Infiniti calls it the most important vehicle it has ever launched: certainly the new QX50 mid-size SUV, which debuts at the 2017 LA Auto Show next week, is the one most focused on European customers and competitors. It looks like Infiniti may at last have a match for the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Jaguar F-Pace.
And Infiniti has an ace up its sleeve – the world’s first variable compression ratio engine. Called VC-Turbo, this 2.0-litre turbo petrol puts into production radical tech companies such as Lotus and Saab trialled years ago. The gains were obvious but nobody was quite able to make it a reality. Infiniti has.
The breakthrough engine can alter the compression ratio between 8:1 and 14:1, by means of a multi-link system that can alter the reach of the pistons. High compression ratios are efficient, low compression ratios give lots of power and torque. Infiniti thus says it has the punch of petrol and economy of diesel.
“It challenge the notion that only hybrid and diesel powertrains can deliver high torque and efficiency.”
The 268hp engine also does 0-60mph in as little as 6.3 seconds and 143mph flat-out, although Infiniti has yet to test just how economical it is under European drive cycle tests (but is targeting a 35 percent boost in efficiency over today’s car). Take this interesting detail fact in the meantime: capacity varies between 1,970cc when running on an 14:1 compression ratio, and 1,997cc when running on 8:1.
Replacing the forgettable current-generation QX50, Infiniti global vice president Christian Meunier says the new QX50 is “the right vehicle at the right time in one of the world’s fastest growing segments”.
Built on an all-new platform, it’s significantly roomier inside than the outgoing model – best-in-class, reckons Infiniti – and deploys world-first use of Super-High Formability (SHF) high-tensile steel that’s strong, light and gives best-in-class structural rigidity.
It also has autonomous tech called ProPilot Assist, but as “Infiniti’s customers have stated their desire to remain a key element in the driving equation… the brand’s vision for autonomous driving is a step removed from the notion of fully-autonomous driverless motoring embraced by some carmakers”. So there.
Make no mistake, the launch of the new Infiniti QX50 is a big deal. Its VC-Turbo engine is a genuine world-first highlight, and it now looks stylish enough, with the right sort of onboard tech, to finally challenge the European best-sellers.
We’ll be checking it out in detail at the LA Auto Show next week: has Infiniti finally delivered the car to put it on the shortlist of Britain’s premium car buyers?