Infiniti FX35 — High tech crossover with muscle

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Infiniti’s FX line, introduced in 2003, may be best suited for the sports car addict who just can’t let go, but who needs more space for passengers and cargo. Infiniti has claimed for years that the FX35 — and its more powerful twin, the FX50 — is a cross between a sports car and a sport utility vehicle. After revisiting the FX for the first time in several years, we find the description is apt.

This unusual creation with its curvaceous lines that still is wearing well nearly a decade after it was introduced fits nicely into the modern ‘rounder-is-better’ design world.

The FX35 rides on standard 18-inch alloy wheels — 20-inchers are part of an options package — pushed out to the corners giving it a macho stance. The FX has graceful lines with a slopping roof and a beefy-looking rear end. The appearance is rugged and powerful. One of the design highlights for us is the rounded front fenders that rise into the driver’s field of vision flanking a mounded hood treatment. It adds a touch of old-time muscle not found in any other sport utility.

Stand back and the FX looks smallish. Up close you would doubt that this is anything but a large vehicle. Climb behind the wheel and the stylized crossover seems to grow again. Hit the road and it drives big. Illusory is the only word that comes to mind.

The muscular looks are backed up by Infiniti’s 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 303 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque delivered through a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. For even more oomph, Infiniti offers a 5.0-liter V-8 that churns out 390 horsepower. For us, the FX50, even with its 0-to-60 times in the mid 4-second range, is over the top.

The FX35 offers a more balanced package. You may say there is no such thing as too much power until you look at the nearly $15,000 price differential between the two vehicles.

The FX35 is no slouch among the many luxury crossovers now proliferating American showrooms, capable of completing the ubiquitous run to 60 in just a few ticks over six seconds. Perhaps most rewarding in the real world is the way the FX35 leaps ahead with the touch of the throttle in the daily traffic grind. When performance is demanded, this Infiniti responds.

The suspension is tuned toward sports car handling with a strut-type front suspension, an independent multi-link rear end and large front and rear stabilizer bars. It’s so firmly tuned, in fact, that the ride can be jarring over irregular pavement. And perhaps more annoying to some, the FX can be bouncy on small dips in the road. For us the handling prowess of the FX trumped the distractions of the suspension setup.

The FX is so far ahead of most crossovers, even in this age of improved handling across the spectrum, that you can understand why the owner of a sports sedan who needs cargo-hauling flexibility would choose the FX35. And like the typical sports sedan, the FX can accommodate four adults in relative comfort, even with the sloping roofline, and while carrying all their travel needs for a week’s vacation.

Luggage capacity is a useable 24.8 cubic feet and cargo capacity (rear seats folded) measures 62 cubic feet, on the low end of the compact and mid-sized crossover ranks.

Unfortunately, if towing is part of your weekend delights, you will have to look elsewhere for your vehicle. The all-wheel drive FX35 sports only a 2,000 pound rating. Towing with rear-wheel drive is not recommended. The FX35 can be purchased with an all-wheel drive system with a rear-wheel bias, which maintains its nimb
le handling capabilities. The good news is that the FX comes with some off-road and bad-weather capability.

The interior of the FX is luxurious with scads of soft-touch surfaces and pleasing-to-the-touch leather. The seats are big and comfortable, and the dashboard layout is almost as futuristic as the exterior design. Switchgear is easy to operate. The navigation screen is delightfully easy to read. And there are redundant audio controls on the center console so that the radio can be tuned without getting into the nav screen. The rear seat was built for two people, and they can be comfortable on a long-distance cruise with a reclining seat feature.

Like all Infiniti products, the FX35 can be loaded with cutting-edge technology. Infiniti seems to push the technology envelope every year, and the FX can be outfitted with nearly everything in Infiniti’s ghee-whiz parts bin.

Some of the available equipment includes adaptive cruise control; Distance Control Assist that helps the driver maintain a safe distance using the accelerator pedal to provide feedback to the driver; Intelligent Brake Assist, which can bring the FX to a complete stop if need be; and a lane-departure warning and prevention system that can edge the car back into the lane when drifting by applying brakes.

All of these goodies as well as rain-sensing wipers and adaptive headlights can be purchased in a $2,900 technology package. But if you think this is too much nanny state intervention, that option won’t be tempting.

The FX35 comes in at $42,475 including destination charge for the rear-wheel drive version. For that price, all the standard amenities of a 40 grand vehicle are present. But option packages, like the aforementioned, will sorely tempt the buyer, not the least of which is the pricey premium package which encompasses a raft of features including navigation, leather seats, upgraded audio system and our favorite tech tool — a 360-degree, birds eye around view monitor parking camera that can detect objects or vehicles on all sides while negotiating parking areas.

If you often wonder if you’re inside the lines of a parking space, this will tell you and you don’t have to get out of the vehicle to check. It is just too cool.

Our test car had the premium package and the deluxe touring package as well as the technology package bringing the bottom line to $52,875.

The FX has stood the test of time. It is still the supreme crossover for the person who values the driving experience, but needs the space that a crossover affords.

Base price: $42,475; as driven, $52,875
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 303 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 262 foot-pounds @ 4,800 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 113.6 inches
Length: 191.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,156 pounds
Turning circle: 36.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 24.8 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 62 cubic feet
Towing capacity: not recommended
Fuel capacity: 23.8 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 23 mpg highway, 16 mpg city
0-60: 6.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW X3, Acura ZDX, Audi Q5

The Good:
• Distinctive crossover styling
• Sporty performance
• Loaded with technology

The Bad:
• Stiff, bouncy ride

The Ugly:
• Options packages can add over $10,000 to purchase price