First Drive: 2023 Infiniti QX55 in UAE
Once upon a time, an SUV’s intended purpose was to haul loads and go off-road, while coupes leant towards sporty looks, low-roofed proportions and – in some cases – rapid acceleration and taut handling dynamics.
However, times and change, and we’ve now come to the stage where the two vehicle types have been morphed to yield the so-called “SUV-coupe”, which offers some of the characteristics of each of these two divergent genres. That said, don’t expect to go too far off-road in any of these segment-blurring offerings or set lap records at the Nurburgring.
The Germans, in particular, have made an art form of churning out these cross-breed beasts, as evidenced by the plethora of Mercedes GLC/GLE Coupes, BMW X2/X4/X6s and Audi Q3 Sportback/Q8s plying our roads. Clearly, customers are far more interested in appearances than functionality, which is why they’re prepared to pay a premium over conventional SUVs for these mould-shattering vehicles.
Infiniti has been watching this segment evolve from the sidelines over the past dozen years, but it’s now leapt into the arena with its all-new QX55. As per its German counterparts, the Japanese offering has a pseudo-off-roader stance – thanks to black wheel-arch cladding and mildly jacked-up suspension – but offsets this with a heavily tapered, coupe-mimicking roofline.
The Infiniti is no bargain-basement special, as the entry-level QX55 Luxe is priced at Dh195,000, while the mid-spec QX55 Essential costs Dh210,000 and the range-topping QX55 Sensory is pegged at Dh225,000. That’s a sizeable outlay for a compact SUV with limited load space, but you can begin to see where some of your money went when you delve into the specs.
Infiniti touts the QX55 as the spiritual successor to the popular FX that the company rolled out in 2002. “The all-new QX55 channels the spirit of the ground-breaking Infiniti FX that created the coupe crossover segment nearly two decades ago,” says the company in its blurb.
However, the key point to note is that while the FX sourced much of its hardware from the Nissan 350Z and sporty Infiniti G35 sedan/coupe, the QX55 doesn’t have anything mechanical in common with the new Nissan 400Z or Infiniti Q50 sedan. Instead, the QX55 is based on the QX50, which in turn is derived from the current-gen Nissan Murano.
The QX55 also shares its variable-compression 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and CVT with its more traditionally styled sibling. As it does in the QX50, the VC-Turbo engine makes 268hp and 380Nm of torque. Unlike the QX50, all-wheel drive is standard on the QX55, but the vehicle is still based on a front-wheel-drive layout.
Drive is relayed to all four wheels via a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), which Infiniti says it has optimised, but a traditional automatic found in the Infiniti Q50 might have been more ideal for what is a very good engine.
On paper, CVTs supposedly provide an infinite number of ratios to keep the car at optimum revs. Still, the actual result can never replicate the feeling of actual shifts of an automatic transmission. Be that as it may, the QX55 is lively enough when you stamp on the gas, sprinting from 0-100kph in 6.6sec. The engine is far more vocal than expected, even with moderate throttle applications, but it’s acceptably quiet and refined when you’re on a steady cruise on the highway.
The interior is neatly laid out, and there are some nice design flourishes, but the overall cabin ambience doesn’t match the premium feel inside an equivalent Audi/Mercedes/BMW. That said, even the entry-level QX55 Luxe gets dual infotainment touchscreens, a powered glass sunroof, plus a suite of active safety features, including Forward Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, Rear Automatic Braking, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, High Beam Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
The mid-spec Essential gets all this plus navigation, climate-controlled leather seats, a surround-view Monitor with Moving Object Detection, a heated steering wheel and Bose premium audio. The range-topping QX55 Sensory adds supple semi-aniline leather seats, wood trim accents, tri-zone automatic climate control, a motion-activated lift gate and LED ambient lighting.
Verdict? The QX55 falls short of its Euro rivals in most key areas, but its eye-catching looks, ample standard features and more affordable entry price versus a BMW X4/Mercedes GLC Coupe may be enough to lure some buyers.
THE SPECS – Infiniti QX55
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo
Power: 268hp at 5,600rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 4,800rpm
Transmission: CVT auto
Fuel consumption: 9.5L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh195,000
What do you think?