Following its unveiling before its official debut, the 2018 Infiniti QX50 has been officially launched at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Striding into a class populated by the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3 and the Audi Q5 starting next year, the Japanese SUV enters its new iteration with world-first technologies including a variable compression ratio engine.

On the powertrain front, the 2.0 litre VC-Turbo petrol engine produces 272 PS and 390 Nm of torque, with the ability to vary its compression ratio from 8:1 for maximum performance to 14:1 for best fuel economy, and is up to 35% more fuel efficient than the previous model’s 3.7 litre, naturally aspirated V6 mill.

The new VC-Turbo powerplant is mated to a continuously variable transmission and drives either the front wheels or all four, depending on variant. The QX50’s platform allows for both, while enabling a ground clearance of 218 mm without impacting upon cabin space, says Infiniti.

The bodyshell itself sees the first automotive use of SHF (super high formability) high tensile steel, and sees a 23% improvement in chassis torsional rigidity over the outgoing model for greater resistance to flex and vibrations and reduced transmission of noises into the cabin. Suspension-wise, the QX50 employs MacPherson struts in front, and multi-links at the rear.

Inside, the QX50 interior gains improved flexibility with a sliding rear seat bench which can offer up to 838 mm of rear legroom when fully pushed rearwards. Conversely, more luggage capacity can be liberated by sliding the seats forward, starting at 895 litres with the seats in place or 1,048 litres with the seats set forward. Luggage capacity grows to 1,699 litres with the rear seats folded down.

More storage compartments include hidden underfloor storage beneath the boot floor for valuables or dirty, used adventure apparel. Inside the cabin, storage compartments at the bottom of the centre console are able to hold two smartphones and a wallet. Meanwhile, the door storage areas can hold a 1.5 litre drink bottle and an A6-sized notebook, or a small handbag, Infiniti says.

Further technologies abound on the new QX50, including ProPILOT Assist autonomous driving technology with support for single-lane driving. The autonomous suite aims to reduce the stress of stop-and-go driving and steady highway cruising, relieving the driver of acceleration, braking and steering duties for both highway and urban driving.

The full suite of the QX50’s ProPILOT Assist systems include Distance Control Assist, Back-up Collision Intervention, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, and Forward Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection.

The QX50 also sees the first SUV and front-wheel drive application of Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS), now in its fourth generation. The steering rack itself is of a rack-and-pinion configuration, aided by an electric motor for assistance and DAS functions.

The steer-by-wire system facilitates the ProPILOT Assist autonomous driving capability which allows it to conduct automated lane-keeping when driving along both straights and curves. Infiniti claims an instantaneous connection between the driver and the Direct Adaptive Steering system.

Drive characteristics can be altered via the Drive Mode Selector (DMS) for different powertrain and steering behaviour, with Standard, Eco, Sport and Personal modes. Models equipped with DAS can also choose between Default, Dynamic or Dynamic+ for steering response, and the DMS gives the driver the choice of switching off Active Trace Control, which brakes individual wheels to limit understeer when cornering.

The raft of technologies in the QX50 continue with InTouch, Infiniti’s infotainment hub which can be controlled from either of the dual touchscreen displays (an eight-inch upper screen and a seven-inch lower screen) mounted on the centre console. An optional Bose Performance Series sound system features 17 speakers, which includes a pair of high-excursion Nd Richbass subwoofers.

The QX50’s occupants can connect to the system via handheld devices such as smartphones, tablets, music players or notebooks connected to any of the four USB ports, or via Bluetooth for music streaming and voice calls. Video playback is possible too, and InTouch can also sync with a mobile device’s calendar. Select markets will have telematics functionality including remote starting and vehicle locating.

Additional conveniences include the Motion Activated Tailgate which allows the keyholder to open the tailgate by waving one’s foot beneath the rear bumper. For air-conditioning, tri-zone climate control extends temperature control to the rear passengers, while front occupants can have heated and ventilated seats as well as a heated steering wheel for the driver.