There was a time when these two wouldn’t even be mentioned under the same breath as the German rivals. But for the 2019 model year, they both received new updates that make you think twice about how to spend your money.
Engine – Both of these SUVs use 2.0L turbocharged engine with the Acura’s producing 272hp and 280 lb-ft of torque and the Infiniti’s producing 268hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Both engines have low end grunt thanks to the high torque figure being produced at low engine rpms. But that’s where the similarities end because the engine in the Infiniti has a clever new feature that is designed to provide both power and fuel efficiency.
The Infiniti QX50 has something called Variable Compression. Without getting into too much boring details, it basically has an actuating arm inside the engine that’s connected to the crankshaft which in turn changes how high up the combustion chamber the pistons travel. During light throttle applications, the engine is in the high compression mode to improve fuel efficiency. Vice versa when you stomp on the throttle and the turbo produces more boost, the compression ratio decreases to allow for a larger volume of air/fuel mixture for more power. From behind the steering wheel, you don’t notice any of this happening. The only indication is a graphic on the instrument cluster. The end result however is that the QX50 is more efficient than the RDX by about 1.0 L/100km. In my week with both vehicles, I managed a combined fuel efficiency rating of 11.5 L/100km with the Acura and 10.5 L/100km in the Infiniti over similar driving scenarios.
Transmission – The 2019 Acura RDX receives the same 10-speed automatic transmission as found in the 2018 Honda Accord. Shifts are fast and smooth both when upshifting or downshifting. In the 2019 Infiniti QX50, a CVT does the job of transferring the engine’s power to the wheels. While the CVT does help with fuel economy, it does not provide and driving pleasure at all. Put your foot down and the engine’s rpms just hang at one spot which feels weird and un-sporty.
Braking – Both SUVs tip the scales at around 1,800kg and stopping them are regular disc brakes. They both feel planted when stopping but the Acura provides just a little bit more feedback in the pedal than the Infiniti does. That probably has to do with the more sporty nature of the RDX.
Handling – Both vehicles have AWD to keep you out of trouble when the road conditions are less than stellar. However the Acura RDX has an ace up its sleeve with the type of AWD system that it utilizes. Acura may have given it a fancy name, SH-AWD, but it is one of the best out there because not only can it transfer power from front to back wheels but also from side to side. It uses torque vectoring to better turn the body through a corner resulting in faster speeds through curves and a more planted feeling.
When it comes to how these SUVs make you feel when driving, it’s a night and day difference. The Acura’s steering feel is on par with some mid-size sports sedans. It is accurate and offers good feedback for being an SUV. The Infiniti on the other hand is focused more towards comfort. It uses a drive-by-wire steering system which has no physical connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels. The benefit of this is very light and effortless steering. However the downfall is that it has a fake feeling steering response. If you’ve ever played those racing video games with the $150 accessory steering wheel, that’s how the steering feel is like in the QX50.
Ride Comfort – The 2019 Acura RDX being a more sporty oriented luxury brand, the suspension is more stiffly sprung than the Infiniti QX50. It’s not bad for an SUV but for daily commuting, I always found myself choosing to drive the QX50. On city streets, the softer suspension of the QX50 absorbs bumps with ease and provides a comfortable drive.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Both the RDX and QX50 have quiet cabins. Whether driving in a city or on a highway, noise from the outside never feels overwhelming on the inside. Granted, the engine of the Acura RDX is a bit louder than the engine in the Infiniti QX50 but it’s not an obnoxious noise.
Interior Design – The stark contrast between the two SUVs continues when you step inside of each. The interior of the 2019 Acura RDX is not bad looking per-se, but it’s not as pretty as the design of the QX50’s. The 2019 Infiniti QX50 has numerous different materials across the dash and doors but somehow they all work well together. Everything that you can touch has a quality feel. The dual screen setup in the Infiniti is the one let down about the design but at least it is easy to use.
The Acura on the other hand has a cold and alien feel compared to the QX50. Maybe that’s because the center dash and steering wheel have buttons that look like they belong on a spaceship but the interior of the Acura just doesn’t feel as inviting as that of the Infiniti. Also I don’t understand why the drive mode selector is such a predominant feature on the center of the dashboard in the Acura. I can’t see very many drivers switching between the different drive modes on a continuous basis. At first I thought it was the volume knob.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The big change for the 2019 model year for the Acura RDX is the new infotainment system. The 10.2” screen is split up in ⅔ with the main left portion being the predominant section where everything is controlled and the right ⅓ portion displaying either the navigation screen or media. The display however is not a touchscreen and is instead controlled by a touchpad just below the drive selector. As touchpads go, this one is one of the best because wherever you touch it, it correlates to the same position on the screen. So if you touch the top left section of the pad, the top left item of the screen gets highlighted. There is no need to continuously scroll like on a laptop touchpad, however, there is a steep learning curve with this new system and while driving it’s very difficult to use seamlessly. A touch screen would be faster.
As for the infotainment itself, it is well laid out and very pretty to look at. There are a couple of issues though that I’m sure will be fixed with updates. Apple CarPlay is compatible but Android Auto is not because Android is not compatible with the new touchpad yet. Also in the navigation, there is no way to change the zoom of the map. It’s either 500m when on city streets and it automatically adjusts to 750m when on a highway. But if your eyesight isn’t as good and you want to see alleys that are normally not shown on such big scales, there’s no way to zoom in and keep it at that zoom level.
The infotainment system in the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is faster to navigate through thanks to the touch screens. The lower screen is much more responsive to touches than the upper screen but for the upper screen, you also have a rotary knob next to the gear selector for quick navigation access. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite stack up to the new system in the Acura. The QX50’s infotainment is old and it shows from the graphics. Thankfully there will be a new system but rumors are that you’ll have to wait until 2020 or 2021 before it comes.
Exterior Design – The exterior styling of both these SUVs portray each brand’s new design language as well as what each vehicle is meant for. The Acura RDX has sharp, angular styling that portrays sportiness. The Infiniti QX50 has smooth flowing lines that makes it look stylish and contemporary. It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to my eyes, the QX50 wins the exterior looks contest.
Both of these SUVs compete in the premium luxury crossover class but they are on opposite sides of the scales. One is not a better all-rounder than the other. They both have their pros and cons. It all depends on what you’re looking for in an SUV and how you plan to use it. Because I prefer a more sporty driving vehicle, I’d personally choose the 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec over the 2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory even though I cannot stand the new touchpad and I’m not a huge fan of the interior or exterior styling of the RDX. But for most consumers who don’t need to hit the apex of every corner they drive around, the Infiniti QX50 is a better daily commuter and family vehicle.