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2004 Infiniti FX35 Review

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I'm always surprised by the vehicles that impress me and those that don't. Quite often, I'm turned off by hot new vehicles with ultra-modern design. But just as often, I go gaga over something that's really pushing the style envelope.

Such a vehicle is the Infiniti FX35.

The FX 35 competes in the becoming-crowded medium luxury sport utility market. It view with the Acura MDX, Lexus RX330, Mercedes-Benz ML320, BMW QX5 and even the new Porsche Caliente. Prices for all these vehicles range from the low $40 thousand range and up. Depending on what you want with your vehicle, you can spend just about anything.

The first thing that hits you about the FX35 is its styling. Far more aerodynamic than its competition - even the redesigned RX330 - the FX35 draws your eyes to it. A sloped, rounded front end with almost-too-small headlights, moves back to a cabin that arches over the inhabitants, then downward to the rear deck. The rear-end design is a striking as the front and profile.

I liked the FX35 the first time I saw it. But when I received a "thumbs up" from a passing Thunderbird driver, I knew my opinions weren't off base. And then when my wife said she liked it, I knew that Infiniti had a winner, because my wife is definitely a fan of conservatively styled cars.

A comment here on Infiniti and Nissan styling. Both brands have shown over recent years that they can knock your socks off with their designs. If you see a car moving down the road and like the way it looks, chances are it'll have either a Nissan or Infiniti badge on it. Their joint design studios are at the forefront, much in the same way Chrysler was just a few years back.

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that is a derivative of the engine in the Nissan Z350. Advertising will you it has been voted one of the world's 10 Best Engines, and it's true. We've driven several vehicles with derivatives of the engine and they've al shown great performance.

It's hooked to a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. We had zero opportunities to try the FX35 on challenging roads, so the manual mode went untested. But the automatic did its job well, delivering 18.7 mpg in mostly highway driving. Sure, it would be nice to have better economy - particularly during a week when the price of gasoline went over $1.75 a gallon - but 18.7 is good for an SUV.

This vehicle was loaded with internal space as well. We took the Thursday morning golf group in the FX35, fitting four senior golfers and their bags easily into it. The was more then adequate rear-seat legroom, and there was room in the cargo area for four golf bags as well.

In addition, the HVAC system kept all four passengers comfortable, with the rear passengers having their own controls.

At the other end of the spectrum, when I was called on to babysit over the weekend, we were able to fit my grandson's car seat in the back quickly, and remove it just as quickly. The sunroof provided extra entertainment for him.

The front seats were power adjustable, with unique seat top-mounted switches controlling fore and aft movement as well as the rake of the seat back. The leather-faced seats were also heated - a bonus.

In between the two front seats was an arm rest/console that was somewhat confusing. On top were two arm rests that moved fore and aft for the passengers' comfort. These could also be lifted individually to provide small storage. Both could be lifted to expose a larger storage compartment that would hold CDs, for example.

I liked the instrument panel on the FX35. The dials were white on black with clear markings. In the center of the dash was an information panel that provided a wealth of information, but no navigation. This was lighted in orange, and we learned to use it and maneuver through it easily.

In the console were two large cupholders that would accommodate large bottles of water.

And in the center of the console was Infiniti's trademark analog clock.

Infiniti's FX35 has tough competition in its field. But there is no doubt in my mind that it is the equal off that competition, both in styling and performance.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate