2012 Infiniti FX50S

Typical sport utility vehicles tend to be long on utility and short on sport. For buyers who find that disappointing, encountering the Infiniti FX should be a pleasant experience.

This premium, luxury SUV turns the traditional formula for such vehicles upside down. In the FX, sporty ride, balanced handling and daringly sleek styling trump boxy utility, which isn’t to suggest that the FX is not practical. It is.

Nonetheless, its dramatic styling does take a toll on cargo capacity. Buyers who want more interior volume from a traditional SUV should check out the Infiniti QX56. They won’t be disappointed.

Two versions of the seek FX are offered. The FX35 is powered by a 3.5-liter 305-horsepower V-6 that has to be one of the world’s best engines.

This time around, Infiniti loaned us the FX50, which is pretty much the same SUV, but has a 390-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 in place of the V-6. Acceleration is breathtaking, with 60 miles per hour arriving in five seconds flat. Both versions use a seven-speed automatic transmission that turns in a flawless performance.

The FX35 is offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive. The FX50 comes only with all-wheel drive.

There is logic in that decision, as the all-wheel drive FX50, despite being overpowered by some standards, never overpowers the road. All-wheel drive sees to that.

Infiniti has one more trick up its sleeve with the FX50: the optional Sport Package. On our review FX, it included front sport seats and steering wheel shift paddles for better control of the seven-speed automatic transmission. Of more interest, however, are the chassis upgrades that include a continuous damping – or shock absorber – control and what Infiniti calls Rear Active Steer. This enhances stability during spirited driving.

The result was an SUV that felt at home on the narrow, twisty secondary roads throughout the state. Lean in turns is minimal and the steering feel, which some might think is a little weighty, is also very good. Braking proved to be very good as well.

Helping keep the driver planted behind the wheel is the comfortable sport seat, with its power adjustable bolstering. Comfort, of course, is a matter of opinion and even with the side bolsters spread far apart, one victim of middle-age spread thought the seats too confining.

In the rear, average adults will find above average comfort. Taller individuals will want more knee and leg room and no adult will want a third rider added to the second row seat. There is no third row.

Cargo capacity is more than adequate for family shopping trips, but for the size of the vehicle, it’s less generous than what is available in most competitors. There’s a price to be paid for the styling, which also limits rear visibility. Fortunately, a backup camera is standard.

The highest compliment for the FX is this: After a few miles, you’ll forget your driving an SUV. Fun and flexibility in a vehicle are clearly not mutually exclusive.

Infiniti FX: Starts at: $43,700

Engines:                                        3.5-liter V-6                        5.0-liter V-8

HP                                                    303                                      390  
                                                                                                                                                     Torque (lb-ft)                                     262                                      369                                                                  

EPA                              16/23 (FX35 rwd) 16/21(FX35 awd)           14/20 (FX 50 awd)

 

Next Week: Lexus GS 350 AWD

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