The well-known phrase “leave well enough alone” is something carmakers should take to heart. We could throw in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” while we’re at it.
But either way, it seems automobile manufacturers are incorporating more and more features and designs of questionable value – or no value at all – into their products. They change and redesign things for its own sake, rather than with a view to actually improving the driving experience or making the vehicle better.
Take the 2020 Infiniti QX50 … please.
This mid-size SUV is a perfectly good example of a vehicle that could easily fulfil its mandate of carrying people and cargo around in comfort, with decent performance and reasonable fuel economy. But it has spoiled everything with too much stuff and so-called convenience features that only serve to irritate – and bump up the price tag.
Available in five trim levels, the QX50 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a manual shift feature. All-wheel drive is standard on all models and it has a towing capacity of 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg).
This engine and the transmission are two of the car’s strongest points. They are well matched and surprisingly well suited to this size of vehicle. I’m not normally a fan of CVTs but in this case, it seems to work well, aside from the shift mechanism. Fuel economy is pretty typical of this breed of SUV: 9.7 litres/100 km, combined rating.
The QX50 has much the same proportions as the Nissan Rogue. It offers 1,842 litres (65 cubic feet) of cargo space with the back seats folded and 889 litres (31 cubic feet) with them upright. A nifty little lever allows you to drop the back seats from the rear of the vehicle, but they don’t fold completely flat.
The interior of the QX50 is tasteful and welcoming, with all the usual modern conveniences. My tester had a kind of faux suede trim, which looked nice. Nissan/Infiniti has always managed to get the interior layout and design of its vehicles right, and this is no exception.
On the other hand …
The climate control system is unnecessarily sensitive and complicated. You have to bring it up on the centre monitor to make adjustments, and since everything is touch sensitive, you’ll want to make these adjustments while stationery or driving on very smooth pavement. It’s easy to hit the wrong spot and then you have to go back and do it again, all of which is distracting.
The CVT seems to work well enough, with minimal delays. But the Park setting is a separate button rather than just built into the shift mechanism. This is an example of making a change simply to demonstrate you can – it doesn’t make the driving experience better and isn’t superior to the traditional arrangement.
The sound system is overly complicated and multi-step. I realize this is the way things are these days but it’s annoying. Again, hit a bump while you’re changing stations and you wind up with something completely alien, whereupon you have to do it again. Distracting.
My car also had a hyperactive GPS that wouldn’t shut up or shut itself off. A random audio message would play whenever there was any kind of detour or when I got near the American border, which is all the time where I live. I’m sure there’s a way to disable this but I never figured it out.
All of these relatively small irritants combine to detract from the QX50’s driveability. I actually liked this rig and consider it to be one of the more palatable offerings in this category, but all the unnecessary frippery just annoyed the hell out of me.
2020 Infiniti QX50
Engine: turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 268 at 5,600 rpm
Torque: 280 foot pounds
Base price: $44,998
Fuel economy: 10.8 litres/100 km city and 8.3 litres/100 km highway, with regular gas
Some alternatives: Acura MDX, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Rogue, Toyota Venza, Toyota 4Runner, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Outback, Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Mazda CX9, Hyundai Santa Fe.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).