2022 Infiniti QX55 First Drive Review: Is It a Modern FX, or a Letdown?

My dad’s Chrysler Town & Country catching fire on the Tri-Borough Bridge during rush hour traffic was probably the best thing to happen to us. Well, me. I mean, don’t get me wrong—it was probably a super bad day for my parents—but it led to my dad swearing off minivans for good. What we got next—a 2003 Infiniti FX35 in laser red—was our family’s first cool car, and it wound up being the car I learned to drive (and flunked my first driver’s test) in. So it was with equal parts nostalgia and excitement that I took delivery of a Dynamic Sunstone red 2022 Infiniti QX55—the company’s modern-day successor to the FX—almost 20 years after my family’s van’s demise, for a California test drive.

What Does the QX55 Have to Do With the FX?

To understand the pressure that not just I, but Infiniti, is putting on the new QX55, it’s important to understand the original FX first. Simply put, it was a game-changer. It was among the first SUVs to be built on a car-based platform (what we now interchangeably call a crossover); and whereas contemporary crossovers were built on the platforms of front-drive family sedans, the FX was underpinned by Nissan’s rear-drive FM platform, shared with the reborn Nissan 350Z sports car and the hot-selling Infiniti G35 sedan and coupe.

With a 280-hp V-6 or a 320-hp V-8 backing up the sporty chassis, the FX experience was “a Nissan Z with stadium seating,” we wrote back in 2004. You have the Infiniti FX (as well as the Porsche Cayenne) to thank for the slew of sports and super SUVs now available. Even so, the FX suffered an odd name change for 2014 (to QX70), and the model was put out to pasture in 2017 never to be directly replaced.

Infiniti sees the new 2022 QX55 as the spiritual successor to the FX. “The all-new QX55 channels the spirit of the groundbreaking Infiniti FX that created the coupe crossover segment nearly two decades ago,” the company said. It’s worth noting the FX wasn’t a coupe, and the QX55 isn’t, either. “FX” was probably mentioned just as many times as the word “dynamic” was during Infiniti’s Zoom-ified presentation to the press.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on what’s essentially a QX50 with a swoopy roofline.

While the FX shared much with the Nissan Z and Infiniti G, the QX55 doesn’t have anything mechanical in common with the new (old) 400Z or Infiniti Q50/60 (the G’s successor). Instead, it’s much more of, well, a QX50—Infiniti’s everyday compact luxury crossover—with a fastback roofline that harkens back to that FX.

The QX55 shares its variable-compression 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 and CVT with its more traditionally styled sibling. As it does in the QX50, the VC-Turbo engine makes 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, though Infiniti says it’s made some tuning improvements to the CVT for the QX55. Unlike the QX50, all-wheel drive is standard on the QX55, but the vehicle is still based on a front-wheel-drive layout.

Although ostensibly designed to copy the fastback profile of rivals like the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, the QX55’s modest roof rake helps increase its torsional rigidity versus the QX50, while the stylish standard 20-inch wheels necessitated some minor suspension tweaks.

OK, So How Does the New Infiniti QX55 Drive?

In person, the 2022 QX55 makes quite the impression. The sharp red paint on our QX55 really highlights the scarab-like profile, while the SUV’s crisp, sculpted lines look genuinely great sparkling in the sun. While many fastback SUV “coupes” like those from Infiniti’s German rivals end up looking a bit like irradiated turtles, the rake in the QX55’s roof isn’t quite as aggressive and its rear glass is a little more upright. There’s a conventionalism to the QX55’s design that makes it both contemporary and yet an effective homage to the original FX at the same time. It’s the type of design that makes you want to go drive somewhere looking for a pretty Instagram backdrop—rare for a crossover, especially at the QX55’s $47,525 starting price.

It’s a damn shame about the driving experience, then.

Despite the promises on the tin, the QX55 driving experience doesn’t move beyond that of the QX50, and in some ways it even regresses. The QX55’s powertrain is the main pain sore point. Infiniti’s VC-Turbo engine sure seems to have the makings of a good engine, but we’ll never know for sure with this transmission. Ignoring the fascinating variable compression technology, the engine has a gut punch of midrange torque once the compression ratio falls and the turbo spools, and it sounds throaty, tickling the ear when on-power.

But strapping this engine to a CVT is setting it up for failure; the engine already has a dozen different variables to contend with, and it doesn’t need a variable-ratio gearbox making things even more complicated. Despite overly aggressive throttle response attempting to mask the indecision going on under the hood, there’s a noticeable lag between the inputs from your right foot and any forward motion as both the engine and transmission figure out how to respond. The end result is a surgy drive experience where occupants are constantly rocked forward and backward in their seats as the engine and transmission attempt to (but never do) sync up. It’s like the engine is doing the tango and the CVT the macarena. It feels as ridiculous as that sounds.

Infiniti has a new front-drive-oriented nine-speed automatic in the updated QX60 but has no current plans to bring it to the QX50 or 55. We’d recommend making and then fast-tracking those plans.

The rest of the experience doesn’t get any better from there. Like most of Infiniti’s latest products, the QX55 uses a steer-by-wire system. By all accounts, the tech works great in fighter jets and airliners, but it needs some serious fine-tuning in automotive applications (especially semi-sporty ones). There’s no semblance of feel or feedback from the front wheels sent to steering wheel, either through bends or while motoring down the highway. Sport mode adds weight to the steering, but the end result feels like a force-feedback video game controller.

The stiffer structure and suspension changes haven’t done the QX55’s ride any favors, either. The QX50 has a notably refined ride for the segment, but the QX55 feels flinty and less composed than its more sedate stablemate.

Is the Interior at Least Good?

Design is the QX55’s single biggest redeeming quality both outside and inside. Thankfully, the QX55 retains the QX50’s well-executed interior ambiance. The dash design is modern and elegant (especially on higher trims equipped with the two-tone suede-topped dashboard), and material quality on our midgrade QX55 Essential test vehicle was excellent—even if there’s too much Nissan switchgear for our liking.

Although the QX55’s rear seats lose 3 inches of headroom to the rakish roofline and footroom is a bit tight, the back seat is otherwise a pleasant place to spend time for a 6-foot-tall adult male. Cargo volume drops somewhat, too, from 31.4 cubic feet in the QX50 to 26.9 cubic feet in the QX55.

So Is the QX55 Worth It?

Pricing for the 2022 QX55 starts at $47,525 for a base Luxe model—about $3,000 more than a comparable QX50. The mid-level QX55 Essential adds heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, a 16-speaker Bose audio system, Nissan’s stellar ProPilot Assist driver support system, and a handful of other features, bumping the starting price up to $52,625. The range-topping 2022 QX55 Sensory adds three-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, fancier leather and wood trim, and other niceties. It starts at $58,075.

Ultimately, the QX55 is two steps forward and one back—Infiniti’s design team drags the brand forward, but the engineering team’s hands are tied by its reliance on a CVT and an unfinished steer-by-wire system.

Those who don’t know (or don’t care) what a sporty SUV is will likely be impressed. The QX55 looks the part, and the Infiniti’s jackrabbit throttle response, semi-pleasing engine growl, and flinty ride will be overlooked because, naively, that’s what some think a performance vehicle should be like. Unfortunately for Infiniti, anyone who’s spent any time in a base model X4 or GLC Coupe won’t be fooled—nor would any former FX driver looking for Infiniti to return to glory.

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