The stylish fastback SUV requires a few compromises, but they might be worth it.
In the 1995 film To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar, three drag queens embark on a cross-country trip, but not before visiting a car dealer to select an appropriate ride. The salesman suggests a reliable Toyota Corolla, while Noxeema Jackson (played by Wesley Snipes) and Chi-Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo) find themselves drawn to a big Cadillac convertible.
Patrick Swayze’s Miss Vida Boheme posits, “Well, pumpkins, it looks like it comes down to that age-old decision: Style or substance?” You can probably guess what happens next. They pick the Caddy, it breaks down in the middle of nowhere, hilarity ensues. Infiniti’s answer to that question, the 2022 QX55, trades the mechanically identical QX50’s conventional styling for a faster roofline that the company says is inspired by its original fastback crossover, the 2003 FX. Unlike the queenly Cadillac, the 2022 QX55 requires far less dramedy in the name of vehicular fashion.
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Infiniti delivered the QX55 to me via an enclosed trailer (fittingly towed behind a QX80), and that unloading spectacle wasn’t the last time that onlookers would gawk at the Dynamic Sunstone Red fastback SUV. There’s no denying that it’s an attractive piece of machinery, featuring a more aggressive bumper and grille up front and a new roofline from the A-pillar back. A chopped windshield and aggressively raked rear end set the QX55 apart from the similarly sized BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, helping it look less like a turtle and more like a legitimate “coupe.”
The front clip looks very similar to that of the QX50 – the clamshell hood creates an interesting shadow over the swoopy front fenders, and the glowering headlights look even better on the QX55, matching model-specific hawk-eye taillights (which feature “digital piano key” LED accents). The D-pillar does away with the crescent shape that’s been on every modern Infiniti since the 2013 JX35, instead recalling the semicircular window openings of the first- and second-generation FX. However, those sporty crossovers featured a mostly flat roofline over the rear seats, while the QX55 slopes aggressively toward the ducktail rear spoiler.
Unfortunately, that low ceiling impacts space inside. Rear passengers suffer the most, with just 36.9 inches of headroom compared to the front row’s 39.9 inches – the QX50 has 40.0 and 38.4 inches, respectively. The Infiniti also fares worse than its German competitors – the X4 has 37.5 inches of wig clearance in back, while the GLC Coupe has 38.3 inches. And unfortunately, the QX55 is as tight as its numbers indicate. The narrow rear door opening forces a neck-contorting entry, and I couldn’t find enough space for my 6-foot frame, not even with a standard sliding and reclining rear seat.
The supportive front seats are far more comfortable, with 39.6 inches of legroom and an easier ingress. Although both the BMW and Mercedes offer more front head and legroom, you probably won’t miss the extra space unless you’re well over 6 feet tall – Swayze in heels, for example. The QX55 does well in other measurements too, offering 38.7 inches of rear legroom and 26.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up and 54.1 with them folded. Rear legroom and luggage volume dwarf rivals from Germany, so kids in the back will be less able to kick your seat.
Material quality on this top-trim Sensory tester is hit or miss. Gorgeous semi-aniline leather comes standard, as do heated and ventilated front seats. The armrests and pillar-like structure on the passenger side are well padded, but the rest of the console – including the driver-side knee bolster – is stiff, cheap plastic. And each piece of the wood trim on the dash and door panels gets a slightly different finish (a problem we’ve noted in the QX50 before), with uneven gaps coming along for the ride. Some of these problems may be pre-production anomalies, but the hard plastic is all but given. Ditto the flimsy-feeling shift selector.
Like the QX50, the 2022 QX55 features a turbocharged, variable-compression 2.0-liter inline-four engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. With 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet, there’s almost always enough punch for a quick left turn through traffic – “Internal combustion: the ultimate accessory” – and the CVT does a good job of guessing what behavior the driver wants. However, it’s not immune to rubber-band dynamics, and that’s a major bummer in a vehicle that’s supposed to invoke the spirit of the FX.
