You'll never guess the best thing about this luxury vehicle

All I can say is, "Wow!"

I don’t usually gush like this, but then I don’t usually find a vehicle that combines everything I love: size, performance, luxury, ease of operation, comfort, and, above all, value. Yes, I have driven some wonderful vehicles, but nothing in this QX50 price range matches this Infiniti. Period.

Infiniti is, of course, the luxury division of Nissan, and Nissan does just what you should do with a luxury division: add the good stuff at the upper end and let it trickle down into the pedestrian division as time goes by. You see it all over Nissan – the forward thinking styling comes first in Infiniti, the quiet comes first in Infiniti, the touches of quality comes first in Infiniti. Luxury division into the regular line may be the only place on earth where the trickle-down theory actually works.

So Infiniti has a number of SUV/Crossover vehicles in the line (so does Nissan) – like the QX 60, 70 and 80, with the size and price growing as the number goes up. I have driven several of them, and I like them very much, but I am particularly enamored with the QX50. What I like most is the size: this is Infiniti’s compact crossover/SUV, and it’s the perfect size for a robust run-about-town vehicle, and you get the added plus that it is excellent on the highway and in the mountains. It is a driver’s vehicle – it handles like a dream, has plenty of power, is very nimble and it is just flat-out fun to drive.

Let’s start with the engine. Here it is a 3.7-liter V6 putting out 325 hp, and it offers plenty of zip for city driving – great pickup from a dead stop at a traffic light to full speed in seconds – and on the highway it will burst into passing with the merest touch of the pedal. It has a 7-speed automatic transmission that is very smooth and very responsive – when you need a burst it delivers, but without any obvious down-shifting. It just goes. The mileage rating isn’t the best – 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway – but those aren’t bad numbers for a vehicle with this level of substance and comfort.

The big reason it is fun to drive is all of the luxury here. This vehicle is loaded – all the modern bells and whistles, all the requisite technology – and it comes in a cabin that is very, very quiet, and very, very comfortable. I like a car that just feels luxurious and has all the stuff without it being too over-the-top; so many luxury vehicles are made with technology that is hard to operate without distraction, but here everything – the radio/sound system, the climate control, the hands-free Bluetooth for phone, the navigation, the apps – is so easy to use, so intuitive to operate that you can get everything out of the features while enjoying the drive. A great combination.

Also, it is quite beautiful – the styling outside is excellent, a very sporty looking, classy looking vehicle. Ah, but the interior – the leather seating was gorgeous, and the two-toned (black/tan) dash and doors with maple accents was marvelous.

One of the coolest things is what Infiniti calls the Around View Monitor, part of a $2,000 Premium Plus Package, that utilizes four exterior cameras, that offers views completely around the vehicle. There is also a bird’s eye view that comes up on the 7-inch color monitor that is a kind of amalgamation of the camera views that gives the driver a snap-shot of obstacles all around; a great asset is parking. The only trouble I saw (or didn’t see, as it were) was that the front camera got pretty dirty what with all of the snow on the streets so that view was sometimes obscured.  But I love rear-view cameras, and having four views is all that much better.

Another very cool thing was the power fold-flat second row seating – the rear deck has great room for gear and all, but when you put down the second row seats (half or whole) you get plenty of room for ski gear. A very nice touch.

There was one thing – and only one – that I didn’t like about the 2016 Infiniti QX50. The particular one I drove was rear-wheel-drive and the week I had it the streets were icy. The good news is that the QX50 comes in AWD, for only about $1,400 more, and I would recommend it. Other than that I would recommend the QX50 in all other respects. It is, without question, the best thing I have driven pretty much all year.

The best part: the price. The base price of the 2016 QX50 is $34,450, and includes a ton of nice standards. On my test-drive model they added a bunch of optional packages, which I recommend, and, with $995 in destination charges, the bottom line came to $43,535. The extras included all the safety stuff – lane departure warning and prevention, intelligent cruise control (it slows and accelerates by itself), blind spot monitoring, distance control assist, and intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning – all of it very helpful and about as unobtrusive as I have seen in any vehicle. They also upgrade to 19” wheels, put in an exceptional 11-speaker Bose sound system, added lumbar support, navigation, the power back seats – I can’t think of anything that isn’t here.

I have driven a ton of vehicles, but I have rarely seen anything this nice for this price. I couldn’t believe it. I would have guessed well over $50,000 for this vehicle – and my passengers, who all like it very much, all guessed in the mid-$50s – but here we’re talking $43,535. Amazing.

Fun to drive. Very quiet. Great handling and power. Luxury abounding. Impressive looking inside and out. Safety and convenience at a high level. Wow.