Infiniti QX50 Concept heads for Detroit guided by next-gen semi-autonomous tech

Shapely crossover features trick variable-compression engine and aggressive new style.

This Detroit Auto Show-bound luxury crossover may have the word "Concept" next to its name. But rest assured, you're looking at a very thinly disguised version of Infiniti's next-generation QX50 SUV.

Given how long the current generation has been knocking around Infiniti showrooms, it'd be tempting to say something like "and not a moment too soon!" And yet, oddly enough, the QX50 is Infiniti's hottest model right now, with sales that are up an astounding 272.3% year to date.

The compact crossover's sales total -- 14,947 units through November -- isn't a particularly staggering metric on its own, but in light of the fact that that the QX50 has been on the market since 2007 with little more than a light facelift and slightly enhanced rear seat room, it's fair to consider its recent sales performance to be nothing short of remarkable.

INFINITI QX50 Concept front 3-4

To visualize a production QX50, add door handles, enlarge mirrors and subtract wheel size.

Infiniti

Not only has the QX50 been around for an age, it's actually wearing its third name, having been previously known as EX37 and before that, EX35. In fact, it's been on the market longer than just about any other crossover SUV. And while the 2017 QX50 is still an entertaining steer, it's well behind the curve in terms of infotainment, advanced driver-assist systems and fuel economy.

Based on the information Infiniti has provided ahead of the QX50 Concept's reveal, all of these shortcomings will be comprehensively addressed.

Not only does the showcar appear to ride on a new, longer chassis, which Infiniti now refers to as a "mid-size crossover", the QX50 Concept will feature the company's next-level ProPilot drive-assist systems. It also has a groundbreaking variable-compression turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

The latter is tipped to provide 268 horsepower and a generous 288 pound-feet of torque. Uniquely, the 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine can adjust between 8:1 and 14:1 compression to suit both high-performance driving needs and light-pedal efficiency runs. Infiniti claims a 27% improvement in fuel efficiency over V6 engines with comparable performance. Interestingly, the same-sized engine in its smaller QX30 crossover only rings up 208 hp and 258 lb-ft.

Despite being a concept vehicle, Infiniti isn't attempting to claim that the QX50's ProPilot technology delivers full autonomy. On the contrary, the company says "ProPilot will act as a 'co-pilot' for the driver, empowering rather than replacing them, and 'delegate' more onerous driving tasks to the car -- such as navigating stop-start traffic on the highway or keeping track of the positions of surrounding vehicles." In other words, this sounds like production-ready tech.

Presumably, Infiniti will reveal more specifics about the system's hardware and capabilities as the next-generation model moves closer to dealerships.

Despite recently receiving a slightly longer wheelbase and contrasting-color lower body cladding, today's 2017 QX50 still looks a lot more like a small sports wagon than it does a modern luxury CUV. The next-gen design shown here suggests Infiniti's future model will adopt the more upright, two-box posture of other contemporary crossovers, even as it integrates the brand's handsome "Powerful Elegance" design language found on newer models like the Q50 Coupe and the aforementioned QX30.

Despite its recent strong sales, adopting a more traditional bodystyle along with improved interior furnishings and heightened efficiency should help the next-generation QX50 earn a lot more attention from luxury shoppers. And with the premium crossover market going great guns lately, a new model can't arrive in Infiniti showrooms soon enough.

Detroit Auto Show 2017

Roadshow covers the new models and concept cars shown off at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in blogs, photo galleries, and video.

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