The Bionic Cheetah Gets Sharper Fangs
by Joe LaMuraglia
The original Infiniti FX was code-named the “Bionic Cheetah” and was designed for the sports car enthusiast who had more responsibility (re: kids and stuff) in his/her life. It promised the driving experience of an Infiniti G35 along with the cargo capacity of an SUV and it largely delivered on that promise. In concert with the Porsche Cayenne, the FX established a new niche – the sports SUV.
In no time, more competitors entered the segment adding more horsepower and fun-to-drive quotient to their utility vehicles but few have matched the Infiniti’s unique combination of design, handling and cargo capacity. So when it came time to update the FX, Infiniti wisely took an evolutionary approach.
If you approach the rear of the new FX, you would have difficulty telling that the car is a new design. The lights and overall shape are very familiar yet freshened and more relevant. It isn’t until you get to the front of the new FX that it becomes abundantly clear that this is an all-new vehicle. The fascia is dramatic and organic looking. It thrusts forward into the space it will occupy and stares it down with a menacing squint from its headlights and devilish grin doubling as a grill.
The side view has improved as well. The wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer, the front wheels have been pushed forward and out establishing an even more aggressive stance for the FX. Every detail has been carefully considered to make the FX more true to is character. The side vents, which seem to be a fad lately, actually work and help cool the engine as well increase stability at high speeds. The large LED taillights extend beyond the body, helping create aerodynamic downforce, while big dual exhaust outlets with chrome finishers add to the dynamic appearance.
The interior benefited from the designers attention as well. The driver-oriented cockpit features improved materials and a more luxurious design that brings the FX on par with its competitors.
Funt-to-drive performance is the FX’s middle name. With a wide stance and lower center of gravity than a “normal” SUV, the FX can do things that seem to defy the laws of physics.
Powering the new FX is a choice of a new 390-horsepower 5.0-liter 32-valve DOHC V8 engine in the FX50 or a 303-horsepower 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V6 in the FX35. Each engine is paired with standard 7-speed automatic transmission featuring Adaptive Shift Control and available solid-magnesium paddle shifters.
In our brief time with the FX in and around San Diego, CA the additional power from both engines was evident. The outgoing FX was no slouch and the new FX35 is fast but the new FX50 is the real stunner here. 390-horsepower and 7-speeds make getting stupid fast very easy. We did notice some hesitation to down shift a few times but with so many drivers, we assumed the Adaptive Shift Control was just getting a bit confused.
Outside of the exterior styling, the improved ride is the most noticeable difference in the new vehicle. Having owned an FX35, I can speak from experience that the new FX is miles ahead of the old one. The longer wheelbase helps and the suspension tuning is clearly more compliant making it less jarring and more of a daily driver than the vehicle it replaces. The FX50 can be outfitted with a Continuous Damping Control (CDC)® suspension system that softens the ride even more without compromising on performance.
The new FX is essentially the flagship of the Infiniti brand and as a result, is is a showcase for all things “tech” that Infiniti has at its disposal. The technology available is ostensibly featured to keep the driver safe but some of it comes off as a bravado. With names like Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Lane Departure Warning/Lane Departure Prevention system it implies that the driver needs help to operate the machine. In my opinion, if you need a car to tell you that you are leaving the lane and then gently brake to move the car back into the lane, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Thankfully, most of these “helpful” technologies are optional.
The one available feature that I found incredibly useful was the Around View Monitor system. It uses a system of cameras to create a “bird’s-eye view” of the vehicle and makes parking in tight spaces a breeze. Compared to Lexus’ ridiculous self-park system, Infiniti’s Around View Monitor system is a miracle.
Many automotive journalist claim that the rear cargo area of the FX is useless and I celebrate the opportunity to disagree. True, it will never take the place of full-size SUV or even a well-designed wagon but it can be quite utilitarian. My partner and I spent many a weekend out the outlet mall outside of Atlanta and always came away impressed with what would could fit in the back of the old FX – especially with the seats down. The new vehicle has a slightly higher floor which reduces the capacity a smidge but you’d be hard pressed to tell by looking at it. The FX isn’t for a family of four but for a couple that likes to shop, travel and always has a few too many bags (sound familiar?), it is just right.
The all-new FX is available in three models: FX50 AWD with 5.0-liter V8, FX35 AWD with 3.5-liter V6 and, and FX35 RWD with 3.5-liter V6. Base MSRP is:
– $40,950 for the FX35 RWD
– $42,350 for the FX35 AWD
– $56,700 for the FX50 AWD
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