First Drive Review: 2009 Infiniti FX
By Jim Hall of Road & Track
Hollywood, California — Wagoneer. Bronco. 4Runner. As their names imply, these off-road vehicles could tackle rugged terrain and conditions with mountain goat-like traction and tanklike toughness. Some even featured removable camper shell-like roof sections behind the driver/front passenger seats, a testament to their truck roots.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the consumer's driveway — these primarily recreational vehicles went from weekend warriors to daily drivers for the masses, from being called "trucks" to "SUVs" and, in the last few years, have further evolved into "crossovers" — SUV-like bodies riding atop more refined car platforms.
And with the introduction of the second-generation FX, Infiniti takes the crossover even further from its humble truck beginnings.
The new FX has a stylish profile, thanks to its arcing side window glass, a long, flowing beltline and pronounced side vents aft of the front wheels. The last element is not just eye candy; Infiniti states that it helps to release air from within the engine bay, resulting in a 5-percent reduction in frontal lift. The rear three-quarter view is also easy on the eyes. Some around the office found the front end's look "distinctive"; others thought it looked "like an angry fish."
The model lineup consists of the base V-6-powered FX35 (estimated $41,000) and the V-8 FX50 (estimated $55,000), the former available in either rear- or all-wheel drive; the latter, awd only. Each FX engine features an all-aluminum block and heads, four valves per cylinder, continuously variable valve timing and dual overhead cams.
The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 303 bhp at 6800 rpm with 262 lb.-ft. of torque available at 4800 rpm; the 5.0-liter V-8 makes 390 bhp at 6500 rpm with 369 lb.-ft. of torque at 4400 rpm. Both engines route power through a smooth-operating 7-speed automatic transmission that electronically matches revs on downshifts via the magnesium paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The FX50's EPA mileage is 14 mpg city and 20 highway. The awd FX35 is a bit better at 16/21, while the rear-drive FX35 is best at 16/23.
The interior has received a marked upgrade with quilted leather on its comfortable, supportive front buckets, along with an increased use of aluminum and rich maple wood trim. Other eye-catching details include aluminum foot pedals and a large, 7-in. information/nav screen atop the center stack.
We sampled an FX50 on a driving route that traipsed through the Hollywood Hills out to the beaches of Malibu and found the handling to be quite good with little roll in cornering. Aluminum-intensive active suspension lessens unsprung weight, a good thing in a vehicle with 21-in. wheels (FX35s ride on 18s). The ride might be a bit too firm for some, even in the Auto setting instead of the more aggressive Sport.
Matching the FX's futuristic looks are its comprehensive tech features. The optional Technology Package (about $3000) includes Intelligent Cruise Control with Distance Control Assist (DCA), Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), seatbelt tensioners and rain-sensing wipers.
Another upgrade, the Navigation Package (also about $3000), consists of the Infiniti Hard Drive (HDD) Navigation System with voice-operated navigation, audio and climate controls, along with XM NavTraffic, a 9.3 GB Music Box Hard Drive with compact flash card readability and Around View Monitor (AVM), the last feature providing camera views at the front, rear and both sides of the vehicle.
But is the all-new Infiniti FX a case of information overload? "I was bored while sitting behind the wheel during a car wash, so I started counting buttons," said our bemused staff photographer, Chris Cantle, "and I ended up with more than 80. And I know I forgot some like the ones on the rearview mirror."
Could the Infiniti FX be too full of tech, if there is such a thing? Not in the age of Wi-Fi, iPhones, MySpace, or any number of other contemporary luxuries/contrivances. If gizmos are your thing — along with unique looks, solid handling and luxury surroundings — then this Japanese luxury/sport crossover is tailormade for you.