BY JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN | CarAndDriver.Com
Troy Warren #carnews-all
To stay in fashion, Infiniti gives its QX50 SUV the low-roof treatment. Enter the new QX55.
Fashion is fickle. Go back to, say, 1976, and it seemed the automotive world was obsessed with engineering “opera windows.” They were too small to improve visibility, did nothing for ventilation because they didn’t open, and 40 or so years later they look deeply silly. Fashion is cyclical, so the opera window may return someday, but right now we’re living through an era marked by the low-roof SUV. These so-called coupes sacrifice utility for a sportier shape, and they are the 21st century’s opera windows.
Infiniti sort of invented the sleek SUV with the original FX, so it shouldn’t surprise us too much that the brand is giving its handsome mid-size QX50 the treatment. Starting with an attractive design and then coupe-ifying it leaves the QX55 looking rather stunning.
Here’s how a QX50 mutates into a QX55. Both ride on a 110.2-inch wheelbase. At 186.3 inches long overall, the QX55 stretches out 1.6 inches farther than the QX50. The QX50 is 66.0 inches tall, but the low-roof QX55 peaks at 63.8 inches. They offer the same legroom fore and aft, although, the 55 predictably loses 1.5 inches of rear headroom. Both models are the same from the B-pillar forward.
The slope of the QX55’s roof exacts a toll on interior volume (127 cubic feet compared to the QX50’s 133) and maximum cargo volume (54 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded down to the QX50’s 64). Like the QX50, the 55 gets Nissan’s variable compression ratio, 2.0-liter turbocharged four with 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Both use a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The biggest mechanical difference is that all-wheel drive is optional on the QX50 and standard on the QX55.
While the 2021 QX50 is offered in five trim levels and pricing spans from $38,975 to $57,875, the 2022 QX55 offers three by removing the QX50’s base trim and the super-deluxe Autograph trim level at the top. Infiniti charges slightly more for the QX55: $47,525 for the Luxe, $52,625 for the Essential, and $58,075 for the Sensory.
According to Infiniti, the QX55 is about 40 pounds lighter than the QX50. That’s unlikely to change acceleration times, so the QX55 should match the QX50’s 6.4-second time to 60 mph and quarter-mile time of 15.0 seconds at 94 mph.
One discordant element of the styling is the large, black plastic liners that ring around the wheel openings. They’re a sort of kludge, a way of visually opening up space while actually keeping the wheel openings relatively small. It makes the QX55 seem to be riding higher up than it actually is. Maybe it’s something of which awareness fades over time. Or not.
Also, the QX55 showed up painted Dynamic Sunstone Red with a depth and gloss that practically seemed to radiate. This quality of finish hopefully will find its way to the cars on dealer lots.
There’s not much character to the QX55’s engine despite its exotic variable-compression system. It’s not particularly smooth, not too ragged, but there is a pleasing raspiness to it. And while Nissan’s commitment to CVTs may or may not waiver, in this application the engine makes enough power at low revs that there’s no need for the CVT to rev the engine and hold it at an obnoxious rpm during typical modest acceleration.
There may be nothing thrilling about the powertrain, but the QX55 is a cushy cocoon in which to travel at a moderate pace. The pre-production QX55 we sampled was finished in loads of leathery upholstery. Most of the interior ports over directly from the QX50, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a handsome salon inside the QX55, even though it lacks the cutting-edge commitment to digital dash overkill. A head-up display is optional on the Essential model and standard on the Sensory. It’s easily read, convenient, and ought to be the one, well, essential option buyers should seek out.
Dynamically, what the QX55 has going for it is excellent ride quality, competent steering, and poise under braking. For many buyers in this segment, that’s about all they’re looking for.
In 15 or 20 years, when QX55s are on their third or fourth owners and most of us are being chauffeured by robotized transport pods, nostalgic thoughts might turn to these sporty looking crossovers. They’ll be remembered for how they traded utility for style and how they relied on good looks rather than innovation or performance for their appeal. The next generation will probably appreciate them with the same detached irony as opera windows. The QX55 is just so 2022.
2022 Infiniti QX55
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
Luxe AWD, $47,525; Essential AWD, $52,625; Sensory AWD, $58,075
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection
120–122 in3, 1971–1997 cm3
268 hp @ 5600 rpm
280 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
continuously variable automatic
Wheelbase: 110.2 in
Length: 186.3 in
Width: 74.9 in
Height: 63.8 in
Passenger volume: 100 ft3
Cargo volume: 27 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 4150 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 6.4 sec
1/4-mile: 15.0 sec
Top speed: 137 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 25/22/28 mpg