San Diego, CA – When Infiniti launched its EX35 compact luxury crossover in 2007 as a 2008 model, vehicles of this ilk were pretty thin on the ground and counted for a minuscule slice of the market.

My, how things have changed. Currently, the premium compact CUV accounts for 26 percent of Canada’s luxury car market, and so far this year (and for the first time ever) these little leather-lined tykes have outpaced the compact luxury sedan crowd in sales – those being the Mercedes-Benz C Class, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and the like. So it makes sense Infiniti wants in on the action.

But wait. They already have a player in the veteran EX35, which became the QX50 when Infiniti adopted its new alphanumeric naming system a couple of years ago. Problem is, the QX50 has not been a player of late, selling way less than half of its chief Japanese rivals, the Acura RDX and all-new Lexus NX. Though significantly smaller, the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA handily outsell the QX50 too. Then there’s the Lincoln MKC, Range Rover Evoque and new BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC to complicate matters.

So what’s new with the 2016 Infiniti QX50 that warrants a comprehensive launch in sunny San Diego? More interior room aft of the driver, that’s what. And that is an area when Infiniti’s small SUV has literally fallen short. Back seat room was stingy from the get-go, which we learned in our own Compact Luxury SUV Comparison, and no doubt it hurt sales too.

While mechanically identical to last year’s model, this 2016 sees an 80 mm wheelbase stretch that translates to an extra 109 mm of rear knee room – enough to make the back seat experience now quite pleasant for two adults. The hatch space behind the rear seat remains the same at 527L, which is compromised by that sloping roofline, but with the seats folded, overall cargo room increases to 1,418. There is now a full power function available for those 60/40 seats.

The 2016 QX50 also gets a new grille, LED running lights, rear valance, standard 18-inch alloys and it sits 20 mm higher. Despite all this, it still looks imminently identifiable as Infiniti’s pioneering cute ute, all organic curves and arching roofline.

Ordering a 2016 QX50 will be a fairly anxiety-free process. There are four trim levels, no standalone options, and as all models sport all-wheel drive (the US gets rear-drive models) and are powered by Nissan/Infiniti’s ubiquitous 3.7L VQ-series DOHC V6 (325 hp, 267 lb-ft) hooked to a seven-speed auto, there are no drivetrain options to confuse matters. Official Canadian fuel economy numbers are 13.7 L/100 km city, 9.7 highway and 11.9 combined.

The QX50 runs mostly as a rear-drive vehicle – the active electro-magnetic centre clutch only sends torque up front under acceleration and when traction issues arise. A snow mode locks the all-wheel drive in a 50:50 front to rear split.

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