Infiniti revamps QX50, makes moves in compact SUV market

Dave Kunz Image
Monday, November 23, 2015
Infiniti revamps QX50, makes moves in compact SUV market
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The newly revamped Infiniti QX50.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When you see it on the road, it looks newer, but also familiar. It's the 2016 QX50, a premium compact SUV from Infiniti.

An earlier version of the vehicle was one of the first in the segment a number of years back, but was allowed to get a bit stale.

"Now, it's time for us to reinvigorate this car. And we're trying to build a foundation to get ourselves back into play in this segment," said Sean McNamara, Infiniti's head of product planning in the U.S.

The lineage of the new QX50 goes all the way back to the EX35 introduced eight years ago. Infiniti's designers updated the styling and stretched the wheelbase a bit, to give it a significant increase in rear legroom.

They're trying to keep pace with other brands.

"The competition is absolutely fierce. It seems like every month a new one is being introduced," said Jean Jennings, the former editor-in-chief of Automobile magazine who now has the website "The compact luxury segment is the hottest segment of all cars and SUVs across America."

Where the QX50 shines is in behaving like a sport sedan on the road, with 325 horsepower in a rear-wheel-drive platform. And while the basic design is getting a bit long in the tooth, Infiniti has been able to update it with options of newer safety technology.

A fully loaded QX50 with all-wheel drive runs about $45,000. That may seem like a high cost compared to a non-luxury compact crossover SUV, but there are other players that cost much more.

Lincoln has added an ultra-premium trim level to its MKC model called Black Label. It has every conceivable feature, special embossed leather, and a price tag of over $57,000 with options.

And buyers are still waiting up to six months for Porsche's athletic Macan model, which starts at $50,000 and can be optioned to nearly $100,000.

The buying public's appetite for small premium SUVs doesn't seem to have an upper limit.

"Sedan sales are down, down, down. But these crossovers, the baby ones, the mid-size ones, they're just shooting through the roof," noted long-time industry watcher Jennings.