What is it?
This is the second phase of design for Infiniti’s next QX50 crossover sport-utility vehicle. You know the QX50 as the former EX35 — or as the second-smallest SUV in the company’s lineup — which has been on the road for almost a decade without any significant changes. Infiniti’s process of transforming concept cars into production cars is fairly formulaic by now: Sub out the jewel-like headlights for LEDs and add on some door handles, and this QX50 “concept” is no more than a nip and tuck away from reality. If you like the trendy, in-your-face look of the snouted grille, you’re likely to love the eventual QX50. The concept makes the most of Infiniti’s central design themes, including a chrome C-pillar with a negative angle; thin headlamps atop a tall bumper; and a mesh grille with a larger-than-life brand logo.
The QX50 Concept comes on the heels of the introduction of the QX Sport Inspiration at the Beijing auto show earlier this year. It will make a public appearance at the Detroit auto show in early January, and you can expect renderings of the production model to surface by the middle of 2017.
What makes it tick?
Infiniti will most likely use the production-bound QX50 to introduce a new powertrain, a 268-hp “VC-Turbo” four-cylinder engine. Infiniti won’t confirm that this engine will make it into the QX50, but neither will the company confirm that it will offer front-based all-wheel drive. That’s a departure from the current QX50’s rear-wheel-drive platform. For most drivers, it’s a promise of better fuel economy. For enthusiasts, it means that the next QX50 will be less of a raised Nissan Skyline.
Is it fun to drive?
That’s still TBD. The QX50 Concept, and the forthcoming production model, will feature a version of Nissan’s ProPilot autonomous driving technology. ProPilot debuted this summer on a JDM minivan, and it can virtually take over driving tasks on the highway — from rounding a bend to negotiating other drivers cutting you off. Expect the production QX50 to have more visible sensors than the model you see here. In short, it might be more fun to let the QX50 drive itself than attempt a four-wheel drift.
Is it a show-stopper?
The QX50 Concept lacks the individuality and magnetism that defined the original EX and its bigger brother, the FX. But we have high hopes for the upcoming SUV, particularly if the QX50 morphs into production as stylishly as the Q60 did — hopefully soon.