Styling is the first thing you notice on a vehicle, and Nissan’s luxury sub-brand has gone all out with the overhauled 2022 Infiniti QX55.

It comes in three trim levels, all with all-wheel drive, starting with the Luxe at $54,095 before tax but including a non-negotiable $2,095 freight charge. I had the top-line Sensory at $63,093. Mine had a coat of premium Slate Gray pearl paint and Monaco Red interior for $1,100, bringing my tester to $64,193 before the government’s share.

Styling: 9.5/10

Infiniti’s got styling down to a fine art with this model. It’s based on the QX50, but with a swoopy rear roofline. That cuts down on interior space, but it’s still comfortable for four passengers; five will fit, but it’s tight across that rear bench. All trims get 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, roof rails, a power tailgate, and LED headlights that are a “cube design” with adaptive movement on the two upper trims.

The elegant styling continues inside, with an equally swoopy dash, twin infotainment screens, an integrated oval for the instrument cluster, and my favourite feature, the red-leather-clad asymmetrical centre console that continues up the centre stack and finishes at the cluster.

Safety: 8/10

The QX55 hasn’t yet been crash-tested by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS has done partial testing on the similar QX50, where it got the highest “Good” rating in side- and moderate front-overlap tests.

Unfortunately, that fast-raked roofline puts the rear window on such an angle that there’s not much to see out the back. All trims come standard with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, emergency front braking, and automatic high-beam assist. The mid-range Essential adds lane-departure and blind-spot prevention assist, 360-degree camera, and full-range adaptive cruise control.

The Sensory further adds a head-up display and the automaker’s semi-autonomous drive system which builds on adaptive cruise by keeping the QX55 centred in its lane and helping steer itself around winding stretches of road. As with all of these systems from any automaker, it’s an assist, not a true self-driving car.

Features: 8/10

In addition to those safety items, all trims include power-adjustable heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. The Essential adds navigation, premium audio, rain-sensing wipers, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and leather upholstery (it’s faux-cow in the entry-level Luxe).

The Sensory further adds premium leather, a hands-free tailgate, ventilated seats, wood interior accents, and tri-zone climate control. One absence is wireless charging, which isn’t available at all.

User Friendliness: 8/10

The most noticeable interior feature is the twin-screen infotainment system. Some prefer a single large screen, but I like this setup. I can have the map up top while I operate the stereo and other functions in the screen below. The map stays visible, which is handy if I’m following it and don’t want to keep switching back and forth.

Both screens are touch-responsive, or they can be operated by a controller on the console – although my passenger complained that when he used the console box as an armrest as it’s intended, his hand kept hitting the dial. The climate and seat-temperature functions are handled by hard buttons, as they should be, and stereo volume is a dial. But the shifter is one of those awful push-pull electronic things where you have to hit a separate and inconveniently placed button for park.

Practicality: 8/10

A wider hatch opening would make it easier to load, but the QX55 has a deep cargo compartment rated at 761 L of space, even with that sloping roofline. The rear seats fold almost flat for extra space, and you can conveniently do that using levers located in the cargo area as well as from the seats themselves.

There’s a cubby under the cargo floor that can be used to hide valuables from prying eyes. But there’s not a lot of small-item storage up front, where you get just a couple of small cupholders and a very small bin in the front console. You’ll have to rely on the console box and door pockets for your stuff.

Comfort: 8.5/10

Nissan/Infiniti prides itself on its so-called “zero-gravity” seats, and they truly are comfortable and supportive, even after a four-hour drive. I don’t care for cooled seats, but my husband was very fond of the fan in his. Legroom is good both front and rear, although very tall back-seat passengers may be compromised for headroom from that raked roof.

The ride is smooth, and the suspension soaks up bumps very well. The cabin is quiet and a very nice place to be.

Power: 8/10

All trim levels use a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, making 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, mated to an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine has an unusual technology called “variable compression.” It uses mechanical linkage to vary the length of the piston stroke, reducing or increasing cylinder compression to maximize fuel efficiency or performance as needed.

The engine is a punchy little thing, with good acceleration, and the CVT works well and doesn’t feel like a gearless transmission. The combination performs well, but unfortunately doesn’t sound like it. The engine can be clattery – it sounds almost like a diesel – which detracts from the QX55’s ideal of a premium vehicle.

Driving Feel: 7.5/10

The QX55 handles well, with a minimum of body roll on curves, and a confident, well-planted feel on the highway. It’s not a spectacular step up from some of its canyon-carving competitors, but it holds its own. The all-wheel drive system primarily drives the front wheels, but can transfer as much as 50 per cent of the available to the rear wheels.

But it lost points with me on the steering. The Sensory trim exclusively uses an electronic drive-by-wire adaptive steering system with no mechanical connection (save for an emergency clutch that connects in case of failure). It’s been around for a while and has steadily improved, but I’m not yet completely impressed with how it’s dialled in. The normal setting is dull and vague; dynamic is better; and dynamic+ is OK but still feels too light. The latter setting is really where the weight and response should start, and then get sportier from there.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The QX55 is officially rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) for 10.5 L/100 km in the city, 8.3 on the highway, and 9.5 in combined driving. I came in marginally over that at 9.7 L/100 km. Premium fuel is required.

Most automakers do very well for fuel efficiency in this premium compact SUV category, and the QX55 fits in about the middle. The Audi Q5 and BMW X4 are rated at 9.3 L/100 km in combined driving, while Acura’s RDX sits at 9.9 and Mercedes-Benz’s GLC 300 gets 10.0 L/100 km.

Value: 7.5/10

The QX55’s starting price of $54,095 is at the higher end of the competition, where lesser-priced rivals range from about $45,000 to $50,000 before options and extras. You get a lot of features for the price of this Infiniti, but I lowered the score a bit for that clattery engine, because a $63,000 vehicle shouldn’t sound like this.

The Verdict

There’s fierce competition in this segment, and the 2022 Infiniti QX55 scores with its great exterior and interior styling, comfortable seats, and performance. On the down side, the engine’s noisy, and I’d like better steering feel from the Sensory trim’s drive-by-wire system. But the pros outweigh the cons, and the QX55 should be on your list when you’re looking at this popular segment.