Infiniti FX Sheds Ugly Duckling Look as Edgy Rival to BMW
Like fashion and food, auto trends fade and re-emerge. Sometimes the new becomes rote, and innovations later seem staid.
So I’m reminded when I step into the 2013 model of the Infiniti FX, a handsome crossover which got its start a decade ago.
The 2003 FX was wild and new. Built on a midsize car chassis, it made no claims of climbing mountains. Rather, its aggressive shape promised style and quick handling. The rounded roof swooped down dramatically in the rear.
It was a crossover before the name became popular.
I haven’t put a foot in an FX footwell for many years, and was curious how it’s stood the test of time. Look around at other SUVs and crossovers today, from the Land Rover Evoque to the Audi Q5, and many of the design elements like the dropping roof have become standard.
Buyers can opt for the FX37, which starts at around $45,000 for a 3.7-liter V-6 engine, or the 5.0-liter V-8 FX50, which is more than $61,000. I drove an FX37 with the optional all-wheel-drive, $57,250 as tested.
That’s a fairly steep price, putting it in line with very competitive players from BMW, Lexus and Audi.
My FX37 came in an attractive “iridium” blue with lots of brightwork around the windows and grill. It had optional 20-inch alloy wheels, a $3,300 package that includes climate-controlled seats and wood veneers in the interior.
The big wheels filled out the arches nicely, giving the FX a compelling stance. To my eye, the FX looks modern and easily as interesting as many all-new crossovers. Curious, because when it was first released several colleagues and friends said it looked weird and wouldn’t last.
Other more recent avant-garde crossovers like the Acura ZDX, Honda Crosstour and the BMW X6 have also been criticized for their designs, and I’m not sure any of them will be around in a decade’s time.
Driving around the city, it’s easy to see the FX’s allure. It rides high, so you can commandingly see about you, but is narrow enough to slip past double-parked trucks without having to sweat centimeters.
The dynamic exterior shape does affect interior space. Middle rear passengers will be cramped, and room behind the rear seats is limited (24.8 cubic feet). Soccer families need not apply.
To stay in the luxury game, the FX has kept up with modern conveniences. Leather is standard, as is the de rigueur (and irritating) stop/start button.
There’s a Bose stereo system with satellite radio that, at one point, informed me via an on-screen pop-up message: “Justin Bieber is playing on channel 12; would you like to listen to it?” No, system, I wouldn’t. But thanks for the heads-up.
Some elements are happy throwbacks. While the infotainment system has an eight-inch touch screen, there are also redundant hard buttons which perform the same functions. There are knobs, too -- glorious knobs which effortlessly allow you to turn the heat or air conditioning up or down, in one, simple twist.
The FX37 has 325 horsepower, more than the original V-8-powered FX45. And while that original FX45 seemed flush with power 10 years ago, these days we expect to see our high-performing V-8s put out something more akin to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, with 470 hp.
The FX50 gets a decent 390 hp out of its 5.0-liter V-8.
Too bad the V-6 powered FX37 manages only 267 pound-feet of torque, which makes it appear lackadaisical trying to get away from a green light.
Similarly, the steering is a bit dull, the handling ponderous. The suspension feels like it could use some modern love. The FX’s promise of sporty handling just doesn’t hold up to competitors.
Still, I can’t help returning to its looks. Within its parent company, Nissan, there are now odder -- and far uglier -- choices. Take a look at Nissan’s small, quirky Juke crossover, or the downright bizarre convertible SUV, called the Murano CrossCabriolet. (At more than $45,000, it isn’t cheap, either.)
Meanwhile, Infiniti will soon be employing an all-new naming strategy, wherein all of the models will be branded with a Q. The FX will become the QX70.
No matter what you call it, the edgy crossover is still one of the best things to have come from Infiniti. Ten years on, I’m glad it’s still with us.
The 2013 Infiniti FX37 AWD at a Glance
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6 with 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Gas mileage per gallon: 16 city; 22 highway.
Price as tested: $57,250
Best feature: The design, which stands the test of time.
Worst feature: The suspension could use performance tweaks.
Target buyer: The crossover lover who prefers style over room.
(Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Jason H. Harper at Jason@JasonHharper.com or follow on Twitter @JasonHarperSpin.