How 2022 INFINITI QX55 is making crossovers cool again

Bringing the zing back



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 16 Jun 2022, 6:44 PM

I remember seeing the INFINITI FX35 for the first time. It was in Jumeirah, sometime in the early 2000s. As it passed by, my friend and my post-teenage self was left in awe of the vehicle. It was neither a sports car, nor jeep. It was somewhere in between. The swanky look, with its sleek LED luminaries and oversized wheels — both rarities for the time — demanded attention and boy, did it get it! Since then, a sundry of crossovers has come and gone.

Now, almost two decades later, the Japanese luxury automaker has brought to the showrooms what we believe is the spiritual successor of possibly the world’s first coupe SUV, the 2022 INFINITI QX55. We drove one fast and slow, in the city and on the highway, took it grocery shopping and drove for the sake of driving. And here’s our take on it!

Exterior Exposé

Built on the chassis of its blood brother, the QX50, it remains visually compact even with a length of around 4.7-plus metres. And there is something sleek and shiny about it from all angles. Upfront credit goes to the giant metallic double-arch grille with its wave format mesh. INFINITI says that if the German manufacturers are exaggerating their grilles, the Japanese can do it too.

It is flanked by smouldering slit-like headlamps that house sparkling LED lamps. The rest of the body work is swoopy with pronounced creases on the bonnet and the beltline. But its highlight is its coupe-like fastback roofline, drawing nicely from its predecessor. And where it ends is where truncated rear end begins, one that shares some resemblance to the Jaguar I-PACE. Did anyone else see that? The rear brake lamps are made of 45 LEDs that are called “Digital Piano Key Taillights”, but to us it forms the feathers of wings. Either way it is a nice detail. And again, like the FX35 of old, this too has been endowed with large wheels. The chic dual-tone large 20-inch alloy wheels is standard equipment across the range.

In the end, what we see here is a peculiarly styled, yet aesthetically balanced design — the best we have seen from Nissan’s luxury arm in recent time.

Inside Environment

Good news is that it’s easy to climb into for people of most sizes or age. It’s not low-slung like a Nissan Z, neither is it equestrian-like, like a Nissan Patrol SUV. The door cavity is large. The seating position, the placement of the pedals and the 3-spoke steering wheel positioning are all optimal. Most aspects are in the Goldilocks zone… just right!

Typical to new INFINITI vehicles, as seen here as well, are the asymmetrical cabin trims, which are welcome progression from the overly rounded motifs in past models. Add to that a dual-tone scheme and contrast stitching, and you get a cabin that makes you enunciate the syllables of the word ‘luxury’. Perhaps, this is one of the few brands that provides leather upholstery in three different varieties. The LUXE model gets the leatherette, while the ESSENTIAL variant gets regular leather and the top-spec SENSORY gets semi-aniline leather. And from first-hand experience, I can say that the latter is amongst the softest of leathers we have felt in a car.

While quality isn’t an issue, when you tap and knock the surfaces, you know it’s as sturdy as a BMW or an Audi, but there is a lightness to everything that the other two lack.

Onto the infotainment stuff! This dual screen setup with the 8-inch upper and 7-inch lower was seen as high tech at one point in time, but it seems a little cluttered for 2022. My question to INFINITI is, ‘If the new QX60 can get a neat single screen interface, why couldn’t this?’ The screen has decent touch response though. And we appreciate the presence of hard buttons for the main functions, the iDrive-like controller is unnecessary. The fact that there is a CD Player also hints at how dated this infotainment system is. Instead, luxury requisites like wireless charging, have been missed.

Keeping the sloping roof in mind, with little faith I climb into the back seat, only to be surprised by the amount of headroom and legroom there is. But keep it to two adults and child in the centre. The rear seats do slide and recline as well, which is a plus. And there is a rear a/c vent too, which will be appreciated as we get into the thick of summer. But keep in mind that for the 3-zone air conditioning and the climatized seats you’d have to opt for the top model.

An hour at Lulu Hypermarket also gave us an opportunity to peep into the trunk. With the rear seats up, you get 762 litres of space, down from the 880 litres offered by its conventional roofed sibling. Drop the seats and you get a useful 1532 litres of space. Thanks to which Ikea shopping or helping a friend move are actual possibilities. There are also some pockets under the floor tray. It would appear that the INFINITI engineers haven’t managed to keep things practical, while injecting a serious amount of style.

Drive Time

Propelling this cool crossover is the world’s first variable compression turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. Yes, you read that right! Depending on the load or the mode the compression ratio can be altered from 1:8 to 1:14 or vice versa in just 1.2 seconds. The radical new system uses a harmonic motor, actuator arm etc., to make this possible. And the whole combustion process can toggle between a regular cycle and an Atkinson cycle when necessary. This is cutting edge stuff!

Enough talk! Let’s drive. From the get-go, I felt comfortable in the driver seat. Everytime I dipped into the throttle, my face bore a wreathed smile thanks to spritely throttle response and the generous pull that followed, even with four people on board. INFINITI says the QX55 will get to in 6.5 seconds, but we think it may be still quicker in the right conditions. Even on the highway, the thirst for more power was quenched immediately, making lane merging, and overtaking a breeze.

Complementing the QX55’s linear dynamism is its willingness to change direction easily, be it in while taking a 3-point turn in a parking lot of taking a corner at speed. The steering feel is generously light with a decent amount of feedback and directness too. Yet, it doesn’t take anything away from the plushness of the ride. You can spend hours on the seat before, wanting a stretch.

But things aren’t all hunky-dory for the QX55, while the CVT is something that Nissan/INFINTI has worked on so much, at this price point it deserves a DCT or a regular torque convertor automatic at the very least. The CVT works, it just makes a noise about it. And speaking of noise, with decent throttle input you hear the exhaust which sounds not too far off the VQ series engines that deliver that is raspy and marginally unrefined. But it certainly will make itself known in the neighborhood, if need be.

Stopping power comes from a set of 330mm dia. rotors upfront and 308mm dia. rotors at the rear. Speed, be it at 60 and from 160 km/h, is shed at a predictable fashion and most people will make it past rush hour without incident.

Verdict

This is INFINITI taking a big swing at the Germans automakers. Its striking form doesn’t take anything away from its function as a luxury people and luggage carrier. The sporty, yet comfortable drive making errand runs enjoyable and noteworthy appearances at hotel drop offs possible. The dated infotainment system and CVT aren’t deal breakers, but for the vehicle that it is and what it could have been, it deserves better. And we haven’t talked about its trump card yet, the value proposition. By undercutting almost all its rivals, INFINITI has proved, yet again, that luxury can be affordable…and ‘SEXY!

They are also keeping up with the Koreans and the Chinese brands by currently offering a 5-year warranty with 1-year insurance and a 3-years / 50,000 km service contract.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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