The Infiniti FX is an interesting alternative to the norm, but lacks space and comfort to compete in this class

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Infiniti is a relative newcomer in Europe, having been launched to some acclaim in the US in 1989. With the FX, it claims to have created a “crossover without compromises”. And visually, at least, it’s hard not to be impressed by what’s on offer.

The FX comes with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine and seven-speed automatic gearbox, or a choice of 3.7-litre V6 or 5.0-litre V8 petrols, neither of which attract many buyers due to their thirst.

Visually, at least, it’s hard not to be impressed by what’s on offer

It’s a stylish, seductive-looking SUV that majors on design coherence rather more than it does pure functionality. Infiniti 
even goes so far as to describe the FX as “a sports car at heart”. Whether we’d go quite that far in agreement is questionable, but what’s clear is that the FX, even with a diesel engine, is an SUV that’s aimed at keen drivers who probably place style above function in their list of priorities.

The cheapest way into the FX range is still the V6 in GT trim but pricing puts the meat of the FX30d range within reach of both the Land Rover Discovery 4 and Range Rover Sport, as well as the Lexus RX450h and perhaps its closest rival in ethos, the distinctly road-biased BMW X5.

Infinitis come in GT and GT Premium or S and S Premium models in that level of cost and luxury.



Infiniti FX front grille

There are several elements to the Infiniti FX’s styling that will be familiar to keen Infiniti fans, such as its double-arch grille, its ‘wave form’ bonnet and its rather unique headlight design. Yet as a whole the FX represents a departure for Infiniti, as well as a refreshing alternative to the less stylised ranks of its rivals. Perhaps more than any other SUV, it looks and feels like a true hybrid: part 4x4, part coupé, part traditional sports utility vehicle.

That look is emphasised by the Premium model’s vast 21in wheels and tyres, which fill out the enormous wheel arches and make the FX look lower and meaner than normal. Even in standard guise it’s fair to say that the FX makes its presence known on the road, even if it is one of the smaller, lighter cars in this class.

It’s fair to say that the FX makes its presence known on the road

The FX’s headlights have a distinct Infiniti look to them, and they mirror the design of those found on G37 models. Chromed air vents aft of the front wheel arches are also an Infiniti hallmark.

Infiniti describes the FX as being “front mid-engined” because its engine is mounted unusually far back in the chassis, which allowed the designers to create a very short front overhang. Airflow has been thought about at some length, even over items such as the LED tail-lights, hence the competitive drag coefficient of 0.36.

There are cameras to the front and rear, as well as on the door mirrors, which give the driver an impressive all-round view of the car’s extremities on the central screen in the cabin.

There are plenty of nice details inside and out, such as the clever Scratch Shield ‘self-repairing’ paint which is standard on all versions and the near silent operation of the windscreen wipers.

A mid-life facelift in 2012 changed very little of the FX's exterior appearance, as more than one in three FX buyers chose their Infiniti based on its looks. So apart from a new grille, the FX is still as brash and distinctive as before. Other subtle tweaks include new alloy wheel designs, new paint colours and a different instrument panel inside.


Infiniti FX dashboard

Accept the fact that the Infiniti FX is an alternative to a sports saloon and only has five seats and you will find much to like about the cabin – even if it is surprisingly tight on room in the rear seats, given how much road space the car occupies. What the FX is not short of is equipment, whatever level of trim you go for.

In fact, if you add up the spec and compare it blow for blow with that of the new Volkswagen Touareg, the FX offers more kit for marginally less money, which is impressive, given the relative aspirations of the two brands. And compared with a rival Porsche Cayenne or Land Rover Discovery, the Infiniti appears very generous indeed with its standard specification.

Considering how big the FX is, the fact that it has a boot no bigger than that of an average saloon is fairly disappointing

All the seats are high-grade leather as standard. The driver’s seat has 14-way electric adjustment, the passenger’s eight-way. As you’d expect, there’s also climate control and touch-screen sat-nav that doubles as a DVD player when not on the move; even the pedals are fashioned from aluminium. 

Less impressive is the amount of boot space behind the merely adequate rear bench seat. Again, considering how big the FX is, the fact that it has a boot no bigger than that of an average saloon is fairly disappointing. Blame the myriad electronic systems that service the four-wheel drive and four-wheel steer systems for this, although the fully split rear seat does allow you to extend the boot and create an entirely flat load area, right up to the backs of the front seats.

The coupé-like roof line does little for rear headroom, either, while the high waistline and narrow windows do little for the feeling of space in the back.


Infiniti FX front quarter

Infiniti is rightly proud of the FX30d’s relatively lightweight 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, and not merely because it produces 406lb ft of torque at 1750rpm to back up its impressive 235bhp at 3750rpm. More impressive still, reckons the company, is this new powerplant’s refinement, and it doesn’t take too long to work out why.

Once the cold start-up is over, which takes no more than 30 seconds or so, the engine settles into an uncannily smooth idle, and it gets smoother still once on the move. Performance is of the strong but silent nature, the FX surging forwards on a wave of torque virtually from idle speed and with no more than half throttle applied. Zero to 60mph takes 8.5sec – which is slightly more than the Touareg V6 TDI – while top speed is pretty decent at 132mph.

