Full 2009 Infiniti FX35 Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Infiniti FX35 has been completely redesigned. Its 3.5-liter V6 gets a slight power boost and is now mated to a new seven-speed automatic transmission. The second-generation FX35 is rife with high-tech standard and optional features, including a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time satellite traffic information, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and Distance Control Assist, which helps to release the throttle and apply the brakes in heavy traffic.
Five years after its debut, the midsize luxury SUV that Infiniti deemed the "Bionic Cheetah" has morphed into a slightly different animal. While the redesigned 2009 FX35 keeps many of its lean, catlike lines, it now features a longer nose, a restyled black chrome grille and chrome-plated side vents -- an aggressive, controversial look that has drawn both praise and criticism for resembling an aquatic creature (think shark, piranha, catfish) as much as a wild feline.
Underneath the new styling, the second-generation FX (the V8-powered FX50 is also new) rides on an updated platform whose basic architecture is shared with Infiniti's G35 and EX35, so the FX's nimble, carlike handling comes as no surprise. And while the engine underneath the hood of this voluptuous machine is the same size as the one in the previous generation, this year's 3.5-liter V6 cranks out an additional 28 horsepower, though torque output has dipped slightly. Power is sent to the rear wheels or an all-wheel-drive system via a new seven-speed automatic transmission.
Perhaps more significant is the number of technology features available in the 2009 FX35. It's replete with sensors and systems and doodads that could practically control the car on its own, from a new system dubbed Distance Control Assist (DCA), which helps to release the throttle and apply the brakes in heavy traffic, to Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA), which can stop the car completely, then resume a preset speed. There's also a new hard-drive-based navigation system that can store music files, and a trick camera-based parking system as well.
The five-passenger 2009 FX35 starts at nearly $3,000 more than last year's model, and the packages that include the fanciest gadgets inflate the price tag considerably. Furthermore, the FX35's passenger space and cargo capacity are rather unimpressive. There are other options in this price range that serve up similarly luxurious accoutrements along with added utility. Both the Acura MDX and Cadillac SRX, for instance, offer more cargo space and seven-passenger seating. However, neither has the visual impact and performance capability of the Infiniti. Only BMW seems willing to target this niche, with its X6 xDrive 35i. It performs similarly, yet has seating for just four passengers and starts at about $10,000 more. For those who want a sporty and aggressively styled crossover with the latest and greatest in automotive technology, the 2009 Infiniti FX35 is a solid choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Infiniti FX35 is a midsize luxury crossover SUV available in either rear-wheel drive or AWD. The single well-equipped trim level includes 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a power liftgate, leather upholstery, full power accessories, power front seats, a manual tilt/telescoping steering column, cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted switches, dual-zone automatic climate control, a back-up camera, 60/40-split rear seats and an 11-speaker Bose surround audio system with a six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
Options include a Premium Package, which includes heated and cooled front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, an iPod connector and a power tilt/telescoping steering column. A Deluxe Touring Package (which requires the Premium Package) adds 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive headlamps and maple wood interior trim. The Navigation Package (which also requires the Premium Package) adds Infiniti's new hard-drive-based touchscreen navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic, a single in-dash CD player (in place of the six-disc changer), a parking system and a four-camera "Around View Monitor" that provides a 360-degree composite image of the vehicle from the outside.
The Technology Package (which requires the Navigation Package -- we're starting to see a pattern here) adds rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive cruise control with enhanced capabilities in congested traffic, Intelligent Brake Assist and a lane-departure warning and prevention system. Those who spring for the Technology Package can also add a rear-seat entertainment system. A tow package is available for AWD models only.
Powertrains and Performance
A 3.5-liter V6 powers the 2009 Infiniti FX35. In this application, the familiar V6 makes 303 hp and 262 pound-feet of torque. Last year's five-speed automatic transmission has been replaced by a seven-speed automatic with manual shift capability. Rear-wheel drive is standard, though the FX35 offers an optional AWD system with a rear bias to preserve its sporty handling capabilities.
Fuel economy is slightly improved over the old model; the 2009 FX35 AWD gets an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined, while rear-drive models are rated at 16 mpg city/23 highway and 19 combined.
Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, traction control and stability control are all standard on the 2009 Infiniti FX35. This year sees the addition of other safety technology, including an advanced version of Infiniti's lane departure warning system that can help prevent the vehicle from inadvertently traveling out of its intended lane. Also, the new Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) uses the laser range finder from the adaptive cruise control to analyze closing speeds to an obstacle ahead. If a forward collision is imminent, the system sounds a warning to prompt driver action and can automatically apply the brakes up to 0.5g.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the FX scored a perfect five stars for its protection of occupants in both front and side impacts, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the FX its top score of "Good" in frontal-offset testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The cabin of the FX35 is rich and luxurious, boasting a more upscale feel than its predecessor. However, though Infiniti claims the FX35's cargo area has been "reshaped to enhance comfort and utility," cargo volume has actually been reduced to 25 cubic feet with the rear seats occupied and 62 cubic feet with them stowed -- a loss of 2.6 and 3 cubes, respectively. Moreover, while the new generation has slightly more legroom in front, rear legroom, along with front and rear headroom, has shrunk. Most midsize crossovers are considerably more spacious inside.
The redesigned 2009 Infiniti FX35 maintains and even builds upon the original FX35's athletic character. The strong, smooth V6 and well-matched seven-speed automatic provide snappy response, while the new double-wishbone suspension keeps body roll low. We worry about braking, however, as the FX35's more powerful sibling, the FX50, showed signs of fade during our performance testing. But overall, the 2009 Infiniti FX35 is a solid performer that offers sport sedanlike handling and performance in a stylish and respectably practical package.