I’ve spent the last week driving a Graphite Shadow 2023 Infiniti QX50 Sport AWD and while I found it a comfortable, enjoyable ride, it was also rather forgettable. Perhaps it’s a problem with comparing hundreds of cars over time; they start to blur together. Pick a category like Sports Utility Vehicles and you’ll begin to be convinced that any given vehicle is a mashup of the elements of previous vehicles you’ve evaluated. There’s nothing at all wrong with the QX50 Sport, but there’s nothing exceptional about it either. Is that a problem? Hmm…
To start, the 2022 QX50 lineup featured five trim levels, and for 2023 Infiniti replaced the “Essential” trim level with the far more enticing “Sport” lineup. But here’s what’s surprising: There are no additional sports or performance features actually added to the vehicle. Indeed, one of the most forgettable aspects of the 2023 QX50 Sport was its performance. Even in “Sport” mode, its 2.0L 268hp variable compression turbo engine underperformed, offering a typical lag of a few seconds on acceleration that it seems a proper turbo system would fix.
It’s a very comfortable and attractive vehicle, so let’s start there. This is a Graphite Shadow model with a Monaco Red interior:
If you’re thinking that the front grill is rather similar to the Mazda and the overall vehicle has a lot of exterior design similarities to the CX-9, well, I can’t disagree, being a Mazda owner myself. There are some definite differences, like the air scoop recessed lights on the front and the “zag” line on the rear cargo compartment window (you can see it above), but overall, these SUVs really do begin to blur.
The interior, however, brings on the luxury in a way that Mazda hasn’t yet been able to touch. Infiniti is the upscale sister brand to Nissan and between them, they’ve learned a lot about luxury and design over the millions of vehicles sold. It’s immediately obvious in the front dash layout:
Straightforward and simple, with paddle shifters tucked behind the crossbars of the steering wheel and most all of the climate control system located on mirrored vertical button stacks on either side of the lower display screen. Unlike some other vehicles I’ve driven in the last year, every control was logically placed and I immediately knew how to work with almost every aspect of the QX50 (other than having to figure out the dual-screen display and climate controls, but I’ll get back to that in a bit).
Even the lights are controlled by a rotating control knob similar to what I’ve found in vehicles for many years. No steering wheel stem stick that’s massively overloaded with lights, wiper controls, cruise control, and who the heck knows what else. Nailing a design and sticking with it is a smart move and it’s certainly served Toyota well, but at what point does a design also become a bit stale? While the Monaco Red leather adds a pop of color and style, there’s also something rather generic and uninspired about the dash design too. Even the main gauge display seems to owe more to a 1980s dash design than a mid-2020s luxury vehicle:
I don’t think that this should be some 3D ultra-modern and therefore barely legible super display of dark blue against a black background with red highlights and a green glow around the edge, but ya gotta admit, this is also a design that’s perfect for someone who wants the safety features of a modern vehicle while still pretending they’re in their first Nissan from late in the last century.
Let’s talk about the dual display system…
The top is clearly running wireless Apple CarPlay but that left the bottom display very little to do, and there are some basic user interface oddities on the lower unit too. First off, notice the (mostly) mirrored climate controls on the vertical button stacks. That I liked. But along the bottom there are two competing rows of physical buttons, and above that two more rows of virtual buttons. In fact, mostly CarPlay wouldn’t just automatically display on the top screen unless I tapped on the “Apple CarPlay” button on the lower screen. That took a bit of getting used to, suffice to say, and why are there four rows of buttons here? More importantly, it seemed redundant to have a big infotainment display on the top portion of the dashboard and this second screen that was, well, second fiddle and never displayed anything important.
Again similarly to my Mazda, the QX50 includes a separate infotainment control knob on the center console, as shown:
It’s hard to tell from this angle, but that’s an actual shifter that is quite intuitive, but with the angular design, it really does feel that the infotainment control knob portion is almost an afterthought, put to the right and at an angle because that’s how it fit, not because that’s the optimal placement.
On the positive side, the 2023 Infiniti QX50 Sport does have a very nice power/charging section just behind the gear shift with everything you could need to keep your gadgets and gizmos powered up and hooked into the vehicle’s system as needed:
In particular, the inclusion of the 12V “cigarette lighter” adapter in such an accessible location is something old school drivers will appreciate since their radar detectors might require just such a plug. I know, I’ve been saying it’s a bit too outdated in its design, but that doesn’t mean that something like a 12V plug isn’t appreciated by its customer base.
In terms of overall comfort, this QX50 model was definitely another great entrant in the Infiniti lineup with very comfortable and highly adjustable seats, a gorgeous leather finish, and an impressively quiet interior cabin driving at high speeds. When I drove on a rather rough dirt road at speed, the suspension did a notable job of dampening the bumps and jolts too, sufficiently so that I noticed it as I left a trail of dust in my rear-view mirror.
Leg room? Typical of its class. This is with the front seat pushed all the way back for a tall driver:
The QX50 also has a lot of cargo space, which is definitely appreciated by families that need space for sports gear, luggage for a road trip, or just the inevitable dozen bags of groceries from the weekly shopping adventure:
Notice also the 60/40 rear seat design, which has become very much an industry standard.
And so, finally, we come back to the exterior and it’s the rear view that shows that “zag” design of the rear side window and the nice lines of the QX50:
It certainly presents a sporty exterior, and the interior is comfortable and quiet, but is it a sporty edition? Unfortunately, no. And that’s perhaps the biggest issue I had with the 2023 Infiniti QX50 Sport. If it were advertised as a luxury SUV in the mid 50s price range, that’d be fine, but I really wanted a Sports edition, when switched to Sport Mode, to be, well, sporty. If you’re looking for a comfortable luxury SUV, however, the entire Infiniti lineup is a definite step up from the Nissan models in comfort, luxury, and finish. In that case, the QX50 might be worth considering as your next SUV.
2023 Infiniti QX50 Sport AWD with 2.0L turbo engine, featuring the Infiniti InTouch Dual HD display with Wi-Fi hotspot, Bose Premium Audio with 12 speakers and all the safety features available, including blind spot warning, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, high beam assist, and predictive forward collision warning. MSRP: $52,815.00.
Disclosure: Infiniti loaned me the QX50 to drive for a week in return for this candid writeup and review. Thanks, Infiniti!