Behind the Wheel

2020 Infiniti QX50 Review: Luxe SUV hits and misses as competition strengthens

Infiniti has admitted that it made mistakes when it launched the redesigned QX50 luxury midsize SUV in January 2018. The right packages and options were not in place to give the model the success it deserved. However, in the year since its launch, the landscape has changed.

The Acura RDX has been redesigned as an agile and athletic daily driver, Audi introduced the SQ5 model giving sportiness to the family-friendly Q5 SUV, and the Volvo XC60 has made a strong argument for attention with a redesign. Lincoln has also introduced the Corsair, which is perhaps the QX50's biggest competition.

2020 Infiniti QX50The models looks haven't changed much since it debuted in 2018.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

The QX50 is a comfortable cruiser. It's not particularly engaging nor is it altogether peppy but it is capable. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, the SUV does everything it's supposed to without protest.

The SUV rides smoothly and doesn't pass on much road noise to the cabin.

The car steers accurately if a bit numbly but it is easy to drive, especially when equipped with ProPilot Assist, Nissan's suite of drive assistance and safety technology that includes a lane centering functionality when using cruise control. The technology makes long drives less of a chore while also keeping the car centered when the driver exhibits distracting behavior like drinking a sip of coffee or changing the radio station.

Switching from a SUV with ProPilot Assit to one with standard cruise control is a quick reminder of how good the system is. Buyers should opt for models with the technology if they can afford it.

Steering wheelThe seats of the Infiniti QX50 are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

Journalists who review the QX50 are likely to call its infotainment system dated. They're used to having the latest, greatest, and most innovative products at their fingertips. However, buyers coming from cars over three years old will likely see the QX50's two-screen infotainment system as a step up from what they currently have in their driveway. The controls of the system are easy to use despite the fact that the navigation screen isn't able to be easily read while driving.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the model, as are blind spot warning, forward collision warning, and forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Moving up from the $38,000-ish QX50 base model to the mid-grade QX50 Essential $44,000 gets buyers heated seats, a panoramic moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, Around View Monitor, power sunshade, LED fog lamps, and roof rails. It is in this configuration that the QX50 hits the right balance between features, power, capability, luxury features, and price. The QX50 tops out near $60,000.

Dual screen infotainment systemInfiniti is one of the few companies that offers a dual-screen infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

If a stranger were to approach on the street and ask if the QX50 is a "good car," it would be easy to answer with, "yes." It's not a vehicle meant for sporty drivers looking for zippy ride around town. It's comfortable, capable, and priced right for the average premium compact SUV buyer coming out of an aging model.

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New luxury EV

Lexus announces all-electric RZ 450e

Lexus just announced the new RZ 450e

Lexus

Lexus and Toyota have finally jumped onto the EV train, and we’ll soon see new all-electric SUVs from both. The Lexus variant, named RZ 450e, features a reasonable range, upscale interior, and neat all-wheel drive technology. We don’t have firm pricing for the Lexus, but expect it to start in the mid-to-high $40,000 range.

2023 Lexus RZRange is expected to reach 225 miles per chage. Lexus

The RZ shares a platform and much of its underlying engineering with the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra, but will take a more upscale approach. Though its size and overall shape are similar to the others, the Lexus’ exterior styling is sharper and sportier, with functional aerodynamic bodywork. A new Lexus logo is spelled out on the rear gate, instead of the traditional “L” of previous models.

The SUV comes with a 71.4-kWh battery that should deliver a range of around 225 miles on a charge. All-wheel drive is standard, and uses the RZ’s dual electric motors to shift power between the wheels that need it most.

Inside, the RZ features a minimalist, open space with controls meant to remind drivers of a horse’s reins. Ultrasuede upholstery and woodgrain trim come standard. Lexus notes the RZ’s head-up display is controllable via steering wheel-mounted buttons that handle navigation, audio, and other functions.

2023 Lexus RZThough similar to the Toyota bZ4X inside, the Lexus IS more upscale and minimalist. Lexus

Speaking of the steering wheel, the first RZs will be available with a round wheel only, but later on, Lexus will offer a yoke-style wheel like the one seen in the Toyota bZ4X concept and Tesla’s Plaid models.

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Lincoln updated the flagship Navigator SUV for 2022.

Lincoln

Evie was smitten at first glance. If my ‘mini-me’ granddaughter who loves cars could have whistled through her teeth, I’m sure she would have. Eve Marion Judge, aka “Evie” was 7 when she first saw a Lincoln Navigator. It was clear that the exterior bling caught her ‘crow eyes’. The large and luscious grille. The bejeweled trim elements. The bulbous tires beset with wheels that twinkled. Paint that sparkled and invited a palm swipe. Evie was already a discriminating auto enthusiast who was in the habit of seeing a new car parked in my driveway each week. It wasn’t simply about things that glitter—for her, the rubber would meet the road when she climbed aboard her car seat and took stock of the second-seat passenger roominess and amenities. A monitor to access technology? Check! Window and illumination controls within easy reach-check. Her own climate and audio controls-double check!! And, now, the cherry on top: “how many of my friends can ride in here?”, she asked. “Seven riders total,” I said. “Fine, will you buy this for me when I get my driver’s license?! Now, this is my favorite car ever!

