2003 Infiniti FX
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The racy new Infiniti FX crossover sport-utility vehicle is arguably the vehicle that Porsche should have built instead of its boxy, costlier Cayenne.
The FX is from Nissan's upscale division and is part of Nissan's plan to make Infiniti a top luxury brand. It looks like an auto show "vehicle of the future" that actually has been produced.
For years, Infiniti models languished as just dressed-up versions of Nissan models. That's no longer the case with aggressive new Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn at the wheel, as evidenced by the FX—and hot new Infiniti G35 coupe and sedan.
Two Trim Levels
The 4-door FX is about the size of a large sedan. It has a long hood, wide stance and large rear hatch. Its height is halfway between that of an auto and sport-ute. It thus calls for a little extra effort to get in and out, but not much more than with a car.
The FX has a long 112.2-inch wheelbase partly to smooth out the ride and provide more interior room. It's a reasonable 189.1 inches long for fairly easy garaging. This isn't the type of vehicle owners would want to park on the street at night. It's just too flashy for that.
Two Drive Systems
The FX45 has standard all-wheel drive and a docile 4.5-liter, 315-horsepower V8. The engine is based on the one in the top-line Infiniti Q45 sedan. As for the FX35, it has a modified 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V6 from the G35.
The well-equipped FX hits 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds with the V8 and has such items as an aluminum independent rear suspension similar to the one in the Nissan 350Z sports car.
Lots of Stares
Accompanying the flashy lines is an aircraft-style cockpit with a nifty dashboard, sports seats and aluminum trim accents. Gauges are in a pod that tilts with the steering wheel, a setup that never lets the wheel hide them from easy view.
With a lower price, the FX35 is expected to account for most FX sales. It costs $34,200 with rear-drive and $35,700 with all-wheel drive. The FX45 has a base price of $44,225.
The FX45 version weighs 4,299 pounds. As with the FX35, a driver can feel the weight during hard acceleration and driving maneuvers such as quick lane changes.
Both engines work with a very responsive 5-speed automatic transmission, which has a manual shift feature.
Low Fuel Economy
The FX is nearly as much fun to drive as a larger sports car-especially in FX45 trim. The quick power steering of the FX45 is heavy, but provides good road feel. Handling is very responsive with the advanced all-independent suspension system and enormous 20-inch wheels. There's minimal body sway through fast curves and during lane changes at highway speeds. Brakes are powerful, although the pedal needs a more linear feel.
Both FX versions have an anti-skid/traction-control system and anti-lock brakes to help keep drivers out of trouble if they push too hard.
Standard for the FX45 and optional for the FX35 are such items as leather upholstery, heated front seats and power tilt-telescopic steering wheel.
A Premium option package has a power sunroof. A Technology package has radar cruise control to keep the FX a predetermined distance from vehicles ahead and a rearview television camera that operates when reverse gear is selected.
The FX45 not only has a smooth V8—it also has a very tied-down sport suspension and wide 50-series tires mounted on those 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, which help provide a very aggressive appearance.
On the flip side, the FX45's stiffer sport suspension and that wheel-tire combination provide a very firm, occasionally choppy ride. Those wanting a more comfortable ride should opt for the FX35, which has 18-inch wheels and 60-series tires.
The larger wheels and tires are optional for the FX35, as is the FX45 sport suspension. But those items are rather out of place without the V8. Trust Infiniti to set up the FX with the proper standard suspension, wheels and tires.
Gauges can be quickly read in all kinds of light, and there are large outside rearview mirrors. Small radio and climate controls are under a dashboard screen, which also is part of the optional navigation system. Power seat controls at the console sides of the front seats are a bit awkward to use and take getting used to.
No Third Seat
The cargo area opening is wide, but rather high. The cargo area is large, and cargo compartment levers allow the split rear seatbacks to flip forward to appreciably enlarge that area.
The FX is a rakish, spacious crossover vehicle that acts much like a sports car, especially in FX45 trim. Annual sales are expected to total 30,000 units, and that should keep the FX fairly exclusive.