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2006 Infiniti FX45 Crossover

The Crossover Muscle Car

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

2006 Infiniti FX45 Crossover

he FX45 looks like a giant scarab, shaped by the wind and forces of nature.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
Get ready for some superlatives. I'm going to fling them willy-nilly during this review of the 2006 Infiniti FX45 Crossover. I love this vehicle. I love the way it looks. I love the way it drives. I love the way it feels. I even love the way it smells -- really. The 2006 Nissan FX45 Crossover carries a base price of $49,750 ($50,400 as tested with $650 destination charge), a 4 year/60,000 mile basic warranty, a 6 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway. It's packed with features, and it is fun, fun, fun to drive. Let's hit the road.

First Glance

The FX45 is a true crossover vehicle -- it's not a car, and it's not an SUV. It has some of the capabilities of each; some of the drawbacks, too. While some manufacturers are building vehicles that would have been called "station wagons" or even "minivans" in another day and age, the FX45 really is another class of vehicle altogether. It's a more athletic SUV, a roomier, more capable sedan.

The FX45 looks like a giant scarab, shaped by the wind and forces of nature. Its body is all bulging, rounded shapes that project muscularity and strength. A rising beltline is met by an arcing roofline, resulting in a teardrop shape and a bulbous rear end. Big High Intensity Discharge (HID) Bi-Xenon headlights give a bug-like intensity to the front, and multiple array LED taillights aid visibility in the rear. The fixed glass window in the tailgate is a little bit of a mail slot -- cool-looking, but it doesn't make for much of a view while backing up.

Fit and finish on the FX45 are superb. Deep rich paint, high shine chrome accents, uniform seams and gaps everywhere you look. The attention to detail is impressive, and the FX45 is eye-catching because of it. You may love the look of the FX45 or you may hate it -- you will not overlook it.

Continued below . . .

In the Driver's Seat

Infiniti's dash layout and design is excellent -- I commend the use of real rosewood and aluminum trim throughout.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
Infiniti has got a real handle on leather seats. They must be sourcing their leather from the same suppliers who sell baseball glove material to Rawlings. Thick, rich leather that feels like it will age beautifully covers the seats, which are padded just perfectly. You know what they say -- a comfortable rear end is a happy rear end. Mine was very happy, thank you very much, in the FX45, and electrical heating elements helped toward that end. Tilt/telescope adjustable steering wheel and 10-way adjustment on the driver's seat helped me find the sweet spot for driving. A big dead pedal (a resting place for your left foot during driving) helped with long-distance comfort as well -- why is this a luxury feature?

Infiniti's dash layout and design is excellent -- I commend the use of real rosewood and aluminum trim throughout. The FX45's center stack looks almost like a piece of fine furniture, so rich are the materials. Infiniti's trademark oval analog clock sits low at center, topped by a big LCD screen that acts as a command center for heat/air conditioning, audio and navigation controls, as well as a much-needed rear view monitor. The FX45's design compromises views directly to the rear and to the rear sides, the one big flaw with this vehicle's design.

The FX45's rear seat is set up for two passengers, three only in a crunch. There's plenty of leg room, but shorter passengers complained a little about the height of the windows -- they couldn't see out the window when they sat back in their seats. I'm not short, and don't spend much time in the back seat, so I didn't care.

On the Road

Here's why I didn't care -- the FX45 is packing a 4.5 liter V8 under it's carapace, a potent powerplant that cranks out 320 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque. Mated with a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, that spells F-U-N. Add in 4-wheel independent suspension, full-time all-wheel drive, four wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution, traction control, a low center of gravity and a wide wheel base, and you've got a Crossover vehicle that drives like it's glued to the road. There's no body roll to speak of, and with all that horsepower, the FX45 just begs to be tossed through the curves. Handling is positively confidence-inducing, and acceleration is like a mule kick, accompanied by sweet, throaty music from the exhaust note. The FX45 is a muscle car in Crossover clothing.

I don't know if I'd elect to take the FX45 on a road trip, however. There are a couple of penalties for all that power and style. The big one, of course, is 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway -- awful numbers, even though they are totally in line with the power to weight ratio on display. Cargo space is just okay -- the styling of the FX45's sloped rear roofline eats in to the cargo hold. You wind up with a space behind the rear seat that, at 27.4 cubic feet, is smaller and less useable than the luggage space in a Ford Escape (29.0 cubic feet). Add in the horrible sightlines to the rear, and the FX45 is more fun around town than on the road.

That said, I loved driving the FX45. The sound, the speed, the agility and the overall feel of the Crossover is hard to beat.

Journey's End

The fixed glass window in the tailgate is a little bit of a mail slot -- cool-looking, but it doesn't make for much of a view while backing up.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
So, I said I was going to throw around a few superlatives, and I have. But should you shell out 50 grand for an FX45? Well, before making that decision, there are several other vehicles to check out.

First of all, drive the Infiniti FX35 and FX35 AWD -- cosmetically very similar to the FX45, but with a smaller (3.5 liter V6) powerplant under the hood. You'll get better mileage and a substantially lower buy-in -- and only slightly less fun. You should also check out the Nissan Murano, which shares a platform and some styling cues with its Infiniti cousin. Starting under $30,000, it can save you a lot of money, and still get you into the genuine crossover field.

Infiniti isn't the only crossover in the sports luxury field. Audi's Q7 is an excellent vehicle. So is the VW Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne, though all three vehicles will run you a little more cash than a comparably equipped Infiniti. Lexus' RX350 is more luxury, less sporty, and the RX400h brings a hybrid to the party. Acura's RDX drops a turbo into the mix, and BMW's X5 is a sporty entry to the field. The Mercedes R-class, Chrysler Pacifica and Ford Freestyle are out of their league in this competition, tending more toward minivan-dom than fun.

When I dream of a crossover vehicle, it's the FX45 that fills my heart. Part muscle car, part fashion statement, it projects the kind of athleticism and charm that I wish I could muster. And isn't that what your daily driver should do?

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