2010 Infiniti FX50
With all the fanfare that has surrounded the arrival of sporty, four-seat, coupe-like SUVs such as the BMW X6 and the Acura ZDX, it's easy to forget the Infiniti FX, which was arguably the originator of the species.
The FX wasn't the first SUV with handling credentials—the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne beat it to market—but it was the first to prioritize style over utility. And what style it is: Unlike the later entries, there's nothing off-putting or bizarre to stir up controversy here. With its cab-rearward proportions, subtly feline curves, and down-on-its-wheel stance, the FX has none of the awkwardness of the sloped-roof SUVs. A redesign for 2009 barely altered the shape, extending the hood a bit while fiddling with the grille and headlights.
The Infiniti's fairly low ride height makes it perfectly positioned for easy ingress/egress and the relatively upright rear window make it a bit easier to see out of compared to its fastback competitors (although you'll still appreciate the rear-view camera, and its neat around-view function). The view over the long hood is particularly cool, as the sheetmetal rises over the front fenders—the effect is reminiscent of a Corvette.
The interior, though, is richer than any 'Vette's, with nicely done, curved-wood accents; aromatic, diamond-patterned leather on the seats; and well padded surfaces. The thick-rimmed steering wheel feels great, and the optional sport seats wrap around you (set their snugness to your liking with the power-adjustable side bolsters). The controls are straightforward and Infiniti's navigation interface continues to be one of the best in the business. The rear seat is acceptable for adults, and there is a center position, which could be useful for attaching a child's car seat.
The FX50's performance is very nearly sports-car-worthy. We measured a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.4 seconds and a 0-to-100 mph sprint of 13.1 seconds. The 5.0-liter V-8 rockets this car off the line, accelerating frenetically to the 6500-rpm (390) horsepower peak—and it sounds great doing so. Fuel economy numbers, though, (14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway) are predictably depressing. The automatic transmission, now with seven speeds, is adept at calling the shots but there are shift paddles for when you'd rather do so yourself.
The steering is incredibly heavy when the car is stopped, but once moving along it's very nice indeed, linear and properly weighted. The FX has never felt as tall or as heavy as its competitors but the first generation car did suffer from a punishingly stiff ride. The new version is much improved—at least the one that I sampled, which was equipped with continuously variable dampers, part of the $3000 sport package.
Speaking of price, my FX50's as-tested figure of $62,725 (up from a base of $59,265) is hardly cheap, but then, nothing in the class is. Those wishing to spend a bit less might investigate the six-cylinder (but still 303-hp) FX35, which saves nearly $15,000—or a bit more, if you're a sun-belt resident content with rear-wheel drive.