The luxury arm of Nissan, Infiniti, has unveiled its latest car – the QX50 SUV. A mid-sized luxury 4x4 aimed squarely at the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, the QX50 debuts many things for the brand – new styling language, new safety features, and an all-new and world-first variable compression engine.
Named VC-Turbo, the engine tech aims to combine the best aspects of both petrol and diesel cars – bringing good performance and smooth operation, but with much-improved efficiency over its equivalent conventional sibling. As the name suggests, it uses variable compression technology, which is able to alter the engine's compression ratio for performance or economy depending on demand.
At low speeds, the engine compresses at 14:1, but put your foot down and the ratio alters to 8:1. For reference, most cars stick with a constant 10:1, as a compromise between performance and efficiency.
Infiniti's achieved this by altering the reach of the engine's pistons and consequently the size of the engine – though it's referred to as a 2.0-litre, its capacity varies from 1,997cc to 1,970cc depending on the position of the pistons.
Fuel economy figures have not yet been revealed, but performance ones have – a claimed top speed of 143mph and 0-60mph in 6.3 seconds, courtesy of 264bhp and 380Nm of torque. It's mated to a newly developed CVT gearbox, which can revert to an artificially 'stepped' transmission if the driver so desires.
The VC-Turbo engine is intended to phase out Infiniti's old-fashioned 3.5-litre V6 petrol, which offers similar performance but with much greater weight and fuel consumption.
The QX50 will also arrive with an array of new-to-Infiniti safety tech, courtesy of parent brand Nissan. The car can drive itself on motorways and in stop-start traffic with no driver intervention, as well as the usual array of autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot assist, and adaptive LED headlamps.
The QX50's launch is scheduled for early next year in the US, and may make it to the UK late in 2018. Expect prices to be around £35,000.