Adding to the disappointment is a standard front-biased all-wheel-drive system, as opposed to the Nissan Z–derived rear-drive architecture of the original fastback crossover. The engine also sounds rather gruff and unrefined, flying in the face of the FX’s basso profundo V6 and V8 exhaust notes. Nevertheless, the QX55 is still amenable to some twisty-road antics, with a suspension that keeps body motions checked but still maintains a freeway-friendly ride. Although only slightly retuned from the QX50, the hardware is ready to play a little if you are.
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Putting the dynamic selector in Sport mode gives the throttle some added verve, the transmission selects higher revs to keep the turbocharger riled up, and the aloof steering gets discernibly heavier (though no more communicative). Making quick work of a winding road is relatively drama-free, with only a little torque steer coming before the QX55 sends power aft. It’s no BMW M car, but the Infiniti is far more fun than anything with a CVT has a right to be, resisting understeer until the last second before relenting into some safe, controllable front-end push. Even on wavy pavement, the QX55 grips and goes.
In Eco mode, however, the little Infiniti does everything it can to prevent excessive consumption, starting with a throttle pedal that’s actually stiffer and harder to press. As a result, the engine runs more frequently in its high-compression, low-boost mode, yielding impressive fuel economy over long journeys. The blunted throttle response is annoying, but flooring the go-pedal results in the same power output as in any other drive mode. Whether you’ll like using the duller, more parsimonious Eco mode is a matter of personal preference, but it’s still nice that Infiniti makes its drive settings palpably different from one another.
Better Living Through Science
Infiniti doesn’t charge extra for active safety technology like automatic emergency braking (front and rear) and blind spot monitoring. However, ProPilot Assist, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and steering assist, is only available as an option on the mid-level Essential or standard on the top-spec Sensory. As tested, ProPilot works as well here as it does in any of Nissan or Infiniti’s other products, keeping the QX55 an even distance from other cars and from lane markings. My only complaint was a jarring beep that accompanied every lane change, indicating when steering assist had reactivated.
Infiniti’s InTouch split-touchscreen infotainment system is cumbersome at first, but it becomes reasonably intuitive within a few minutes. The 8.0-inch upper screen displays either embedded navigation or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (wireless or wired), and it responds decently to either touch inputs or the console-mounted controller. The 7.0-inch lower screen serves as a radio and media tuner, climate control module, and navigation input; it also adjusts vehicle settings. As on other Nissan products, voice commands are an exercise in frustration, and the infotainment software is a generation old. The new Rogue has a better display and menus.
Still, there’s no denying the kickin’ sound system, at least on the Essential and Sensory models. With 16 speakers scattered throughout the cabin, the Bose Performance Series audio system sounds wonderful, somehow making even compressed satellite radio sound richer and less tinny. Higher-quality audio files are better still.
Cost Of Entry
Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi metaphorically paid for their stylish ride with a series of comical (and some serious) misadventures after getting marooned in a small, staid Midwestern town. Infiniti QX55 owners will have to pay a much more literal price if they want its fashionable looks. The entry-level Luxe trim costs $46,500 and comes standard with all-wheel drive, $8,550 more than the front-drive QX50 or $6,550 more than one with all-wheel drive. That’s a lot of extra cash for a vehicle that’s less practical and no sportier. However, both the $51,600 BMW X4 xDrive 30i or $51,650 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 Coupe cost more at the low end.
The QX55 Sensory I drove starts at $57,050, $5,050 more than a similar QX50. A $900 coat of so-gorgeous-it-should-be-mandatory Dynamic Sunstone Red paint was the only option on my tester, bringing the total to $58,975 with $1,025 destination. A BMW X4 equipped similarly – metallic paint, advanced driver-assist technology, leather, and some extras – would cost $60,095. The GLC 300 Coupe would be $60,585. With a cost savings of at least $1,100 compared to the Germans, the lovely QX55 makes some sense to empty-nesters and yuppies who don’t need rear-drive reflexes and aren’t worried about the spatial compromises that the stylish skin demands.
Three posh drag queens and their luggage probably wouldn’t fit in any of ‘em, though. Keep the Cadillac, Miss Vida Boheme.
QX55 Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2022 Infiniti QX55: First Drive Review
2022 Infiniti QX55 Sensory