Opposites attract

2005, Infiniti, FX45

I can't think of two more disparate interpretations of the sport/utility vehicle and by the same corporate family, no less. On the one hand, there's Nissan's brute Xterra; on the other, Infiniti's svelte FX45. It's as if these two hands were wearing, respectively, brass knuckles and a velvet glove. Together, they fairly well represent the broad spectrum along which sport/utility newcomers have evolved out of car and truck forebears.

In this instructive Nissan/Infiniti pairing, it soon becomes obvious that each vehicle is very well suited for certain tasks. These tasks, however, are mutually exclusive, which is just another way of saying that "well rounded" is not a particularly apt description of either one.

Infiniti calls its pair of FX sport/utility vehicles "crossover" models. That's meant, I suppose, to refer to some sort of automotive cross-dressing using both car and truck apparel. For me, however, the swoopy FX represents a crossover into an entirely new motoring dimension.

My road test was in the larger, V8-powered FX45, which distributes 315 hp and 329 foot-pounds of torque through a full-time all-wheel-drive powertrain. This twin-cam V8 scoots. The FX45 accelerates quickly yet calmly through the five-speed automatic transmission, and the slightly detectable throatiness of the exhaust note is highly delectable.

The FX45's reflexes are finely tuned for sporty handling, even a bit high strung perhaps. Big, low-profile tires paw the road, and ride feel is taut, verging on stiff. Dashing about in the FX45, however, is what triggers a bout of schizophrenia. There are multiple personalities competing for the driver's attention, and they don't always seem to get along.

For one thing, the FX45 is a style maven. Inside and out, its looks are unparalleled. Simultaneously squat and sleek, the body seems to sit back on its haunches, waiting to pounce. Huge 20-inch wheels dominate the corners like so many giant Rolex watches. Nobody doesn't look at the FX45.

Inside, buttery soft, caramel-colored leather enfolds driver and passengers. The jelly-beany roundness of the exterior transforms the interior into a sort of luxury bathysphere; and indeed you feel as if you're 20,000 leagues under the sea in this thing. Visibility, especially to the rear, suffers from stylishness; but the rear-view back-up camera is a welcome, otherwordly compensation.

Otherworldly, too, are the FX45's qualifications. What, in other words, does the FX45 actually do? There's room for five adults; there's sporty handling; there's a big V8 and runway-model good looks. But the two-ton FX45 is too heavy and round to be a sports car; people-cargo arrangements are only on a par with the Subaru Impreza; payload is a scant 1,100 pounds (that includes passengers); and towing is limited to 3,500 pounds. (Even the V6 Xterra earns a 5,000-pound tow rating.)

So I'm tempted to consider the FX45 as the George Hamilton of motorcars. Both are handsome and fun to be with; but it's never quite clear why, exactly, they're hanging around.

4-door, 5-pass.; 4.5-liter DOHC V8 w/ vvt; AWD, 5-sp. auto; 315 hp/329 ft.-lbs.; 15 mpg/city, 19 mpg/hwy w/ regular; cargo: 27.4-64.5 cu. ft.; tow: 3,500 lbs.; payload: 1,092 lbs.; std. equipment: 4-wheel ind. suspension & ABS disc brakes, dual-zone climate control, AM/FM/6-CD/cassette, 20-in. wheels, front/front-side/front-head airbags; base price: $45,450; as-tested: $53,510

By Marc Stengel
2005-08-03

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Images of the 2005, Infiniti FX45

2005 Infiniti FX45
2005 Infiniti FX45
Plenty of room
Plenty of room
Lots of cargo room
Lots of cargo room
See ya!
See ya!