What car brand do you think of when you hear the word luxury? Unless you have sat in a Mazda or read about a Mazda, I doubt that is the brand you think of. You might think of a brand like Mercedes or Infiniti. While Mazda does not fall into the luxury car category, it has been described as such.
Now the question becomes, is luxury worth it?
Let’s put it to the test. Which is a better deal – 2020 Infiniti QX50 or 2020 Mazda CX5?
The QX50 represents the luxury brand’s latest in technology with a unique design to go with it.
The QX50’s new VC-turbo engine will tempt you with a good time. This 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine adds a first-of-its-kind variable compression ratio that automatically raises the compression ratio when cruising for a higher fuel economy and lower emissions and dropping compression to accommodate turbo boost when more power is needed.The peak output for this new engine is 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a standard CVT and optional all-wheel drive.
The Luxe trim comes with heated front seats, navigation, and safety features like blind spot monitoring, forward collision alert and a six speaker audio system. One missing feature on the lower trims is the ProPilot Assist. THis feature does not become available until you make it to one of the QX50’s top two trims.
On the other side of the ring, the Mazda CX5 has a new engine, Nappa leather, and real wood trim, just to name a few. The CX5 Signature trim promises the full luxury experience at a price that seems expensive for a mainstream brand but is a bargain for luxury.
The CX-5’s turbocharged I-4 trades the QX’s trick variable compression system for an extra half-liter of displacement. On premium fuel, the Mazda’s 2.5 makes 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. (output drops 23 hp and 10 lb-ft on regular gas.) It’s paired with a six-speed automatic and G-vectoring all-wheel drive.
While many people think price is the determining factor in this comparison, it is not. Just because something is expensive doesn’t make it luxurious. Instead, those factors are, how comfortable each vehicle is on rough roads, is their technology advanced and intuitive to use, and an important one, are the design, build quality and material choices appropriate for the luxury price tag? With a luxury vehicle we have to start with its curb appeal and cabin quality. There is no sense in seeing if these two crossovers drive like a luxury SUV if they don’t first look the part.
The Infiniti QX50’s waveform sheet metal looks contemporary and chic, and its scarab beetle profile pays tribute to the original FX. The combination has a certain curb appeal to it that definitely screams “luxury” while delivering. Even more impressive than the sheetmetal is the QX50’s cabin.The dashboard design is elegant and modern.
Infiniti’s stacked-screen infotainment system is an example of where there is room for improvement. The dual displays is an idea we are on board with, but the user experience can use some work. There are many hard buttons but you can’t seem to just use one for everything. To make it worse, the buttons are scattered all over the place. The knob for the map is on the center console while managing the audio screen consists of three separate audio, radio, and media buttons. A possible solution is limiting the use of the upper display to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and just ignoring the lower screen.
The amount of “Nissan” found in the QX’s cabin is a bit disappointing. Control stalks, most of the physical buttons, the steering wheel, and even the instrument cluster feel copied from Infiniti’s mainstream brand. Infiniti didn’t even change some of the fonts used. This is something that we think we can be extremely picky about because details matter in a luxury space. You wouldn’t catch an Audi passing off Volkswagen switchgear.
The CX5’s Signature cabin is clean, the materials are rich looking and everything feels a class above. It’s like Mazda, a mainstream brand is trying to pass itself off as a luxury automaker. The CX-5’s cabin is a genuinely swanky place to be, accented with satin metallic, properly done piano black, and real wood trim. Its seats are wrapped in a gorgeous, thick brown perforated Nappa leather. Even the plastics and switchgear in the Mazda’s cabin look and feel rich.
As for the technology, CX5 has an easy-to-read head-up display infotainment system that is CarPlay and Android friendly. Like the QX50, the system can be operated with a scroll knob on the center console or via touch. Take a note that the touch function is only operational when you are stationary. It locks when you are on the move.
Compared to the QX50, space is a weak point in the Mazda’s cabin. Basically, there’s not much of it. While both vehicles passenger volume is roughly equal, the CX5’s back seat feels much tighter than the Infinitis’
The best seat in the house is the driver’s seat inside the CX5. This is because it is fun to drive. We have to give a lot of credit to the new turbocharged engine for that.
The CX5’s new turbo-four is powerful, nearly lag-free, and smooth, whisking the CX5 off the line like a proper luxury car’s engine should. Its six-speed transmission—an anachronism in the age of nine- and 10-speed automatics, is biased toward efficiency, upshifting earlier than we’d typically like in the CX-5’s default driving mode. Besides a throaty growl during hard acceleration the cabin is relatively quiet.
After all that, who is the winner between these two SUVs? Well, despite the mainstream logo, the Mazda CX5 Signature is the more convincing luxury product. The QX50 is Infiniti’s best effort at the moment, but it still isn’t enough. While it delivers on style, quality and luxurious ride, the balky powertrain is too lackluster to overlook. How about that? I guess a luxury badge doesn’t always mean better.
The CX5 has managed to put a checkmark in all the luxury vehicle boxes. Thanks to its superior steering feel and powertrain, it is more rewarding to drive. Its cabin matches or exceeds Infiniti’s in usability, features and perceived value.