The Infiniti FX is good enough to attract customers, but is it good enough to encourage them to invest in a brand that means little to most Australians?
If the Infiniti FX was an email it would be written entirely in CAPITALS.
Its design shouts louder than almost anything else on the road and is bound to make everyone stop and stare. Opinions will range from awesome to awful, but at least it gets a reaction.
Infiniti doesn’t need – or indeed want – everyone to like the design of this stylised crossover wagon, instead relying on a few individuals to like the shape so much that they must have it.
It is available with three engine options, a 235kW 3.7-litre petrol V6, a 175kW 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel and a 287kW 5.0-litre petrol V8, which happens to be under the long bonnet of our test car.
The six-cylinder cars are available with the entry-level GT trim, the mid grade S or the range-topping S Premium, while the FX50 is only available as an S Premium.
Pricing for the V6 petrol runs from $83,900 to $92,900 and maxes out at $95,900, while the diesel engine adds a $2000 premium. The single FX50 model is a hefty $114,900.
That’s either a huge sum for a car wearing a badge that means nothing to Australians (unless they remember big Infiniti sedans of the early 1990s that sank without trace) or good value given most big luxury SUVs with V8 engines cost a lot more.
The biggest thing the Infiniti FX has going for it is that blinged-out California style.
It doesn’t have LED daytime running lights, which are a glaring omission on a car this expensive, but everything else is designed to attract the eye.
Infiniti selected big 20-inch rims to fill out the guards of the GT model, while the S and S Premium get bigger 21-inch wheels to finish off the look.
So it looks cool, but what about the drive?
After a stint on winding roads that run from the flowing terrain of Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains through to Brisbane, the low-riding FX comes across as sportier than the Lexus and the Mercedes, but probably not quite as athletic as the Porsche or the BMW.
It’s fun to drive though and will hang on if you throw it into a bend at speed. Infiniti engineers have done a good job tying it down and although we expected it to pitch and wallow it didn’t.
That said, the body doesn’t feel quite as stiff as the Cayenne and X6 with some movement from less-than-perfect roads making their way into the cabin.
The ride is comfortable, although it is a little on the firm side. The adaptive dampers don’t make a huge difference.
The steering is good for a big luxury SUV and is accurate, although it does feel a little numb, you don’t get much idea for what is going on under those big wheels. In the case of FX50, the rear wheels also steer (a little).
We stepped into the FX after Infiniti officials suggested it could be the only Infiniti model sold in Australia with a V8 engine. This is because the company is not planning to fit eight-cylinder engines to any of its new models. So, we grabbed the Infiniti FX50 V8 for what could be both a first and last blast.
It shows what is good and bad about V8 engines. Away from the traffic lights it sounds great. Not ridiculously loud, but has enough of the gruff V8 grumble to make you smile.
The V8 is less thrilling at higher engine speeds. It doesn’t sound bad, but it just doesn’t below like some of the others and tends to get washed out by other noises like tyre roar.
It is a strong engine, with 287kW and 500Nm of torque, and can sling this 1992kg machine from 0-100km/h in just 5.8 seconds. To be honest, it didn’t feel that fast in the metal, but it does get along briskly.
A torque convertor seven-speed automatic adds to the enjoyment and the driver can have a play using the steering wheel-mounted paddles (which are made from magnesium for some reason).
This is an adequate gearbox when left in automatic, although it can appear to take its time when responding to a sudden request for acceleration. It is competent in manual mode as well although you shouldn’t expect super-fast shifts.
The power goes to the rear wheels, although can be shared with the front when required. It has a nice feeling of rear bias all the time though.
Now to the reason that V8s are going the way of the Dodo. Fuel consumption.
If you’ve laid out $114,900 it’s likely you have a company fuel card or simply don’t worry about the cost of fuel, which is good because it is thirsty.
Have a bit of a crack and it will run at 15L/100km (the official average is still a considerable 13.1L/100km).
The Infiniti FX interior is generally disappointing, although there are some high points such as the sumptuous leather seats that could double as lounge chairs.
For all the comfort, the seats don’t offer much side support, but that’s okay because of the way this car will be used most of the time.
The strangest part of the interior is the dashboard. The section in front of the passenger looks like a giant semi circle where the instrument cluster and steering wheel would sit in a left-hand drive version.
It looks very much like the dash was designed to be switched from a left-hand drive to a right-hand drive for the least amount of money. That might have worked in the past, but these days luxury cars are a lot more complex.
The instrument cluster and centre console channels Lexus, in fact the sound system looks identical, but the steering wheel controls and some of the switchgear is familiar from other Nissan models.
There is nothing really wrong with the plastic surfaces, but most people would expect more higher-end treatment such as carbonfibre or stainless steel given a) the price and b) the bold exterior which promises something special inside.
The interior space is practical enough, although there isn’t a heap of legroom in the back, which is surprising given the size of this thing. Boot space is 410 litres, which should be enough for most people.
As for equipment, the Infiniti is a burger with the lot. Some of the features are more useful than others. The lane departure warning system went bananas on our drive, but thankfully you can turn it off. It may be of more use on straight highways.
There are adaptive cruise control and collision warning systems, which are now expected in premium cars like this, an eight-inch centre infotainment screen, an 11-speaker Bose sound system and an automatic tailgate, which are all good enough.
The FX, especially the FX50, come with lots of gear, but there is nothing really new here. There is no new gizmo that you’ll be rushing to show friends.
This Infiniti FX was introduced in 2008, so it’s not the freshest model on the block.
It is new for Australia though and owners will be guaranteed to stand out on our roads.
It doesn’t break new ground for luxury SUVs and has some faults but does offer truly unique styling and a mixture of performance, relatively sporty handling and high levels of standard equipment.
The FX is a good enough vehicle to attract customers, but whether it’s good enough to convince them to invest so much in a car with a badge that means very little to Australians at this stage is another question.