2009 Infiniti FX50: All this on 21's?
December 19, 2008
"Oh boy, here we go..." I thought, approaching the new FX50. The standard 21-inch wheels on the new FX50 look large enough to serve as parts in a hydroelectric plant. Skinned with 45-series rubber, flashbacks of harsh ride quality in the first-gen FX started coming fast and furious. Has the redesign addressed one of the major gripes of the french-curved FX?
After pounding round in this beast for four days, the answer is, "Pretty much." Is the handling/comfort balance completely nailed? Not quite, but it's WAY better than the last model. It's even more impressive when you take the wheel/tire combo into consideration. The FX50 is not quite up to the BMW benchmark, as it's still a tad stiff-legged over the harshest, sharpest road imperfections, but on anything other than tortured pavement, the ride quality is satisfyingly firm and no longer jarring.
Even more impressive is the ripping 5.0-liter V8 and swift shifting 7-speed automatic. This combo makes for a punchy and responsive SUV that lives to slice-n-dice in traffic. From a standstill, this thing flat scoots. An aggressive but non-intrusive traction control system seems well tuned to take full advantage of all-wheel-drive traction. Even on flooded streets the FX refused to get squirrelly - the thrust continued to flow heartily while the dashboard traction light winked away. The throttle earns large praise thanks to a sweet, linear tip-in that bucks the annoying trend of super-aggressive first-touch response. My only gripe are brakes that can occasionally feel like they're lingering on the rotors even after the pedal is released.
Though a bit larger than the last gen, the FX's well weighted steering is combined with an impressively tight turning radius to make this mid-sized SUV a breeze in town or in the mall parking lot. On the open road, our sport-package equipped FX50 has the highly adjustable seats, sweetly appointed cabin and plenty of tech to keep you comfy and entertained on the long haul.
I'd call it a poor-man's Porsche Cayenne S, but the FX50 stickers just $1K under the V8 Cayenne, even if it boasts a stronger list of standard equipment. Very similar in many aspects, the V8 FX provides the same sort of rip-snorting day-to-day fun, in a real-life livable package. If you're fortunate enough to be shopping in this price range, and don't care where the price of gas is headed, you owe it to yourself to take a spin in the FX50. Those 21's, by the way, sweetly fill the spacious arched wheel wells.
Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 1640 miles