Infiniti previews upcoming QX50 Concept

Published: 30 December 2016

► First look at the new Infiniti QX50 Concept
► Mid-size SUV features semi-autonomous tech
► Could make production with new VC-Turbo engine

Infiniti is set to unveil its new QX50 Concept at the 2017 Detroit motor show, and has released a series of preview images ahead of the car’s official debut.

The new concept, revealed in full in one picture and in sketches elsewhere, is Infiniti’s latest take on a mid-sized SUV. It showcases much of the brand’s new technology, including modern driver assistance systems, and also offers a thinly veiled look at the next-gen QX50.

It looks awfully familiar…

Don’t worry – you’re not imagining things. This ‘new’ concept is actually a more production-ready take on the QX Sport Inspiration, below, which was revealed earlier in 2016.

Infiniti QX Sport Inspiration

Roland Krueger, president of Infiniti, said: ‘With the unveiling of the QX Sport Inspiration at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, we showed the future of Infiniti QX models.

‘The new QX50 Concept evolves this concept further and shows how Infiniti could develop its future presence in the fastest-growing vehicle segment globally.’

Is there any interesting tech up its sleeve?

Infiniti will use the concept to showcase its new ‘ProPILOT’ systems, which are designed to reduce driver workload and cut stress. Details are few and far between, so far, but the company has said that functions will include ‘navigating stop-start traffic on the motorway’ and ‘tracking the position of surrounding vehicles’.

Of more interest is the new VC-Turbo engine, which is also due to be on show in Detroit alongside the QX50 Concept. The production-ready 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine features a variable compression ratio system, reputedly granting improvements in efficiency and performance. Several other manufacturers, including Saab, have experimented with variable compression engines, but none have made it into mainstream production.

The VC-Turbo is claimed to offer a compression ratio that ranges from 8:1 through to 14:1 – which should, in theory, grant it better performance throughout its operating range. Need lots of power? It can drop the compression ratio, increase boost and deliver more punch without suffering from damage – yet when you settle back to a cruise, it can switch to a high-compression configuration for efficient motoring. 

Infiniti says the engine outputs 268bhp and 288lb ft, and also states it is targeting a ‘27% improvement in fuel efficiency over V6 petrol engines of a similar output’.

Wait, 27% better than a V6? That doesn’t sound entirely promising...

Most V6s that output similar figures aren’t exactly noted for their efficiency, so it does feel like Infiniti is setting somewhat of a low bar. You’ve got to look primarily at naturally aspirated V6s to find power figures that low these days, leading you to the likes of the 3.5-litre V6 found in the US-market Honda Pilot SUV. That engine, which puts out 280bhp and 262lb ft, averages around 27mpg in UK figures. So, a 27% improvement would bring that to around 34mpg.

Consider this: a Volkswagen Golf R, with a conventional 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, puts out 296bhp and 280lb ft. Its claimed economy is 39.8mpg, although in our long-term test we averaged a still-tolerable 29.8mpg – so the VC-Turbo’s going to have to achieve significantly better to impress. Then there’s the added complexity and cost of the variable compression ratio system to consider.

Infiniti QX50 Concept render

But we won’t call time on the VC-Turbo just yet; the final figures may show the powerplant’s efficiency in a far better light, and it may be far cleaner than any equivalent V6 or conventional alternative. We’re certainly looking forward to trying it, to say the least.

Infiniti states that this new powerplant is ‘perfectly suited to the packaging of the QX50 Concept’. It’s likely, as a result, that a production version of the new QX SUV would also mark the debut of a production version of the VC-Turbo engine – so we might not have to wait that long to find out what it’s really like…

When will we find out more?

The Infiniti QX50 Concept will be revealed in full on 9 January, at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Read CAR magazine’s Infiniti QX Sport Inspiration story here

Infiniti QX50 Concept render

By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car

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