Infiniti QX50 Vs. BMW X1 Vs. Volvo XC60

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

We hope you brought an appetite because luxury utility vehicles are on the menu this week, and the portion sizes are hard to believe. Hungry for more? Hit the jump and dig in.

This week Jalpa is in need of some car-buying advice. Appropriately she did what any sensible person should do and sent an e-mail to Ask@AutoGuide.com. Upon alerting us to her vehicular quandary we set out to find a handful of vehicles that meet her needs and we think we’ve found a trio that she’ll really enjoy.

But before detailing our choices we should probably outline Jalpa’s needs first. She’s looking for a compact luxury crossover with good gas mileage and hopes to get something with a rating of around 30 miles per gallon highway. Additionally she craves a car that delivers a good driving experience and has room for four passengers. She’s got around $35,000 to spend and would like something either Japanese or German.

After doing some of her own legwork including reading a past installment of Ask AutoGuide she’s come up with several options on her own like the Audi Q5 and Acura RDX. Of course both of those vehicles are fine choices and she’d be well served by either one. But in an effort to broaden her horizons we’ve found a few more that are worth her consideration.

It’s Japanese and it’s got room for at least four passengers; the Infiniti QX50 pushes a lot of the right buttons. The crossover formerly known as “EX” is both compact and sporty, delivering an engaging on-road experience along with a healthy dose of luxury.

Thanks to its rear-wheel drive architecture and a powerful engine the QX50 is ready for action. All versions are energized by a 3.7-liter V6 that pushes out a muscular 325 HP along with 267 LB-FT of torque. The powerplant is matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Standard amenities are many and varied. This Infiniti comes with things including automatic head lights, fog lamps, leather trimmings and a six-speaker audio system complete with a USB port. Additionally passengers are treated to dual-zone climate control.

The QX50 also offers an eight-way power driver’s seat and a four-way electrically operated passenger chair. Strangely butt-warmers are not standard, though heated outside mirrors are. Figure that one out. This vehicle also has a tilt and telescopic tiller, electroluminescent gauges and a tastefully designed analogue clock.

Along with sporty dynamics and a premium cabin this Infiniti crossover checks another mission-critical box on Jalpa’s shopping list: it dovetails with her budget very nicely. An options-free QX50 stickers for $35,745 including $995 in shipping and handling fees. Naturally if she wants a moonroof, all-wheel drive or an automatically dimming rear-view mirror, she should plan of shelling out extra cash.

Generally speaking, sporty performance comes with increased fuel consumption and this Infiniti crossover is no exception to the rule. The QX50’s most significant downside is economy; it’s not terrible but it does fall a bit short of Jalpa’s 30-mile-per-gallon target. The vehicle stickers at just 17 MPG city and 25 on the interstate. These figures result in a combined score of just 20 miles per gallon.

But there’s one other potential downside she should also be aware of. While delivering a dumpster-load of driving fun the QX50 is not all that practical. Cargo space is quite limited at less than 19 cubic feet with the second-row seats up. If she desires a vehicle that excels at making trips to Costco she’ll have to look elsewhere.

Perhaps the best news is that a new QX50 is due out soon so with this model in low demand, getting a deal should be easy.

Following Infiniti’s crossover formula is the BMW X1. This compact utility is also long on driving fun and short on cargo space, though it is appreciably more commodious than the QX50. Depending on what position the second-row seat is in, this Bimmer should offer between 25 and 56 cubic feet of luggage space

Aside from greater interior room the X1 also trumps the Infiniti in another area: pricing. This BMW kicks off at right around $33,000 for the most basic version (including $925 in destination charges). With a budget of around 35 grand this leaves a little bit of wiggle room.

Stepping up from the most basic model she can snag an xDrive28i model, which includes all-wheel drive. Why does this matter? Well, she lives in a cold-climate area where snow and ice can be an issue; extra traction cannot hurt on her 120-mile round-trip daily commute. We drove that far once and don’t care to do it again.

Like other BMWs, this version of the X1 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It puts out a solid 240 HP with 258 LB-FT of torque. Technologies like variable valve timing and lift ensure responsive driving performance and maximum fuel efficiency. A cutting-edge eight-speed automatic transmission further minimizes consumption.

