New Infiniti QX50 offers trim size and breakthrough engine technology

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Just in time to enjoy the trend of consumers snapping up crossover SUVs like never before, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is about to hit showrooms. (KABC)

Just in time to enjoy the trend of consumers snapping up crossover SUVs like never before, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is about to hit showrooms. It's an all-new design for a model that was already pretty popular.

The previous QX50 evolved from the former Infiniti EX35, which debuted more than 10 years ago.

"It was time for us to make a bigger mark in the segment, and this is the perfect car to do that," said Sean McNamara, a product spokesman for Infiniti USA.

Infiniti offers a broad range of SUV sizes, from the QX30 at the small end, to the big QX80 at the other. The QX50 falls into a middle-size category that's very popular right now.

"This segment has really grown rapidly since about 2013. In fact, it's nearly doubled in four years," noted Infiniti's Sean McNamara.

The mid-size SUV segment is growing because a lot of buyers have found that it offers a "just right" size. Seating for four adults, or five in a pinch, or a huge cargo hold for carrying large items with the rear seats folded down.

The other thing a lot of buyers are looking for today is fuel efficiency. This is where the new Infiniti shines, debuting a new variable-compression engine. A technological breakthrough, with a system that allows the pistons to travel to different heights within the cylinders. Those different heights change the compression ratio, and it all happens seamlessly and continuously.

"This engine has been under development for about 20 years, and it's been a challenge in the industry for a long time. We've always known the benefits of low compression versus high compression, but it was always a compromise going back and forth," said Andy Christensen with the Infiniti Technical Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Even though it's of much smaller displacement, the new engine's performance is on par with the previous VW, and the numbers don't lie. The former QX50 with a 3.7 liter V6 was rated at 17 mpg city and 24 highway for a combined number of 20.

With its new turbocharged variable-compression 2.0 liter turbo engine, the 2019 model's figures jump up to 24 city and 31 highway, for 27 combined. That's a 35% improvement. The all-wheel drive QX50 sees a 30% improvement due to slightly lower EPA fuel economy numbers.

And if you like driving technology, the QX50 delivers there too. In addition to a whole array of comfort and safety items (some are optional), you can get a feature called Pro Pilot Assist. It's basically a "set and forget" adaptive cruise control. It even helps you steer, as long as the lane markings are visible enough. But you do have to keep your hands on the wheel, or the system will flash a warning, then eventually slow the car to a crawl, and then a stop.

In an abundance of caution, Infiniti's engineers aren't ready to offer the full autonomy of a car that completely drives itself, even though it is technically possible in certain highway situations.
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