With products like the original FX and EX, Infiniti was among the first brands to show that SUVs could offer more than bland and boxy styling. Now, the automaker hopes to reproduce its early success with the launch of the distinctive 2022 Infiniti QX55.
As it did with those earlier models, Infiniti wants to be seen as the utility vehicle design leader. But the automaker emphasizes that looks are more than just skin deep, the crossover adding a variety of appealing features, including the brand’s technically inventive Variable Compression Turbo engine and a new, “intelligent” all-wheel-drive system.
Buyers will pay a premium, however, the 2022 QX55 starting at $47,525 — including a $1,025 delivery fee — a full $7,000 more than the current Infiniti QX50 model.
While the QX55 shares underpinnings with the current Infiniti QX50 model, it takes the brand’s design language forward, even while picking up some of the cues first seen on the original FX model launched in 2003.
Unlike the more conventionally styled model, the QX55 will be offered with only a single powertrain, the 2.0-liter turbo-4 Variable Compression-Turbo package that is the first mass production engine ever to feature the ability to change compression ratios on the fly. That lets it optimize operations for better performance or fuel economy, depending upon road conditions and driver demand.
Infiniti also pared down the range of options, offering the 2022 crossover in three basic grades, even the basic Luxe model surprisingly well equipped. Among other things, buyers will find features such as 20-inch aluminum wheels, an array of advanced driver-assistance systems, including the semi-autonomous Nissan ProPilot, active noise cancellation and twin touchscreens.
The ties to the more mundane QX50 are obvious, but the nose gets a broader, more aggressively styled grille, to start with. The overall look is low, wide and sporty, with a well-planted feel to the five-door QX55. Riding on a 110.2-inch wheelbase, the CUV stretches 186.3 inches, nose to tail, with extremely short overhangs, front and back. The new model is 74.9 inches wide and stands 63.8 inches just behind the crest of its steeply raked windshield, though the fastback roofline falls off quickly.
The double-crest grille is framed in chrome and bears a large take on the familiar Infiniti logo. It’s framed by slit-like “human eye” headlamps, with LED signature lights meant to mimic eyebrows. All lighting on the QX55 is LED, including the foglamps framed by gloss black accents. A deeply sculpted clamshell hood flows into broad and muscular quarter panels. The rear glass is also steeply raked to complement the roofline, a black spoiler adding a design touch that also serves a functional purpose enhancing the crossover’s aerodynamics.
In back, the QX55 adopts distinctive new “piano key” taillights that feature 45 separate LED lamps in each of the clusters.
The sporty impression is completed by low-profile 20-inch wheels and tires.
As aggressive as the exterior design might appear, Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president of Global Design, said the goal was to create a more calming interior space, with a low dash offering great forward visibility. There are heated “zero-gravity” front seats on all grades, a design the automaker claims can reduce fatigue on long drives. The cabin can be finished in leatherette, leather, or premium semi-aniline leather. Second-row seats get up to 38.7 inches of legroom and can slide fore-and-aft up to 6 inches.
The QX55, like many modern vehicles, minimizes the number of traditional controls you have to deal with — though those knobs that remain have been nicely knurled. Instead, it opts for twin screens, one atop the center stack for the infotainment system, the lower display to digitally control key vehicle functions.
There’s now wireless Apple CarPlay and standard wired Android Auto. The CUV also can be equipped with the Bose Performance Series audio system which features 16 separate speakers. It’s standard on upper-grade models.
Adding to the sense of calm, the QX55 features noise-reducing laminated glass, as well as Active Noise Cancellation which functions much like those headphones many passengers now wear when flying. But, under aggressive driving, its Active Sound Enhancement system kicks in so you can better hear that VC-Turbo engine.
The more traditional QX50 was the first production vehicle to offer an engine that could change its compression ratio on the fly, an approach that helps deliver both improved performance and better mileage. It can go anywhere from an 8:1 to a 14:1 compression ratio, depending upon driver demand and road conditions
The 2.0-liter turbo-4 drivetrain delivers 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque through a continuously variable transmission. The CVT can mimic conventional step gear automatics and do so with a tap of the CUV’s paddle shifter. It also rev matches on downshifts. All-wheel drive is standard on all versions of the QX55.
The intelligent all-wheel-drive system is capable of not only reading road conditions but also anticipating where torque should be delivered, front or back, at any given moment. When needed, up to 50% of engine torque can be directed to the rear wheels.
Safety and Technology
Perhaps the most technically creative feature of the 2022 Infiniti QX55 is that variable compression-turbo engine. But there are plenty of other high-tech features.
That includes a broad range of digital safety technologies and driver assistance systems, including the latest version of the brand’s ProPilot Assist. Unlike some new systems that briefly let you take hands off the wheel, ProPilot Assist continues requiring hands-on operation, but it helps a driver hold to the center of their lane, steer through corners, accelerate or even brake under certain conditions.
There’s also an available 9-inch head-up display, a WiFi hotspot and a number of USB ports. It may not be especially high-tech, but the optional, 16-speaker Bose system is a real plus for audiophiles.
The coupe-like styling of the new QX55 makes a lot of visual promises, something we wanted to see if the crossover could deliver upon. We had only a day to put the new model through its paces for now, but that was enough time to get at least a sense of what it offers.
As in the more conventional Infiniti QX50, the new VC-Turbo engine generally lives up to its billing. It’s like having two different powertrains under one hood. While cruising, it is smooth and comfortable, putting the emphasis on fuel economy. Want to make a quick pass or slalom through corners, it seamlessly shifts to a performance setting, the compression ratio dropping to something closer to 8:1 for maximum torque and horsepower.
The i-AWD system, aided by features like Trace Control and a limited-slip differential, puts power where you need it at any given moment, helping you maneuver weaving roads and tight corners with relative aplomb.
If there’s one thing we’d change, however, it’s the continuously variable transmission. It’s reasonably seamless while cruising. Under hard driving it attempts to mimic a traditional step-gear transmission, and you can simulate “rowing” it with the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel column. But it never quite offers the crispness of a traditional transmission, especially under more aggressive driving.
As for handling, the 2022 Infiniti QX55 uses Body Control Motion technology to minimize roll and, with its four-wheel independent suspension flies around curve with a sportiness that belies its height and mass.
Infiniti built an early reputation as a pioneer in the crossover space with models like the FX and EX. In recent years, however, it settled back into me-too styling. So, the arrival of the 2022 QX55 is clearly welcome. It gives the brand something of a new flagship, at least from a design perspective.
The interior, meanwhile, is attractively laid out and luxuriously appointed, with plenty of the high-tech features today’s crossover buyers demand.
That said, the QX55 enters a market segment crowded with impressive CUVs like the Audi Q3 Sportback, the BMW X4, the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the Range Rover Evoque. So, Infiniti will have to win buyers over from some established and appealing alternatives. In today’s market, brand loyalty isn’t especially high, however, so it just might get that shot.
The 2022 Infiniti QX55 does carry a price premium. At a starting price of $47,525, including delivery fees, it’s fully $7,000 more than a base QX50. But you do get a lot for your money, even the base crossover loaded with features.
The Infiniti brand as struggled to carve out a distinctive identity in recent years. But the QX55 just might be the offering it needed to gain some traction.