Infiniti QX50 Preview

What it is: Infiniti’s replacement for the aged QX50, the crossover formerly known as EX35.

Why it matters: This is the first production vehicle whose engine will actively vary its compression ratio. With a turbocharger and a variable-valve-timing system that is capable of running the Miller cycle, Infiniti says this 268-hp four-cylinder is 27 percent more efficient than a six with equivalent power.

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Platform: Infiniti will trade the long-serving rear- and all-wheel-drive FM platform that underpins the current QX50 for a new transverse engine architecture spawned from a cooperative agreement with Mercedes-Benz. This new platform has Mercedes roots but is different and larger than the Benz GLA/ Infiniti QX30 platform.  As of now, it’s not known which Benz will share this platform. The QX50 will be built at Nissan’s Aguascalientes, Mexico, assembly plant.

Powertrain: The new engine, dubbed VC-T for “variable compression turbocharged,” varies its compression ratio from 8.0:1 to 14.0:1 with a system of links, an eccentric shaft, and an actuator in the inline-four’s crankcase. Within the span of 1.5 seconds, this engine can change its piston stroke from efficient, low-boost, high-compression operation to high boost and low compression for maximum power. The only transmission offered is a CVT, and all-wheel drive is optional.

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Competition: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus RX, Porsche Macan.

What might go wrong: The VC-T engine fits three times the typical number of bearings between its connecting rods and crankshaft, and new technologies often have teething issues, so reliability will be paramount to VC-T’s success. But Infiniti is so confident in this engine tech that it plans to install it eventually in just about every 2.0-liter four-cylinder application it has.

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Estimated arrival and price: This fall as a 2018 model, with a starting price of about $37,000.

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