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Styling, comfort, technology and performance make the compact crossover competitive against better known luxury brands.

COURTESY INFINITI - The 2021 Infiniti QX50 is an attractive compact crossover with restrained styling and a quiet ride.In the hotly competitive luxury compact crossover market segment, the 2021 Infiniti QX50 stands out by not standing out much. While some models strain to attract attention to themselves, the QX50 is admirably restrained. The exterior styling is reserved and the interior design is tasteful, immediately conveying the message that it is aimed at serious adults, not adults who wish they are still teenagers.

Along those lines, Infiniti's crossover is also one of the quietest and smoothest riding compact SUVs available at any price. But it's no slouch. The standard turbocharged 2.0-liter engine produces 268 horsepower and 280 foot pounds of torque, which provides good acceleration, especially in the Sport mode.

COURTESY INFINITI - The 2021 Infiniti QX50 can be ordered with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.

That is largely because of the engine is one of the most advanced in any vehicle. Infiniti calls it a VC-T, for variable compression turbo. The compression ratio varies from 8.0:1 to 14.0:1, depending on how hard it is pushed.

But another reason is the well-tuned standard Continuously Variable Transmission. Infiniti is the Nissan's luxury brand, and Nissan has spent years refining its CVTs to balance economy with performance. The QX50 benefits from the research, in addition to Nissan's years on work all-wheel-drive with the optional Intelligent AWD system.

COURTESY INFINITI - The interior of the 2021 Infiniti QX50 is tasteful and features dual infotainment screens.

But these days, the most serious competition facing luxury compact crossovers like the Infiniti Qx50 are not other luxury compact crossovers. Aficionados will debate the pros and cons of equivalent offerings from Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Lincoln, and Mercedes. But for most buyers, the real competition is from the top-of-the-line versions of the compact crossovers made by affordable manufacturers. Many are now so good, it is hard to justify the additional thousands for the more upscale models.

Nissan created this dilemma for itself last year when it completely redesigned its longrunning Rogue. Previously known as a value leader, the new version is now so refined that it raises the obvious question of why pay more, especially when the upscale Platinum model offers just about everything anyone could want in a compact crossover.

COURTESY INFINITI - The front bucket seats in the 2021 Infiniti QX50 are supportive and comfortable.

Fortunately for Infiniti, the QX50 provides several convincing answers. They include the more sophisticated and powerful engine, the more refined and quieter ride, and the genuinely premium interior materials, including the greater use of higher quality leather. But Nissan and the other luxury brands owned by affordable manufacturers need to be careful going forward. They are competing against themselves as much as each other.

In a week of test driving, the Infiniti QX50 Autograph AWD never failed to impress with its style, sophistication, technology and performance. After being completely redesigned in 2019, few changes were needed for the 2021 model, although Infiniti was wise to add ProPILOT Assist, which assists the steering when the adaptive cruise control is in use. The driver must keep hands on the wheel and attention on the road at all times, but ProPILOT is another step in the direction of safe autonomous driving.

COURTESY INFINITI - There is a surprising amount of room in the back seats of the 2021 Infiniti QX50.

The weather was not wet enough that I needed AWD, but it was cold enough that I appreciated the heated seats and steering wheel during my daily trips. The amount of cargo space wa also impressive for a compact crossover — 31.4 cubic feet behind the back seats and 65.1 with them folded down.

There are many luxury (and near-luxury) compact crossovers competing for your attention these days. It is always wise to test drive several before making a final decision. But one of them should be the 2021 Infiniti QX50, and preferably the Autograph AWD version.

COURTESY INFINITI - The VC-Turbo engine in the 2021 Infiniti QX50 is the first production turbocharged variable compression ratio engine available.

2021 Infiniti QX50 Autograph AWD

Base price: $37,960 (Pure FWD)

Price as tested: $61,765

Type: Compact crossover SUV

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (268 hp, 280 lbs-ft)

Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission

EPA estimated mileage: 22/28

Overall length: 184.7 inches

Curb weight: 3,810 pounds

Final assembly: Aguas, Mexico


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