One of the last things I expected to be doing in an age where electric cars and alternative fuel sources garner increasing attention is to be driving a car with a new type of internal combustion engine. But that’s exactly what’s under the hood of the new 2019 Infiniti QX50 mid-sized crossover SUV I’m driving on a 160-mile jaunt around the greater Los Angeles area.
Infiniti’s new variable compression turbo engine is an astounding feat of engineering that proves old dogs can be taught new tricks if given the benefit of modern developmental computing muscle. The compression ratio is the degree to which the fuel mixture in an engine is compressed before ignition and it’s heretofore been a fixed number key to an engine’s performance. Infiniti’s new engine, thanks to a new piston stroke that works like a track star’s knee in motion, varies the compression ratio as required with 8:1 at the high-performance end and 14:1 at the top of the high-efficiency range. I can see how the compression ratio changes on the instrument display as I’m driving. The main benefit is a 35 percent increase in fuel efficiency to 27 miles per gallon but the power is there when I want it thanks to a turbocharger that helps make the four-cylinder, 268-horsepower engine perform like a V6.
But the truth is I stopped caring about the engine long before the halfway point on my journey. That’s because VC Turbo engine works so well I don’t have to give it any thought. Of more lasting interest is the bevy of driver assist features in the QX50. The most novel and useful is one that takes the tedium out of driving on an LA highway. It’s an advanced cruise control that I engage at the touch of a blue button on the steering wheel that allows the car to take over acceleration, braking, and steering duties as long as I stay in a single lane and maintain a light touch on the wheel.
The exterior design is sharp and athletic looking, highlighted by Infiniti’s signature crescent cut on the rear pillar and a larger double-arch grille. High marks go to the interior cabin design with its visually striking combination of suede, leather and maple trim. The cabin is a very quiet space due to noise cancellation technology that actively reduces the sound of engine noise. It’s also very comfortable thanks to seats that use tension-reducing techniques derived from zero-gravity chairs developed by NASA and tweaked for in-car use. The seats are so comfortable that by the time I arrive back at my inviting hotel, the new design-conscious La Peer in West Hollywood, it feels like I’ve hardly spent any time driving at all.
$58,206 as driven; infinitiusa.com