Years ago, I visited a knitting mill in the mountains of Pennsylvania, one that manufactured long underwear for different retailers. The undies were identical; the packages they went into were not. The label and the packaging determined the retail price. Appearance, not performance was the differentiator.
And so it goes with the 2022 Infiniti QX55, a new model that’s based on the QX50 platform, but wears more aggressive attire and comes with a price that starts at $46,500, $8,550 more than its mechanically identical sibling, the QX50.
While you always pay more to look fashionable, is it worth its premium?
Offered in Luxe, Essential and Sensory trim levels, the 2022 Infiniti QX55, thankfully eschews the awkward and ugly dogleg kink in the vehicle’s C-pillar, a look that was distinctive, but not handsome. For its newest SUV, Infiniti endowed the greenhouse with a look that calls to mind the Infiniti FX, a muscularly sporty SUV that was truly fun to drive, a quality noticeably lacking in the brand’s more modern models. Low, wide and athletic, it sports a larger, more aggressive grille than the QX50, and its overall look is far more fetching. Yet there’s still a bit of peculiarity to its style, particularly the odd bulges on the hood.
Despite the rounded shape of the roof, there’s plenty of room inside for people, and the second-row slides back and forth 6 inches to accommodate cargo or people. Cargo space isn’t as generous as the QX50, but being fashionable means giving up some practicality. The interior is beautifully finished, and can be trimmed in leatherette, leather, or premium semi-aniline leather.
Still, you have to wonder why Infiniti designed a new vehicle and then saddled it with a clunky, outdated infotainment system. Composed of two small screens and a bevy of buttons, the top screen is used for navigation and phone, while the bottom screen houses audio, climate and phone controls. At least it comes with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto and a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. The Bose audio system produced impressive sound, but SiriusXM’s sound quality is only slightly better than your grandmother’s 70-year-old table radio.
But there’s nothing outdated about the drivetrain.
Like the QX50, the QX55 comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder variable compression ratio engine driving the front wheels or all four. The engine continuously raises or lowers each piston’s reach, changing the compression ratio from 8:1 (for when you mash the throttle to the floor) to 14:1 (for cruising at highway speed). The engine generates 268 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque through a continuously variable transmission, about the same amount of juice as Nissan’s naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, but with 27% better fuel economy, at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 25 mpg combined.
The QX55 also comes with ProPilot Assist, an electronic nanny that helps the driver accelerate, brake and steer, and can operate the car operate on the driver’s behalf in stop-and-go traffic. All models come with 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 QX55’s new VC-Turbo engine works as advertised, delivering fairly strong acceleration, particularly in Sport driving mode. But it gets rather vocal when pressed, despite the presence of active noise cancellation. But things settle down pleasantly when cruising. The transmission attempts to mimic a traditional transmission, but reacting sluggishly to demands for more power. Steering doesn’t return much in the way of feel, but it’s nicely weighted. Body motions are well controlled, particularly while cornering, imparting an athleticism that’s a welcome change from other Infiniti SUVs. But it lacks the fierce acceleration and sports-car-like handling of the FX.
Ultimately, QX55 is a mix of new and old. The driveline is state-of-the-art, although it seems better suited for mainstream vehicles, rather than a luxury cruiser, although it’s sportier than other Infiniti SUVs. Yet it lacks the FX’s overtly sporty nature. And while it boasts a beautifully finished cabin, the infotainment system is noticeably out-of-date, despite the presence of smart phone connectivity. And wireless charging should be standard.
But such thoughts are sensible, something that’s foreign to fashionistas, who opt for design over practicality, and passion over pragmatism. For them Infiniti has your next luxury ride.