Flash Drive: 2019 Infiniti QX50

Flash Drive: 2019 Infiniti QX50

New Engine Tech Hits the Highway

Infiniti brought world media members to Los Angeles in mid-January to learn about and drive the all-new 2019 QX50. When Infiniti says all-new, they mean it, as there is no carry-over from the outgoing model.

2019 Infiniti QX50

New outside, but it’s what’s inside that counts

While there are many design changes on the 2019 QX50, the most important technology advancement is the all-new VC-Turbo, the world’s first variable compression engine. Automakers make all sorts of claims about being first and the best, but when Infiniti explained in detail the 20 years of engineering that went into the VC-Turbo, and then let the media drive the QX50 hard through mountain terrain, we became believers.

The 2019 QX50 midsize crossover is only offered with the VC-Turbo power plant, with “only” not being pejorative in any way. The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine has 269 horsepower and a very useable 280 pounds-feet of torque that spools-up for max performance between 1,600-4,800 rpm. But what exactly is a Variable Compression Turbo engine, and what makes it so revolutionary?

  • What it does: The VC-Turbo engine has multi-link components and continuously adjusts the compression between 8:1 (greater power and torque) and 14:1 (greater fuel efficiency), so engine optimization is on an instantaneous need basis.
  • If the computer senses the need, the compression ratio can also adjust to 10.5:1.
  • How it does it: The VC-Turbo engine has a small electric motor mounted to the lower part of the engine. Connected to this motor is a harmonic drive with a control arm. When rotating, the control arm moves the multi-link system, which changes and adjusts the piston positions–and the corresponding compression. All this is going on seamlessly, at all speeds and all demands on the engine.

On the Road

As hard as I tried while driving (creeping) through Beverly Hills or on the Ventura Highway at 75 mph, and then through the Santa Monica Mountains with speeds varying from slow to high-speed corners, I was unable to feel the variable compression taking place, nor was I able to trick the engine into trying to find the correct compression for my driving style. The smooth turbocharger, as

2019 Infiniti QX50

The revolutionary variable compression engine offers the best of both worlds

well as the direct and port injection, played a big part in how well the VC-Turbo performed. This is a wonderful engine.

VC-Turbo fuel economy, compared to the outgoing 2018 QX50 with the V6 engine, nets a 35-percent bump in the front-wheel drive model. EPA fuel economy ratings for the FWD are 24 city/31 highway/27 combined and 24/30/26 for the AWD model, making the QX50 a candidate for Clean Fleet Report’s 30 MPG AWD Club.

2019 Infiniti QX50

Infiniti’s style team kicks it up a notch

The premium-fuel engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in both configurations. The shift-by-wire CVT allows for manual shifting and is programmed to simulate a six-speed automatic with shift points. Infiniti lets the driver choose exactly how they want their VC-Turbo and CVT to perform with four Drive Mode options–Standard, Eco, Personal and Sport.

The Eco mode is best for open highways, where the engine and transmission can maximize fuel economy. Standard is for everyday around-town driving, but Sport is where the 2019 QX50 comes to life. Selecting Sport offers the most spirited driving, adjusting the engine to deliver higher power and torque. With the optional Direct Adaptive Steering set to Dynamic+ you get the most responsive steering available. I tried all the settings and, except for long highway runs, Sport and Dynamic+ are where I wanted to be. It was good fun pushing the 3,952-pound QX50 deep into corners, feeling confidence that the AWD system would grip and keep us planted to the road. Overall, the CVT worked as well as others on the market, which for some people is not saying much. For Infiniti, the CVT helps them achieve a smooth driving experience while maximizing fuel economy. I am sure there are some cost savings in the equation too. If you are an aggressive driver who is always pushing the limit, then the QX50 is not for you. However, if you are using the QX50 for what it was designed to do, then you will find the CVT to be to your liking.

New Design: In and Out

Styling on the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is sleeker and more contemporary than the previous model. The noticeable visual detail from the side is the kink in the D pillar. Infiniti has had this on several previous SUVs with different levels of design success. On the 2019 QX50 it looks right and is a positive design feature. Moving from a V6 to an I4 engine allowed for more front-end space, with the interior benefiting.

2019 Infiniti QX50

The cockpit is what you’d expect in a luxury crossover–plus suede

Carrying the Infiniti name and reputation means the QX50 is a premium crossover. The interior gets an update with the top trim levels including quilted seats and suede trim. It all works very nicely. All the operating systems, such as infotainment and power-everything are all there, and will be described in detail when Clean Fleet Report has the all-new QX50 for a week-long test drive. Suffice it to say that, if you want something on a new car, it is to be found on the QX50.

