Oh, our FX45 was a party on wheels, all right, with something for every age. And we liked everything about all those options except the "must have" clause. That and the adaptive cruise control, which had the disconcerting habit of seeing vehicles in the oncoming lane and letting off the gas. We parked that switch at off. We racked up more than 20,000 miles in six months, foot on the gas the whole way. And we still managed 17 mpg, except for the trip to Rockford, Illinois, towing a vintage trailer, which averaged an ugly 11 mpg.
Although not commodious by any means, the FX45 could manage a family of four with basic luggage and a dog or two in relative comfort. That comfort went to hell as the passengers got larger and the luggage tried to cover more than a week. We improved the situation by adding crossbars to the roof rack for $406.80 (why don't they come with the car?), and a trailer hitch and wiring cost $1054.08. (Cost-cutter tip number 1: Order the hitch and wiring with the car. It's $349 for the hitch, plus installation.) The number and variety of little bins and door pockets were praised by all, although the push-button lids were beginning to take their sweet time opening after a year of heavy use. The one-lever folding rear seat worked like a charm, and at the end of our heavy use, the interior looks great, and neither squeak nor rattle has been heard, although the great four-way adjustable steering column and instrument binnacle has developed some irritating free play.
Sometime during our special FX summer, the rear wiper assembly was ripped off. Don't let that happen to you. It cost $99.91 to replace. The good news is that our 22,500-mile service cost a measly $31.42. Our three services to that point cost a total of $305.72. (This is the right place to mention the white-glove treatment we received at Suburban Infiniti in nearby Novi.)
We were ready for the winter of 2004 before it hit, putting in a call to the Tire Rack in Indiana for four Bridgestone Blizzak Winter Dueler DMZ3 265/65QR-17 tires mounted on more reasonable seventeen-inch Moda rims. The fix wasn't cheap at $1292, but it was brilliant. The FX became almost unstoppable in the snow. (Cost-cutter tip number 2: Infiniti tire-pressure sensors seem ridiculously expensive at $200 per tire, compared with the competition's average cost of about $50. We scavenged the originals, which we really find useful, to use with the new Blizzaks. It cost $132.75 to install them and mount the tires on the wheels.)
With the onset of winter, the odometer stopped spinning so furiously, passing the 30,000 mark after ten months. At that point, Suburban Infiniti did a thorough go-through for $528.82 and replaced a squeaking (and, it turns out, leaking) steering rack under warranty. They also changed a bolt in a brake caliper and reprogrammed the emissions control unit, both under recall.
Its looks didn't kill everyone ("puffed-up PT Cruiser," "military contract gone wrong," and "bulbous and goofy" were among its descriptors), but there were more raves than rants for the hopped-up show-car look of the FX45-from editors, from toll takers, from fellow drivers and gawking pedestrians. Not all of Nissan's new age designs are this successful, but taking a risk on the design front has gone a long way toward saving this once-foundering ship. As we wound down our year, we were pleased that the pretty packaging wasn't hiding an inferior gift. The quality held up, our service experience was exemplary, and once the latest dump of snow stops, we'll use the FX45 to plow out of the driveway and make our way to town.
Cost-cutter tip number 3: It took senior editor Joe Lorio, our Voice of Reason, to suggest that the FX35, with less radical, eighteen-inch tires, a V-6 ("only 35 horsepower less"), and a $9000 cheaper sticker price was "easily the better overall version of this most interesting SUV."
But maybe you don't live in the Snow Belt.