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Auto review: Infiniti QX55 brings back X-appeal to the SUV

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

Japanese luxury brands are going back to the future to find their mojo.

First Acura time-traveled back to the 1990s to rediscover its sporty roots. The successful journey brought us the Acura NSX supercar and athletic RDX and MDX SUVs. Infiniti is using the same method to aid its SUV fortunes.

Say hello to the sexy QX55 — created from the frozen DNA of an Infiniti FX found after a trip in the way-back machine. I took it to Hell (Michigan) and back.

QX55 is the first Japanese fastback to brave the compact luxe segment against the German trinity of BMW X4, Mercedes GLC Coupe, and Audi Q5 Sportback. But it's not the first fastback Infiniti SUV. Indeed, Nissan's premium brand pioneered the racy SUV concept waaaay back in 2003 with the FX. With a rear-drive layout, a long hood that arrived an hour before the cabin, and salacious looks, FX (which eventually became QX70 under Infiniti's new nomenclature until it disappeared in 2017) was a German-like SUV hottie before the Germans ever thought of it.

Why Infiniti killed it is a head-scratcher. But now it's been reborn as the smaller QX55. Talk about your sexy mom car.

My Slate Grey tester oozed sex appeal. Not that the stylish, square-back QX50 is a wallflower. But the QX55 is Kim Kardashian in spandex.

 

Sultry headlights frame a bigger, poutier front mouth. The grille — flanked by big intakes — is laced with an origami-inspired mesh. The coupe-like roof plunges into round rear hips dressed with a bold black belt under exotic LED taillights. It's the love child of the FX and Q Inspiration Concept that turned heads at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Drive up to the school pickup line slowly and let the other parents stare. But under that hot bod, QX55 is less ambitious than FX/QX70.

Gone is the rear-wheel-drive-based architecture. QX55 conforms to the front-wheel-drive-based architecture common to both the QX-50 and cousin Nissan. Gone, too, is the throaty, 325-horse V-6 engine. Sigh. As 21st century emissions regs have forced more turbo-4s, graveyards are filling up with sixes.

Like a good basketball coach, however, Infiniti squeezes every bit of talent out of its small, four-piston lineup. The QX55 drivetrain gives 110%.

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