Technology Abounds

Along with the suite of advanced driver assistance technology, new on the 2019 QX50 is ProPilot Assist, which Infiniti repeatedly stressed is NOT autopilot. This system is hands-on and, when engaged, aids the driver keeping the QX50 centered between lane lines and can even bring the car to a complete stop in an emergency. Until the day comes where cars are completely autonomous, consider systems like ProPilot Assist to be very advanced cruise control that can reduce driver stress and fatigue while in stop-and-go traffic, or on long distance drives.

Observations: 2019 Infiniti QX50

Infiniti got the 2019 QX50 right, starting with contemporary exterior styling and premium interior materials. Size-wise, it is small enough to whip around in-town, but large enough inside to carry five full-size adults. The base QX50 in FWD starts at $36,550 and the AWD version starts at $45,150. Options, tax and destination fees will be extra.

2019 Infiniti QX50

It’s got style & tech to complete in this segment

Where Infiniti really did a great job is the all-new and first-to-market VC-Turbo engine. Twenty years of engineering innovation and development has resulted in an engine with diesel-like fuel economy, coming from a relatively small 2.0L engine that has a very useable torque band. It’s encouraging to see that gasoline-powered engines are still being improved upon.

For the family, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 will be perfect for everyday needs as well as long vacations. It’s priced competitively.

Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Tech: Engine Variable Compression Gamechanger

Tech: Engine Variable Compression Gamechanger

Nissan Introduces Variable Compression Ratio Engine in 2019 Infiniti QX50

Too often at auto shows the external hardware of the car gets all the attention, when we know its what’s under the hood that counts. At the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan introduced a break-through engine technology that shows great potential to improve the efficiency and power of current engines—variable compression.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Under the hood of the new QX50 is the world’s first variable compression ratio engine

This is not some science experiment. The engine will debut in the 2019 Infiniti QX50, which will arrive in 2018. To illustrate the dramatic change possible with this technology:

  • It will arrive in a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that will replace a 3.7-liter V-6
  • The new engine will have a 27 percent fuel economy boost compared to the old one.
  • The new engine will deliver 268 horsepower and 288 pounds-feet of torque, resulting in 0-60 acceleration one seconds faster than competitors.
  • Early reports from press drives of early pilot-builds of the QX50 with the new engine said it was “impressive” in both power and refinement—and it was transparent to the drive.

What It Does

Nissan said it has been working on variable compression technology for 20 years, piling up more than 300 patented technologies along the way. Formula 1 racers even played a role in the engine development.

Until this engine, all pistons traveled the same distance up and down in their cylinders, whatever speed and load the vehicle they were tasked with motivating had. The compression ratio of an engine is determined by the amount of space (smaller spaces lead to higher compression) left at the top of a piston’s travel. That is the way it’s been forever.

The pistons in the VC-Turbo (Nissan’s name for the QX50 engine) are connected to rods that are attached to one end of an elliptic device Nissan calls a multi-link, which replaces the normal connecting rod connection on the crankshaft. An electrically controlled actuator twists a shaft, which causes the multi-link to tilt up or down slightly. Depending on the tilt angle, the compression ratio goes up or down.

The compression ratio varies from 8:1 to 14:1. The engine’s turbocharger kicks in to boost power with the lower ratio, while the higher compression ratio approaches that of a diesel engine and the efficiency it brings.

2019 INFINITI QX50

This new engine technology promises to extend the life of the ICE

As with many recent engine advances, Nissan chief powertrain engineer, Shinichi Kiga, told reporters that modern engine control technologies were the key to getting this engine into production. In addition to the turbocharger, it features both port and direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a cooling system with four circuits. The computer brain runs the show and tells the actuator when to spin.

The Bottom Line

Nissan said the engine is more expensive than conventional ones, but only about 10 percent more, so the increased fuel economy should bring payback relatively quickly. The engine, mated to a continuously variable transmission, will be the only one offered in the new QX50. It will require premium fuel.

2019 Infiniti QX50

The package the new technology will come in is a good fit

The bigger question is where the technology might end up next as Nissan seeks to amortize the development cost by bumping up production. The company touts it as a lower cost route to diesel power and fuel efficiency, which might point the engine toward use in its larger vehicles.

Assuming the durability of the system is solid, which 20 years of development should assure, logically the engines may start showing up in larger, heavier vehicles. With those, a six mpg fuel economy improvement is quite an achievement, and its low cost creates an even steeper hurdle for electric drive to overcome.

To echo Mark Twain’s remarks, recent pronouncements of the death of the internal combustion engine may have been premature.