Infiniti’s original FX moon buggy debuted in 2003 intending to be a sports sedan wearing a fanny pack. It handled well, accelerated smartly with the optional V-8, and looked particularly glam on its optional 20-inch wheels. It also rode as if its axles were welded directly to the body. Averaging 23,000 sales per year, the FX reached a small, mostly male audience willing to be pummeled in the name of fashion.
The redesigned 2009 Infiniti FX35 and FX50 stick to the original recipe but strive to offer a more luxurious interior and softer ride and thus to appeal to a wider audience, including the fairer sex. Although the basic platform remains the same ubiquitous FM chassis (for “front mid-ship,” the basis for everything from the Nissan 350Z to the GT-R to every Infiniti save the QX56 to CEO Carlos Ghosn’s chaise longue), this FX has mostly new parts, says Infiniti.
They include a new 5026cc V-8 making 390 horsepower in the FX50, a boring-out and stroking of the previous 4.5-liter V-8 with 80-percent new parts. There’s also a new seven-speed automatic, a first for Infiniti, that is standard across the line. The base 3.5-liter V-6 in the FX35 gets more muscle, up 28 horsepower to 303. As before, the FX35 is offered in rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive configurations. The FX50, which now rolls on available 21-inch wheels, is exclusively AWD.
Quicker Than a Mustang GT
This new V-8 packs a mega-punch. We saw 60 mph flash past in 5.0 seconds in our FX50S, with the quarter-mile dispatched in 13.6 seconds at 104 mph. That’s quicker than a Mustang GT through the quarter-mile, and within 0.1 second of our quickest BMW 335i. Are we moving past the point of sanity with ever-quicker SUVs? The FX generated 0.87 g on the skidpad, and braking from 70 mph was completed in a scant 161 feet. Those are platinum-plated numbers—ones the average Porsche wouldn’t be ashamed to deliver.
Prices are not yet finalized, but Infiniti hinted that base prices for the FX35 and FX50 should rise slightly to about $40,000 and $54,000, respectively, with the loaded-up prices inflating to more than $60,000 because of new options packages, including an FX50 Sport package that includes rear-axle steering, sport seats, adjustable shock absorbers, and a red S on the car’s rump.
Although there’s more horsepower, there are also more size and weight. This FX gets another 1.4 inches in the wheelbase, mainly by moving the front axle forward for better weight distribution. It has sexier styling and extra not-so-sexy crash protection. It’s longer by almost two inches; width and height stay about constant. Seating accommodations are better in the front and rear, and we even found some extra usable space in the cargo area despite official capacity ratings that have decreased.
Pounds were shaved using aluminum door skins, aluminum suspension arms, and a plastic hatchback, but the curb weights still rise from 150 to 200 pounds, depending on the model—our loaded FX50S weighed 4648 pounds. It’s thus an achievement that EPA-rated fuel economy improves by 1 to 3 mpg, although our observed average of 14 mpg isn’t anything to brag about.
More Appealing to Women?
Reason numero uno that female shoppers rejected the old FX was its poor ride quality, says Larry Dominique, Nissan and Infiniti’s vice-president of product planning. The front suspension was therefore changed from struts to unequal-length control arms, with longer travel and lighter components to cut unsprung weight. Front-track width is also up 1.7 inches. In back, the shocks were relocated to allow more wheel travel.Over test miles through the Southern California hills, the FX50’s ride proved less harsh but still plenty active, heaving and bucking in big head-tossing strokes over imperfect pavement. The huge 21-inch wheels and low-profile 265/45 summer tires are partly to blame. More sane (if less fashionable) shoes are fitted to the FX35, which has 18-inch rims, 60-series tires, and a better ride as standard equipment.
The FX’s interior finish improves several notches with diamond-pleated leather detailing and hockey-stick-shaped accents of real wood on the doors. Navigation with real-time traffic info, a four-quadrant exterior video monitor, and a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for music files are standard on the FX50, optional on the FX35.
With its many options and high-technology fandangles, it can be said that the 2009 FX has replaced the defunct Q45 sedan as Infiniti’s flagship model.
TLAs Up the Yin-Yang
There’s also an alphabet soup of optional safety widgets, including LDW, LDP, ICC, DCA, IBA, and AFS. It’s a veritable high-water mark for TLAs (three-letter acronyms).
AFS (adaptive front lighting system): Turns the headlights in sync with the steering wheel left or right up to 17 degrees to illuminate corners.
DCA (distance control assist): Maintains following distances in tight traffic by automatically applying the throttle and brakes and can self-apply the brakes all the way to a full stop.
IBA (intelligent brake assist): Automatically supplies braking power to slow the car when sensors detect that a crash is imminent.
ICC (intelligent cruise control): Works the throttle and brakes automatically to maintain the desired speed while adjusting for traffic detected by its sensors.
LDW (lane departure warning): Monitors lane markings with cameras mounted to the side-view mirrors and beeps a warning when the car is over the line.
LDP (lane departure prevention): Individually brakes the rear wheels to turn the car and keep it in lanes. (Look, Ma, no hands!)
2009 Infiniti FX50 Specs
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
ESTIMATED PRICE AS TESTED: $61,900 (estimated base price: $54,000)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 307 cu in, 5026cc
Power (SAE net): 390 bhp @ 6500 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 369 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic with manumatic shifting
Wheelbase: 113.6 in Length: 191.1 in Width: 75.9 in Height: 65.0 in Curb weight: 4648 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.0 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 12.6 sec
Zero to 140 mph: 32.4 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 5.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 13.6 sec @ 104 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 155 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 161 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g