Putting the sport back in sport utility vehicle
Rob Douthit, Thu, 2 Oct 2008 08:00:00 PDT
The bold styling of the Infiniti FX clearly puts an emphasis on the sport in sport utility vehicle.While the latest generation of this vehicle, which we checked out this week in Napa Valley, Calif., is pretty consistent with its predecessors, the look has been sharpened ever so slightly.For instance, there are now side gills to assist the impressive engine's respiratory process, and the front grille is a bit wider.
Also, the taillights were tweaked just a bit.When it comes to performance, though, the FX50, with its 390 horsepower and 369 pounds-feet of torque, is a force.You can chalk that up to the new 5.0-liter V-8 engine, which will have you shaking your head as you marvel at its power.We expected power from this vehicle, what we got instead was sheer force.
But along with this sheer force comes a nice set of road manners.Some of the roads that we tested the FX on were a little on the lumpy side, but the FX remained firm in its resolve to deliver a smooth ride.The nimbleness of the handling also was worth noting, because this is a vehicle with a little bit of size to it, and yet it still takes turns quite crisply.When you get in the FX, you find an interior that has been handsome in previous generations and still is, with its real wood, leather and classy aluminum.
Nothing chintzy here - everything has a commanding presence of quality.The fore and aft movement of the front seats creates easy access, and other ergonomic touches, such as the tilt steering wheel, also provide terrific comfort.The large center console is a little bit busy - there are controls for stuff you didn't even know you could control.But it doesn't take too long to figure out what operates what.
The sound system, a colossal 11-speaker Bose premium unit, is studio quality.The rear seating area offers a little less space than you might expect, but it still is fairly comfortable.If it's innovation or technology that you're into, the FX delivers substantially.
There is an intelligent cruise control system that can bring the vehicle to a complete stop, then get it going again, with no input from the driver.Talk about being on auto pilot.
Also, the Around View Monitor lets you see all angles around the vehicle -- think backup camera for every side.It does this by using a camera mounted on each side of the vehicle.What a great safety feature, and one that we hope other automakers pick up on.
It's plain that Infiniti, with the FX50, has created a sports car disguised as a crossover SUV.The aggressiveness of the ride, combined with its refined on-road quality, make this a truly enchanting vehicle.Also, with its luxury and unusual design, you can be rather bold in expressing yourself in the FX.
The design causes it to sacrifice a bit of the interior space that you might expect in a vehicle of this size. You probably also will never see the FX with a third row of seats, if that's what you like, because of its configuration.But we kind of like that, because we think automakers have become a bit too third-row happy when it comes to designing crossovers.
Customers in this market segment want it all -- luxury, comfort, practicality -- and they don't want to have to skimp on anything.You do have to give up a bit of practicality with this vehicle, but for what you gain, it might be a worthwhile compromise. Sales of vehicles with V-8 engines aren't exactly brisk these days because of gas prices.But there is still a market out there, and the FX50 occupies a respectable place in it.