That was last year. I took Evie to the Chicago Auto Show recently. Now 8, she was already aware from some television commercials that the 2022 Lincoln Navigator had some upgrades and made a beeline to the updated Navigator on the show floor. She visited repeatedly during our time at the CAS and sampled the second-row massaging seats and learned how to use audio commands to obtain directions and other useful information. She was thrilled at the 10-inch rear screen that features live streaming provided by Fire TV. Her love interest held steady!

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe three-row Navigator shares quite a bit with the Ford Expedition underneath.Lincoln

I had the opportunity to drive the updated version of Lincoln’s crown jewel on a ride and drive program in Arizona recently and to speak with Lincoln engineers and designers. I was enamored with this full-sized luxury yacht that won the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury’s top award as the Car of the Year in 2018 and I share many of the same passion points as Evie. But, I too was looking forward to sampling what is new. Let’s take a closer look at the 2022 Navigator, plus a couple of new concepts that Lincoln has developed to stand apart in the ever-growing premium segment where the Navigator competes. Although Lincoln considers the Cadillac Escalade its only true rival, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Range Rover, BMW X7, and a couple of Mercedes vehicles sit in this class.

We started the day at the first Lincoln Boutique in the country, Sanderson Lincoln in Scottsdale. This new concept will give customers a unique experience by visiting an upscale, quiet space to have a latte and light snack as well as learn more about this luxury automaker that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, plus have a new kind of dealership experience. The luxury automaker is also developing its new Lincoln Loyalty and Access Rewards programs that let buyers and lessees earn points redeemable for service, maintenance and purchases and also participate in “world class experiences”, such as the new pilot for a new Mobile Vehicle Spa Service!

While the 2022 Lincoln Navigator shares its mechanicals with the Ford Expedition, its sheet metal is unique from the front door forward and the flagship sport ute boasts a sumptuous cabin that is beset with exclusive, high-end materials and a lengthy list of standard comfort, convenience and technology features. New styling updates bring a refashioned grille and new exterior lighting elements. Interior enhancements include a new infotainment display with updated Sync 4 software, and two new Black Label design themes: Central Park sports a tasteful and clever laser-etched map of the park's pathways on the IP while Invitation adds an open-pore Kai wood trim with an overlayed geometric motif as well as black leather upholstery with brandy-colored stitching.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorLincoln fitted a new infotainment system for 2022. Lincoln

Also new is Active Glide, a hands-free, semi-autonomous driving mode, along with other updates that include improved massaging seats and an option for second-row massaging seats; new interior chimes and alerts recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; a larger 13.2-inch display; and an adaptive suspension that is programmed to react to a forward-facing camera to read bumps in the road and prepare the suspension to minimize impact and improve ride comfort.

The Navigator comes in a standard wheelbase or a “L” long wheel-based version and has seating for up to 7 or 8. It’s available with 2WD (rear-drive) or 4WD (AWD) and can tow up to 8,700 lbs. Trims include Navigator, Reserve, and Black Label. Pricing starts at $76,710 and tops out above $105,000.

I sampled different trims on a drive of close to 200 miles, with stretches of city traffic and twisting two-lanes that ascended to Payson, situated at an altitude above 5,000 ft. Slipping inside posh cockpits, my drive partner and I found supple leather, high-end wood trims, knurled metal knobs, 30-way power-adjustable front seats that make the Navigator easy to tailor for drivers and passengers of varying sizes. As a short-statured tester, I particularly appreciated the power-retracting running boards, adjustable pedals, and power-adjustable steering wheel and loved the heated/ventilated seats. I also liked the ease of access to the third-row seat and the overall comfort, roominess of the cabin, and the good stowage, with the third-row seat folded.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe Navigator offers great space across all three rows of seating.Lincoln

The Navigator is powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and has quick acceleration with 440 hp and 510 ft.-lbs. of torque. The 10-speed tranny works seamlessly on up and down-shifting duties and aids in the fuel economy of this nearly 6.000-lb. SUV. Despite its heft weight and wheelbase, it drives more lightly on its feet than I imagined and has well-weighted steering and good brakes. We tried out the hands-free driving and found it reliable on the bustling freeways in the Phoenix environs.

The Navigator is set up to be a mobile technology hub with a standard 13.2-inch touchscreen, standard Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with standard over-the-air software updates. There are USB ports in every row and it is a rolling 5G Wi-Fi hotspot. Standard is a 14-speaker Revel stereo system, with an optional 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D system that also comes standard on uplevel trims and with the Luxury Package.

Standard safety features with Lincoln’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies bring blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection among other features. Of note are adaptive projector headlights and active park assist 2.0.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorActive Glide, a new semi-autonomous driving assistant, is available for 2022. Lincoln

**EPA fuel economy ratings: rear-wheel-drive 17 city/ 23 mpg highway/ 19 combined; 4WD 16 city/22 highway/18 combined.

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