The brakes faded fairly quickly on the track, but it’s unlikely you’d reach that point on the road

Dial in the generally excellent machinations of the seven-speed auto gearbox and you end up with an impressive cocktail of performance – one that allows the FX to glide effortlessly without ever feeling like it is genuinely rapid. The gearbox works best when left in D and is allowed to call the shots for itself.

The petrol engines offer strong performance, in line with Infiniti’s ‘sports car at heart’ mantra. However, the V6, in particular, doesn’t feel that much stronger than the diesel. The V8 makes for an especially niche choice, despite its crushing performance; it can haul more than two tonnes of FX to 62mph in 5.8sec, but offers only 21.4mpg combined. Economy is little better in the V6 petrol, making the diesel the only viable option in the UK. Even less impressive is wind and tyre noise at motorway speeds, the din almost certainly being one of the downsides of those massive 21in tyres.

The FX stops in an impressively short distance and with good pedal feel; although the brakes faded fairly quickly on the track, it’s unlikely you’d reach that point on the road.


Infiniti FX cornering

This is a tricky one for the Infiniti FX. On the one hand the Infiniti handles, steers and controls the movements of its body at high speeds with genuine dexterity; it is, by and large, an unusually accomplished vehicle in this respect. However, when it comes to both ride comfort and road noise the FX is disappointingly poor, and this is as a direct result of wearing such enormous, uncompromising rubber.

Which means you are left with something of a dilemma: do you bite the bullet, put style over substance and try to live with the lumpy ride and rumbling road noise generated by those good-looking wheels and tyres, or do you downgrade to smaller rubber and take a hit on the design front? Having tried the car on smaller rubber as well (offered on lesser trim grades), we’d be tempted to go for them.

The FX is a remarkably decent thing to drive, considering its size and weight

On 20in wheels the FX still suffers from a somewhat lively ride compared with most of its opposition, but not to a point where it might put you off the car completely. Elsewhere, the FX is a remarkably decent thing to drive, considering its size and weight. The steering is clean and precise in its operation and, thanks to the four-wheel steering system, provides real accuracy to the front end during turn-in, without being overly aggressive. And the body control/handling is similarly excellent, with the all-wheel drive system providing traction in all conditions and in all gears on the road.

As an off-roader the FX is probably best described as a soft-roader. It is perfectly capable in muddy fields but ultimately lacks the hardware to follow a Discovery into more serious territory. And again those high-performance tyres would do it no favours in proper mud.


Infiniti FX

If you want to view an Infiniti FX at your nearest Infiniti centre, you may have something of a drive. At the moment there are just a handful in the UK.

But that doesn’t mean to say that buying and owning an FX will be an inconvenient pleasure. Quite the opposite, in fact. Infiniti talks of a “total ownership experience” in which its customers are treated “like VIPs” during the aftersales process. Lexus-beating treatment is very much Infiniti’s intention, and it’s one we have already experienced – and enjoyed – first hand with our long-term EX37.

The Infiniti FX is priced around the same level as key rivals, but it has a distinct equipment advantage

Showrooms, for once, fulfil the promise of matching the ambience of luxury ‘boutique’ hotels with plenty of attention to detail when it comes to the showroom itself and the level of service. And, of course, if you so wish, you never have to enter a showroom – Infiniti will deliver a test vehicle, and then take care of collecting and returning the car when it needs servicing.

The Infiniti FX is priced around the same level as other large SUVs such as the Land Rover Discovery and BMW X5, but have a distinct equipment advantage – every model is generously equipped climate control, Bluetooth, leather seats, rear view camera, keyless entry, bi-xenon lights, privacy glass and a powered tailgate. Top spec models get a level of technology on board that you’re lucky to get on the options list of some similarly-priced cars.

Day to day, the FX30d is a fairly frugal (27.1mpg test average), decently affordable car to run. You’ll be lucky to see 20mpg in the petrol cars, though.

Rarity is currently keeping FX residuals decently high, but if they start to sell in greater numbers that is likely to suffer.


3.5 star Infiniti FX SUV

The Infiniti FX feels like a breath of fresh air amid the ranks of the world’s diesel-engined SUVs. It is seductively styled, albeit in a brash way. It’s also engaging to drive, even if it makes little attempt to back up that ability off road.

Where it fails, it does so quite gently. Boot space is poor considering the amount of road space it occupies and there is both less room and two less seats in the rear than there are in some rivals. Tall rear occupants will suffer from both a lack of head and legroom.

The FX30d’s biggest problem is that this particular class is already chock-full of excellent cars

Then there’s the ride comfort – simply shocking if you get a car on 21in wheels, slightly less so on 20s. Make sure you can live with the ride before you make a decision you might regret. On the plus side, the car is exceptionally well built: from the quality of the paintwork to the finish of the interior.

Then there’s value – it might be priced toe-to-toe with more established rivals, but it out-points them comprehensively when it comes to equipment.

We’d always walk past the petrol cars and head for the diesel – it’s pleasantly refined, reasonably pokey and exceptionally refined. It’s also reasonably economical, too. It’s a shame that excellent refinement highlights the road noise kicked up by those big tyres.

The FX30d’s biggest problem is that this particular class is already chock-full of excellent cars — machines such as the new Porsche Cayenne, the Discovery and, most recently, the fine new Volkswagen Touareg. Without these rivals to compete against, the Infiniti would look very strong; with them, it is merely an interesting, good-looking alternative to the main players.

Infiniti FX 2009-2013 First drives