2013 Infiniti FX 37 RWD Review by Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
A decade ago crossovers were poised to take over the American automotive world. The formula was: SUV-like looks, with car-like construction and comfort. Almost by default, this meant unibody construction with a transverse front engine and front-wheel drive (optionally all-wheel) for space efficiency and familiar handling characteristics, and raised ground clearance for appearance and maybe light-duty fire road use.
Infiniti did things a bit differently with its FX when it debuted for model year 2003.
While it has unibody construction and a fully-independent suspension, the Infiniti FX was, and is, a longitudinal front-engine, rear- or all-wheel drive machine. Where the view out the front of most crossovers shows maybe a flat expanse of hood, the driver of an FX sees two bulging fenders, as if he or she was in a sports car. Infiniti calls its FX a "performance crossover", and offers it with a choice of V6 or V8 engines.
The FX's underpinnings are the Nissan/Infiniti FM platform, making it a relative to Infiniti's G-series sedans, coupes, and convertibles, and M-series sedans, and Nissan's 370Z sports car. No trucks or crossovers in that family tree! Its styling is, as ever, an interesting combination of crossover and sports car forms and cues. The original version gave way to a second generation for model year 2009, and that got a mid-product cycle facelift for 2012.
The biggest change for 2013 is that the V6-powered FX35 becomes the FX37 as the namesake 3.5-liter V6 is replaced by a 3.7-liter version. Maximum horsepower rises from 303 to 325. A seven-speed automatic transmission means that there is no loss of fuel economy, which is a reasonable (for a two-ton vehicle) 17 mpg city, 24 highway for the rear-wheel drive version according to the EPA. I got 18 with mostly city driving, but that quickly went to over 22 after a couple hundred miles on the highway.
Electronic technology is an Infiniti specialty, and the FX can be equipped with nearly every electronic assistance system known. My test car had Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, Distance Control Assist, a voice-recognition navigation system, and Bluetooth® streaming audio. But to me, the most useful feature was the Around View® monitor, which combines input from front, rear, and side video monitor cameras into a virtual overhead view, with wheel position and external objects noted. The FX is not a small vehicle, so this is quite convenient when parking in a tight spot. It's also very good in my narrow and hazard-intensive driveway -- it's amazing how many hazard-detection systems squawk at the harmless bushes and fail to see the 4x4 posts at my driveway entrance. No such problem with the FX.
It's a comfortable vehicle for highway travel, with good performance and fuel economy for its size and power. Style and drivetrain layout triumph over the usual crossover virtue of space efficiency, as interior space is not as great for the FX's footprint size would indicate. But it still offers as much interior and luggage space as a midsize sports sedan, and is something different.
APPEARANCE: You want something distinctive? Here it is. The FX is too big to be a hatchback, has too much ground clearance to be a wagon -- and the proportions are wrong, with too little rear overhang and a too-sloped rear window -- but, with its long hood and passenger cabin set to the rear, has the wrong shape to be a generic crossover. It's something different, and that's good enough. Last year's restyle brought the newest interpretation of the Infiniti grille and some interesting angles to the front corners. The undertray visible from the front is for aerodynamics, not a skid plate, but the dark plastic trim that surrounds the bottom of the vehicle does hint at "crossover", as do optional roof rails.
COMFORT: Inside, especially with the options of the Technology, Deluxe Touring, and Premium Packages with which my test example was equipped, the FX35 is every bit a luxury touring vehicle. Don't look for a high crossover ceiling or third-row passenger capability. From the inside, the FX seems to be a midsize luxury-performance sedan, with an unusual trunk arrangement. The Deluxe Touring Package's quilted leather seats look great - and the fronts are heated and cooled, for optimum comfort in all temperatures. Interior design seems more European than Asian or American, and is flowingly stylish but cohesive and places all controls and necessary information well, with no glare over the instruments or on the windshield. Standard amenities are as expected -- power everything, pushbutton start/stop, leather seating, backup camera, all current audio connectivity, tilt and slide moonroof, and more. Options exist to please any need or desire. Seat comfort is as good as should be expected for the class, with plenty of room in front and rear. Yes, there's a central tunnel so the rear center position is compromised, as in nearly every other vehicle. Still, with each section of the 60/40 split rear seatback separately reclinable, the comfort level is high. Luggage space behind the seats should be adequate for a couple on vacation -- and that is the FX's mission in life.
