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2022 Infiniti QX55 first drive review: At least it's pretty

The QX55's shapely exterior can't cover up this Infiniti's inherent flaws.

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The 2022 Infiniti QX55 starts at $46,525, including $1,025 for destination.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Say what you will about crossover-coupes, these kinda-SUVs know their niche. A lot of buyers are perfectly happy giving up a bit of functionality for the sake of flair, and that definitely bodes well for Infiniti's attractive new coupeover, the QX55.

Infiniti design boss Alfonso Albaisa says the company made "a conscious effort" to mimic the roofline of the groundbreaking FX crossover, and I think it works. With its elegant body sculpting, tasteful brightwork, LED illumination and standard 20-inch wheels, the QX55 makes a great first impression. Problem is, it's mostly downhill from there.

Underneath that rakish skin, the 2022 QX55 is nearly identical to Infiniti's existing QX50 crossover. Under the hood, you'll find the same 2.0-liter VC-Turbo I4, making 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That's ample motivation for the 4,000-pound QX55, and what's cool about the VC-Turbo engine is its variable compression ratio technology -- that's the "VC" part -- which can vary between 14:1 and 8:1 depending on throttle input. This makes the 2.0-liter engine more efficient on the top end and more powerful down low. Both good things, for sure.

The VC-Turbo tech is imperceptible on the road; you never feel any transitions between the higher and lower compression rates. Unfortunately, that great engineering is overshadowed by the coarse sound of the four-cylinder engine, which is amplified by the continuously variable transmission. Infiniti says its CVT is tuned to mimic the action of a traditional automatic with simulated shift points, but this doesn't really enhance the driving experience. In fact, the transmission's behavior can cancel out all the hard work that went into making the VC-Turbo a super-smooth engine in the first place.

According to EPA estimates, the QX55 should return 22 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, figures that match the QX50. That's about on par with the BMW X4 xDrive30i and Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic Coupe, give or take 1 or 2 mpg. Various publications (Roadshow included) have noted poor fuel economy with the QX50 during real-world testing, however, which is something to keep in mind.

Infiniti modeled the QX55's roofline on its original FX, one of the industry's first performance luxury crossovers.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Every QX55 comes standard with all-wheel drive, which defaults to a 50:50 initial torque split for better acceleration, but routes 100% of the engine's power to the front wheels when no slip is detected. The four-wheel independent suspension offers a supple ride on the freeway with nicely controlled lateral body motions, and the QX55 is perfectly pleasant to drive around town, the suspension filtering out the initial impact harshness of larger bumps and potholes.

Nothing about the QX55's powertrain really inspires sporty driving, however, which is probably good, since this thing doesn't really like to be hustled. There's a sharp initial response to turn-in, but Infiniti's optional Direct Adaptive Steering continues to disappoint with its inconsistent feedback that varies between vague and totally disconnected. The brakes are touchy, too, with a strong initial bite that fades away as your foot pushes into the pedal's travel, resulting in a lot of front-end dive and hard-to-modulate characteristics at slower speeds.

Infiniti offers a ton of driving aids on the QX55, including forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and one of the most overprotective lane-departure warning systems I've used in recent memory. The ProAssist pack adds adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping tech, and opting for the ProActive suite gets you Infiniti's (and Nissan's) ProPilot Assist. ProPilot Assist mandates the addition of the aforementioned Direct Adaptive Steering, so choose wisely.

The interior is comfortable, but that infotainment tech needs serious work.

Infiniti

The QX55 impresses with its driver-assistance roster, but holy smokes is its cabin tech awful. Infiniti's InTouch dual-screen infotainment system carries over from the QX50, and it's as unpleasant and outdated as ever. The 8-inch touchscreen atop the dash might as well have been plucked from Infiniti's original FX crossover with its horribly outdated graphics and laggy response times. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, at least, and the former can connect wirelessly. I strongly recommend relying on your smartphone's tech instead of Infiniti's native system.

Further down the center stack, a brighter, more modern 7-inch display houses the brunt of the QX55's controls, with fonts and colors that don't match what's shown on the larger screen above. The menu structure is just as convoluted here, too, though thankfully there are hard buttons arranged vertically on either side of the display for commonly used climate control functions like fan speed and the heated seats.

The QX55's cabin is otherwise quiet and comfortable, and an attractive new red-and-black contrasting leather color scheme is unique to this model, as is open-pore wood trim. The majority of the interior's materials are nicely finished, with some attractive metal detailing on the doors and dash, as well as padded leather along the door armrests. If you've ever been in a Nissan Versa, things like the turn signal and wiper stalks will feel familiar, and the shift-by-wire gear selector can be a little finicky. But there's nothing glaringly wrong with the QX55's cockpit -- aside from its multimedia tech, anyway. It just doesn't feel quite as premium as what you get in European rivals, be they from Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Luxury brands like Acura, Lexus and Volvo do interiors better, too.

Every QX55 rides on 20-inch wheels.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Obviously, that fast roofline takes its toll on rear passenger space and cargo capacity. Compared to the QX50, the QX55 loses about 2 inches of rear headroom and 11 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded flat. The BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe are a little more accommodating for taller passengers, but they offer less cargo space. Of course, if you really care about carrying people and things, a crossover-coupe isn't a great idea in the first place, but I digress.

At $46,525 to start (including a $1,025 destination charge), the base QX55 Luxe is $2,000 more expensive than an equivalent QX50 Luxe AWD. The QX55 Essential comes in at $52,625 and the QX55 Sensory tops out at $58,075, and across the board, the Infiniti undercuts the prices of an equivalent X4 or GLC300 Coupe by a substantial $5,000. However, it's also worth mentioning that BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer more powerful performance versions of their compact CUV coupes, while Infiniti says it isn't planning to give the QX55 any other engine options, so don't hold your breath for a QX55 Red Sport 400. Electrification is off the table for now, too.

I can't argue with the QX55's value proposition, especially since it doesn't look cheaper than a BMW or Mercedes. But with the European offerings, you're truly getting your money's worth, with nicer interiors, vastly superior cabin tech and better on-road manners, too. If you only care about your appearance -- and indeed, some coupeover buyers do -- then the Infiniti will likely serve you well. But a premium crossover should have style and substance. The QX55's pretty shell hides a few too many cracks inside.