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2009 Infiniti FX50

The 2009 Infiniti FX50 was unveiled not inside the Geneva Motor Show's exhibition hall but instead at an improvised night club on the outskirts of the city. A huge, high-ceiling room painted all in black was the setting for a big, black catwalk that held four Infiniti vehicles: the all-new FX50, the EX crossover, and the G37 sedan and coupe. Nissan Motor Company president and CEO Carlos Ghosn introduced the new FX to a capacity crowd of more than 500 journalists, and the occasion also served as the coming-out party for the Infiniti brand in Europe, where sales of these four products will begin this October.

But first, Americans get the second-generation FX beginning this June. The name change, as you might imagine, indicates a bump in engine displacement for the V-8 engine, from 4.5 to 5.0 liters. Horsepower also increases dramatically, to 390 hp, and there's now 369 lb-ft of torque. The engine, which redlines at a lofty 6900 rpm, is mated to a new seven-speed automatic transmission with downshift rev matching and, of course, paddle shifters. Nissan won't reveal details yet about the V-6 engine, so we don't know whether it will also rise in displacement from its current 3.5 liters to 3.7 liters like the engines in the G37 coupe and sedan have. More information is expected later this month at the New York auto show. The FX will also be offered with a diesel engine in Europe by 2010. Will it come to America? We'd think so, since Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and Cadillac all will be offering diesel engines by then, if they aren't already.

Infiniti wisely chose to make the styling of the new FX an evolution of the first-generation vehicle's "bionic cheetah" design ethos, and although one heard the inevitable grumblings from some members of the press corps that the new vehicle is "not as good as the original," we think it's a striking design and a worthwhile follow-up to the iconic first-generation vehicle. The FX50 displayed at the Infiniti party sported metallic purple paint, as purple seems to be the launch color for Infiniti in Europe. (The urinals in the men's room at the party were painted purple, purple velvet drapes framed the entrance to the bar, and the head of PR for Infiniti Europe, Wayne Bruce, was wearing a purple shirt.) The FX45's optional 20-inch wheels, which seemed so huge when that vehicle debuted five years ago, have been supplanted by 21-inch Enkeis in the FX50, where they're accented by more muscular wheel wells. The headlights, like those of any self-respecting new car these days, are carved into a tortured shape that would not have been technologically possible to manufacture a decade ago. Here, they seem like sharply arched eyebrows above the large new grille, which is blacked out.

Another design cliché that Nissan could not resist including in the 2009 Infiniti FX50? Front fender vents, just behind the front wheels. At least they are functional; Infiniti claims that they reduce front-end lift by five percent. The overall coefficient of drag has been reduced from 0.37 to 0.35. Front/rear weight distribution is 54/46 percent, and the front track is two inches wider.

The FX's previous front strut-type suspension has been replaced by a control-arm (wishbone) setup, while the rear multi-link setup carries over from before, with some refinements. The electronically controlled suspension dampers can be set to "auto" or "sport" by the driver. Smart cruise control and brake assist are standard. The rear-biased all-wheel-drive system returns.

The 2009 Infiniti FX50's interior is a big step up from the FX45's, with the same sort of "double-wave" instrument panel that has appeared in other recent Infiniti products like the G37 and EX crossover, new front seats with inflatable side supports (like Mercedes has offered for a while), and, to continue the purple theme, white-and-violet-colored electroluminescent gauges.

Click the link below for high-resolution FX images.