SAFETY: In addition to the usual standard safety considerations in design and construction, full complement of airbag systems, strong four-wheel vented disc brakes with antilock, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, vehicle dynamic control and traction control, Infiniti offers a host of optional systems including Distance Control Assist to reduce tailgating, Intelligent Cruise Control, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Prevention, which can apply the brakes on one side of the vehicle to prevent it wandering out of its lane.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Taking what, with normal ground clearance, would be a luxury-sport wagon and raising the ride height to over seven inches doesn't seem particularly logical. But then, the FX is a vehicle that will sell more on emotion than logic, and it does handle better than might be expected given its ride height and 4200-pound mass. Its double-wishbone front, multilink rear suspension makes use of aluminum to reduce unsprung weight for better roadholding, but those 20-inch alloy wheels and P265/50 tires have plenty of unsprung weight by themselves. The suspension tuning is moderately firm, for a supple ride and minimal body roll - this is a crossover that can be driven in a spirited manner without motion sickness. It's a fairly large vehicle and is more at home on the highway or a wide secondary road than an extremely narrow country road.
PERFORMANCE: Extra power is always welcome, especially when there's no fuel consumption penalty. And, as the old saying goes, there's no replacement for displacement. Enlarging the FX's namesake V6 from 3.5 to 3.7 liters gains 22 horsepower at the top for 325 (at 7000 rpm). Maximum torque is 267 lb-ft at 5200 rpm. Infiniti's "Variable Valve Event and Lift" (VVEL) system controls valve timing and lift for both intake and exhaust to optimize power, efficiency, and emissions. There is good power from nearly idle all the way to redline, so no need to spin the engine hard and thirstily. A seven-speed automatic transmission also helps both performance and economy -- but, like nearly all automatics today it's programmed for fuel economy first and that can result in some hunting for gears on long or steep grades. That's easily dealt with by first using Sport mode, which holds lower gears longer. If more power is needed, shift manually while in Sport mode. Gearchanges are quick, and revs are matched on downshifting. Around town, with some highway use, I saw around 18 mpg but more highway miles raised the average to 22.
CONCLUSIONS: Infiniti's FX remains a unique approach to a luxury-sports vehicle.
2013 Infiniti FX37
Base Price $ 44,300
Price As Tested $ 55,800
Engine Type aluminum alloy 24-valve DOHC V6 with VVEL (Variable Valve Event & Lift)
Engine Size 3.7 liters / 255 cu. in.
Horsepower 325 @ 7000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 267 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 113.6 in. / 191.3 in.
Curb Weight 4209 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 13.0
Fuel Capacity 23.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires P265/50R20 Bridgestone Dueler H/P 92A
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent multi-link Ground Clearance 7.3 inches
Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 24 / 22
0 to 60 mph est 6 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Technology Package - includes: Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, Distance Control Assist, Adaptive Front Lighting System with auto-leveling headlights, Rain-Sensing Windshield Wipers, Front Pre-Crash Seatbelts $ 2,950
Deluxe Touring Package - includes: 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, quilted leather-appointed seating, climate-controlled front seats, maple interior accents, aluminum pedals, tonneau cover $ 3,300
Premium Package - includes: Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation, 8-inch VGA color touch-screen display, Infiniti Voice Recognition, NavTraffic and NavWeather, Zagat Survey® restaurant guide, Around View® monitor with Moving Object Detection and front and rear sonar, streaming audio via Bluetooth®, single in-dash CD/DVD player, entry/exit assist for driver's seat and steering wheel, outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down, power telescopic steering column, aluminum roof rails $ 4,300
Destination Charge $ 950