2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential AWD: Powered by a new variable compression turbo …

Price: $59,585 as tested.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked that the “innovative engine operates as advertised, supremely comfortable cabin, capacious cargo area,” but not the “unremarkable real-world fuel economy, engine is noisy at times, priciest model gets all the premium features.”

Marketer’s pitch: “Empower the drive with the all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50.”

Reality: … your mileage may vary.

Catching up: Last week, Mr. Driver’s Seat tested the Cadillac XT4. How does this Infiniti measure up?

What’s new: The Infiniti QX50 midsize crossover gets a new look for the model year, plus the new 268-horsepower 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine, which Infiniti calls the first production variable compression ratio engine.

Up to speed: The QX50 is by no means slow; 60 mph comes up in 6.4 seconds, according to Motor Trend.

But sometimes it’s not easy being first. Maintaining speed in the QX50 tended to be random. I forever found the small crossover to be moving too slowly, only to feel it get away from me with little or no change to the accelerator pedal. There’s always the chance I had a bad sample; check for these problems when testing.

On the road: The QX50 is fine on the highway, but the steering is touchy and takes some practice to keep steady. Curves are acceptable, but not even as fun as the average small crossover. Sport mode and Personal mode help considerably, and they nudge it to the “fun” range.

The QX50 is generally smooth for highway riding, but some large bumps can really unsettle it.

Shiftless: The CVT proved excellent in automatic mode. In shift mode, it just sounded wrong, just like last week’s XT4 9-speed.

Make no mistake: The seats and interior touches in the high-end Infiniti QX50 are the plushest.
Infiniti
Make no mistake: The seats and interior touches in the high-end Infiniti QX50 are the plushest.

Driver’s Seat: The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat proclaimed her devotion to the white leather seats in the QX50, along with the level of comfort they provided. I confess I did find them quite enjoyable, but, ewww, white leather (part of the $2,000 Autograph Package).

Friends and stuff: Reclining the rear seat baffled tech geek Sturgis Kid 4.0; he and the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat had to scour the owner’s manual for directions.

Otherwise, though, the rear seat is fairly roomy for a small crossover, although foot room is almost nonexistent under the front seat.

Cargo space is 31.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and 65.1 behind the first, bigger than the Cadillac.

Maladaptive: The ProActive package ($2,000) features adaptive cruise control that provides plenty of exercise.

To set the cruise, press the blue ProPilot button, then the set speed button. Of course, it defaults to the farthest setting behind the next car, so press that button twice to get the closest setting.

The first time it approached a car, it got pretty close. After that, though, it would slow down from far, far away. In fact, if I turned off the set button but left the cruise engaged, the car would decide when I was too close to the vehicle in front of me and start letting off the gas for me. I had to fight it to drive where I wanted to, which is really not all that close. (I’m no tailgater; I’m the guy on the Schuylkill Expressway who forever has other cars cutting in front of him when I run adaptive cruise control.)

Then I would turn the cruise off entirely, but when it came time to turn it back on, four clicks would get it back where I wanted it.

Cruise can also be run in regular mode by holding the ProPilot button down upon initialization.

Out of control: I’m sure that there is a learning curve and most drivers will adjust just fine. But it’s baffling how many different buttons there are on this dashboard in 2019.

Three buttons underneath the display move us among audio, climate, and map. Buttons up and down the stereo sides for all the HVAC controls. Small buttons all. And a separate dial operates the map zoom.

Play some tunes: But worst is the amount of confirming one has to do. Set a new radio preset? A dialog box pops up to confirm the change. I’m not sitting at a computer, Infiniti; I’m driving a car.

The QX50 sports a pair of touchscreens as most premium brands do — one for the map and a second for controls. But stereo controls were awkward. Music source buttons are tiny and require a steady aim.

The tiny attention-stealing buttons would be one level of annoying, if not for the QX50’s touchy steering.

Furthermore, the stereo went dark on one drive. It just said “audio off” and wouldn’t let me play anything. I’m glad that was a short trip.

On the bright side — see, I can find one — the Bose Premium sound quality was excellent, probably an A-minus. (This is part of the $7,500 Sensory Package, which heated and cooled the seats and made them leather, and much more.)

Night shift: Headlights sat a little low, and the interior lights are really dim.

Fuel economy: I averaged just 20 mpg in a highway-heavy round of testing, including a trip across Pennsylvania — seriously disappointing. Feed the QX50 premium only.

Where it’s built: Aguas, Mexico.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the QX50 a 2 out of 5 for reliability.

In the end: The QX50 aims high, but it requires a lot of input to keep things where you want them.

Next week: Acura RDX.