Speaking of economy, the X1 absolutely trounces Infiniti’s petrol-swilling QX50. In fact the rout is so severe the BMW’s city performance is better than its Japanese competitor’s combined-economy score.

The X1 stickers at 22 miles per gallon in urban driving and a whopping 33 on the interstate. Together, Uncle Sam says it ought to average 26 MPG. Fuel efficiency? Check and double check.

Additionally, when it comes to pricing it’s hard to argue with this compact BMW. The all-wheel drive model starts at right around $33,500, including destination charges. Padding the bottom line we opted for the $700 Cold Weather package, which includes a heated steering wheel and seats, as well as retractable headlamp sprayers. That brings the vehicle’s out-the-door price to $34,225, again including delivery fees. We think Jalpa would approve.

But even though the X1 has a cost advantage over the XQ50, BMW’s pricing scheme is worthy of scorn. The abovementioned figure is rife with asterisks. For instance, it does not include leather seating surfaces. Instead the interior is trimmed with the company’s Sensatec vinyl material; real cow hide costs an additional $1,450 plus they require you to get an extra options package.

Beyond this the company also charges for paint. You get basic black or white for free, but any of the other “metallic” hues are going to cost you at least $550. However, if you opt for the sexy Le Mans Blue plan on shelling out $3,550 because you have to get the M Sport package as well. What is it with BMW and ridiculous fees? Have they suddenly transformed into a Wall Street bank or something?

Next up is the Volvo XC60, a premium crossover vehicle that oddly enough is neither German nor Japanese, fish nor fowl. It’s a Nordic family-attack wagon that blows like a cold wind from the icy nation of Sweden, land of Vikings, ABBA and social welfare.

Base price for this safe and sturdy vehicle is $35,765, including a $915 destination fee. At that price you get cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels and Bluetooth connectivity. Curiously for a vehicle built in the frozen north heated front seats are a $500 option. This last point is especially disheartening; it’s like finding out Saturday Night Live is pre-recorded on Tuesday mornings. It makes no sense.

Volvo’s advanced City Safety system is a handy helper and a standard feature. This automatic braking technology works at low-speeds to prevent costly and annoying fender benders that jack up insurance rates. It monitors the traffic ahead of the vehicle even if the driver isn’t. If a car ahead stops abruptly and the motorist in charge doesn’t, City Safety will slam on the brakes to prevent a collision. It works at speeds between 2 and 19 mph.

Compared to the other two vehicles presented here this Volvo XC60 is pretty basic; it seems to lack a number of desirable amenities, and if you want a few extras plan on spending BIG. For instance, all-wheel drive is an additional $2,000, while a “portable” navigation system can be had for $795, though an integrated unit is an extra $2,000.

This cripplingly sensible Volvo is powered by a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine. It delivers a respectable 240 HP with 236 LB-Ft of torque. Power is routed to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. This drivetrain combination should return 18 mpg around town and up to 26 on the highway. Combined it clocks in at 21 mpg. Those figures are slightly better than what the Infiniti can muster, though they still fall short of the miserly BMW.

If more oomph is required a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six is also on the menu. Depending on how it’s tuned the engine cranks out either 300 or 325 ponies and adds at least $6,700 to the bottom line. That’s ‘spensive with a capital “S.”

One area where the Volvo handily beats its rivals is in cargo space. The XC60 provides up to 67.4 cubic feet of storage space in its hold, possibly more than an Antonov An-225 cargo plane, though likely a little less than a World War II-era Liberty Ship.

Aside from the Infiniti QX50, BMW X1 and Volvo XC60 there are a couple other options worth touching on. One is the MINI Countryman, a premium compact crossover with stellar driving dynamics and cutesy styling. A range-topping all-wheel-drive model starts at just about $35,000. And of course another extremely viable option is the Acura RDX, a vehicle we mentioned at the top of this story. It’s a serious luxury contender with the long-term quality to beat all comers. But no matter which vehicle Jalpa chooses they’re all pretty much fine options.

As always, good luck in your quest for a new family vehicle, Gavin, and thanks again for taking the time to Ask AutoGuide.

If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to ask@AutoGuide.com. Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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