has taken more than 20 years. Why bother? Varying the compression ratio promises to maximize efficiency whether you’re cruising at part throttle or running toward the redline on 22.0 psi of boost.

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Infiniti’s VC-T engine (for Variable Compression, Turbocharged) can change how far its pistons rise in its cylinders, which changes the engine’s compression ratio, a parameter that, heretofore, had been fixed. Infiniti’s engine can bump the compression ratio from a low of 8.0:1 to a high of 14.0:1. Changing an engine’s stroke usually requires a new crankshaft. Instead, Infiniti’s engine introduces a joint between the crankshaft and the connecting rods, and moves the joint with a computer-controlled arm. In the process of changing how high the pistons move, the mechanism incidentally varies the stroke by 1.2 mm, which causes the engine’s displacement to vary slightly—from 1971 cc (14:1) to 1997 cc (8:1).

It’s telling that no one has done this before. Adding extra pieces to a high-stress and critical component like a crankshaft is like slipping erector-set parts between your vertebrae. As you’d expect, the additional heavy-duty components add mass—about 22 pounds—to the moving parts of the engine, but the design moves the crankshaft off-center, smoothing out the piston’s motion. Unlike many inline-four engines displacing 2.0-liters or more, the Infiniti engine doesn’t use balance shafts, which helps offset the weight of the new parts. Dynamic engine mounts keep any bad vibes from getting inside the cabin.

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