I've always wanted to own a sports car, but I'm addicted to the capability of an SUV. I've never had enough space (or disposable income) to have two cars at once. The solution would be a sports car with SUV attributes. There are a few out there -- and my favorite has always been the Infiniti FX. The 2013 Infiniti FX50 AWD arrived in my driveway recently with a base price of $60,650 ($67,850 as tested), a 4-year/60,000-mile warranty, a 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty and EPA fuel economy estimates of 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway. Let's drive.
The first FX was a 2003 model, with a more luxurious second generation emerging in 2009. FX got some cosmetic tweaks for 2012 and stands pat for 2013 with just a few technological feature upgrades. Infiniti packages a bigger engine with more standard content, leading to a wide price gap between the base FX37 ($44,850) and the top-of-the-line FX50 ($61,400). The FX37 variants get a potent 3.7-liter, 325-hp V6 engine, and either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The FX50 is only available with all-wheel drive and a 5.0-liter V8. Which is fine with me.
I love the way FX looks. It always reminds me of my favorite sports car, the Porsche 911. Bold front fenders and muscular flanks eschew the sharp, angular look for a more organic, rounded appearance. FX looks smaller in photographs than it does in person. I think that's an illusion of proportion, and the result of FX's athletic stance. Arched wheel wells give the impression that the SUV is in motion even while parked. A successful car design rewards the eye from multiple angles, and FX is eye-catching from every vantage point. Add world-class fit and finish and some of the best paint work on any production vehicle, and you've got a real beauty on your hands.
Can you tell that I'm in love with this SUV?
In the Driver's Seat
I'll start with FX's second row, because once I start talking about its cockpit, I'll never stop.
Three adults can sit comfortably in FX's second row, but I'll admit that the back seat is not the best place to be. Shorter passengers will feel cocooned between the high beltline and seat backs -- making FX a poor choice for family sightseeing activities. At least they'll be cocooned in a beautiful, luxurious environment with plenty of leg room.
Up front, things are even nicer. I've often praised Infiniti's seats, and the FX's are deliciously comfortable, with thick leather and all the right adjustments, including my personal favorite -- adjustable thigh support. Too many times my long legs are left dangling unsupported, which makes for terrible long distance driving. I'd drive the FX around the globe.
Ergonomically, everything is just right, with controls in easy reach and redundant controls for audio and cruise on the steering wheel. My test vehicle also got the Sport Technology Package (a whopping $6,250 option), which added solid magnesium paddle shifters for direct access to the FX's seven forward gears.
On the Road
As much as I enjoyed looking at the FX and admiring its interior design, I really enjoyed driving it. FX50 has been clocked at 5.0 seconds in the rush from 0-60 mph, and I don't doubt that figure. My father, who is very difficult to impress, actually exhaled an audible "Wow" when I punched the throttle on a freeway onramp, initiating a rapid run into traffic. The 5.0-liter V8 has 32 valves, which helps it crank out 390 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. With a curb weight of 4,562 lbs, when the FX rockets down the road, it really conveys a sense of momentum. Incredibly, FX feels absolutely planted through the corners, hugging the road with sports car aplomb. This is one fun SUV.
Infiniti loves technology, and with the Sport Technology Package on my test vehicle, I had lots to explore. I was very impressed with the ride that the Continuous Damping Control delivered -- never too soft or too harsh, and totally transparent in operation. Active Rear Steering is supposed to enhance low speed steering, and must have worked well, as it was also transparent in operation. Lane Departure Warning and Intervention is a feature that often proves annoying, but was relatively benign on the FX, so I never bothered to turn it off, though it didn't enhance my driving experience much. The feature that I really liked was Intelligent Cruise Control, which works to maintain following distance as well as cruising speed. When traffic slows, so does the FX, all the way to a complete stop if necessary. It's a great feature for heavy traffic and freeway driving, once you get it dialed in and learn to trust it (somewhat). I spent my whole week with FX adjusting electronic features, and just about had it dialed in when it was time to return the vehicle. I wish I had another week (or year) with the FX to explore its capabilities.
FX does have some limitations to go with those capabilities. Despite a sophisticated all-wheel drive system, I would never take my FX off-road with just 7.36" of ground clearance. That's not the FX's strength. Also, the way that the roof of the vehicle slopes to meet the bumper, the luggage space behind the second row is limited to 24.8 cubic feet. The second row folds flat to open up 62.0 cubic feet of cargo space, but expect to struggle with tall packages or suitcases. I wouldn't try to get Truman, my Standard Poodle, in the luggage area -- he wouldn't be able to stand up.
I started this review by confessing that the Infiniti FX50 is my favorite sporty SUV. I'll be the first to admit that it's not for everybody. 20 mpg on the highway with premium gas might be enough to turn off many buyers, along with the limited luggage and cargo space that challenges the moniker "SUV." But I'd be willing to put up with FX's shortcomings in order to gain access to its tremendous assets.
Certainly, there are other sporty luxury SUVs to consider. The Land Rover Range Rover Sport comes to mind, as does the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. BMW's X6 and Cadillac's SRX are also interesting choices, and it's hard to rule out the Porsche Cayenne. But FX pushes my buttons, and even feels like a bargain in comparison to a few of its competitors.
If you've got a garage (and budget) big enough for an SUV and a sports car at the same time, FX might not be for you. But even my fantasy garage would have room for an Infiniti FX50, if only for those days when I wanted to be ready for anything.