We all have a song that takes you back to a holiday or a fragrance that reminds you of an ex. Personally, I get similar associations with vehicles and journeys. For better or worse, whatever the vehicle, I tend to link the vehicle with the entire experience of the road trip. For this reason, Infiniti will be forever connected with Taiwan. From the moment I stepped off the plane and into the driver’s seat of the new QX50, there was a genuine buzz in the air. It was my first International car launch, my first time in Taiwan and my first drive of an Infiniti. You only get one shot at a first impression, and Infiniti’s QX50 introduction is something I’ll never forget.
I flew into the southern city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan a little blind. Having never driven an Infiniti previously or known anyone that had been to Taiwan, there was no frame of reference. Was it a strict culture?… Was I appropriately dressed?… Will I even spend that much time driving?… But as the Infiniti chauffer opened the back door and I saw a can of beer and a bowl of noodles waiting for me, early signs were good.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the lobby of our UFO-inspired hotel, that I got to lay my eyes on the car that only a couple of other Australians had seen. The privilege wasn’t lost on me. With an hour to kill before my driver briefing, I was able to drink in the design elements of the QX50. From the human-esque LED headlights to the lightning strike C pillar, there’s a distinctiveness to its attraction. It’s proportionally balanced while having some more abstract features which all seem to play harmoniously with each other. Sculpted bodywork brings a masculine stance to the QX50 and whilst Infiniti cars have divided people in the aesthetics department, I don’t think many could argue with the suspect in question. Entering the most popular and subsequently most competitive segment of the car industry (mid-size SUV’s) is not an easy feat by any means, but if the exterior is anything to go off, the QX50 looks like it’s going to turn some heads (and roll others).
If I was a little curious about the flesh of the QX50, then it’s heart was about to blow my mind. “Yes, that’s correct, the engine varies its compression” said the Infiniti product specialist for a third time. It didn’t matter how many times I asked the question, I couldn’t quite fathom the process. But after a few diagrams and some further conversations, I was invited to try it for myself. The 2.0 Turbo-charged engine manages to vary its compression from 14:1 to 8:1 via an adaptive bottom end. Driving it into town was extremely quiet and smooth. I kept picturing the engine expanding and contracting as I accelerated, and it took about 3 egg rolls and a bowl of noodles for me to quieten down my brain and just enjoy the performance. And when I say performance, I mean performance. 200 kW of power and 380 Nm of torque means that you’re keeping big V6’s honest, while producing fuel consumption figures that make small hatches raise an eyebrow. It might not seem like a big deal to some, but after 20 years of development, I think this is one little beast that deserves the hype.
After eating so much local delicacy, I was advocating gastronomical celibacy. The friendly people at Infiniti took us on a whirlwind tour of temples, gates, villages, cafes, restaurants and it wasn’t until we arrived at the decadent ‘Gloria Manor’, that I had time to digest the food and the interior. The lines of the dashboard and centre console are all tapered to the driver. It’s more reminiscent of a sports car arrangement, but with a comfort-oriented textile palette. Black leather dominates the interior with some nice splashes of metal courtesy of the Bose speaker grills and with so much natural light flooding in via the panoramic roof, the cabin always feels welcoming. Passenger leg and headroom is superb courtesy of an adjustable rear seat rail and with one of the smallest gearboxes found on an SUV, the transmission tunnel makes way for functional, mid-seat leg room.
The following morning began with some poolside yoga and the subsequent processing of last night’s pre-dinner entertainment. We were treated to a smorgasbord of local musicians, dancers and aerial performances, that was so good, I briefly stopped thinking about the variable compression engine. But alas, it was time to roll up my mat, grab the QX50, and head down to the south of Taiwan.
When the roads started to thin out and the landscape started to change, I knew this would be the perfect time to explore the chassis. My first drive up a mountain pass I noticed just how planted the QX50 felt. Going through a few switchbacks with unpredictable camber, I was expecting to feel a roll here and a creek there, but it didn’t matter what I threw at the Infiniti, it just got on with the job. As I later found out in a technical briefing, this rigidity stemmed from the use of 980Mpa tensile strength steel in key areas of the chassis, resulting in a frame 23% stiffer than the previous model and tipping the scales at a flyweight contending 473kg. Cruising along Taiwan’s coastline, the suspension was comfortable without being lazy, and with the adjustable driving modes, you could find a steering weight that suited your preference.
As we arrived at the quirky ‘Hotel De Plus’ for our final stop of the day, I started to feel a little uneasy. Like that feeling, you get as a kid when your mum comes to pick you up from a sleepover… I didn’t want to go home. The Infiniti QX50 wasn’t just a car, it was the car that gave me my great Taiwanese road trip. From the incredible people, landscapes and culture that Taiwan provided, to the Infiniti team that went above and beyond to make you feel like family, it really was the perfect journey. As I said in the start of this story, you only get one shot at a first impression, and I have positive memories of every single one. With Infiniti being quite new in the Australian market, there might be some hesitation to try a new brand. But do some research, look at their pricing and when it’s released next year, take the QX50 for a drive. If first impressions are anything to go by, you’ll have yourself a keeper.