When the plans went into place for the 2009 Infiniti FX50, the goal was simple: Show off. Like the FX45 that preceded it, the second-generation FX is a showcase of technology and engineering in a hyper-stylized shell. A true vehicle for the times.
Of course, Infiniti didn't expect the worldwide economy to implode in 2008. No one did. Sure, gasoline had been getting more expensive as booming economies in China, Russia and India decided they wanted cars, too. But expensive gas isn't a big deal. Not to people paying north of $50 grand for a luxury SUV packing nearly 400 horsepower from a big V8.
But now the 2009 Infiniti FX50 stands as a sort of last hurrah. A testament to better, less reasonable days, where V8 engines sat in jacked-up hatchbacks and we couldn't get enough.
And we still can't. With a new 390-hp, DOHC 5.0-liter V8, seven-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and rev-matched downshifts, and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, the FX50 still whets our performance-crazed appetite. To have one last sip of the good stuff, we've added a 2009 Infiniti FX50 to the Edmunds.com long-term fleet for 20,000 miles of the glory days.
Why We Bought It
The big-motor Infiniti FX has one of the worst sales records among mainstream vehicles. Only 1,598 examples of the FX45 were sold in 2007, the last full year of its lifecycle. (Compare this with the 19,129 sales of the V6-powered FX35 during the same period.) The drivetrain hasn't been the problem, as we noted in a comparison test: "The FX45 was the only ute that hit 60 mph in under 7 seconds (6.8 ticks, to be exact) and also edged out the BMW X5 for top honors in the race down the quarter-mile, with a time of 15.2 seconds to the Bimmer's 15.3." Handling and braking were similarly superlative.
The real problems with the FX45 were rational ones not swayed by acceleration times. The interior was up to Nissan standards, but in the highly competitive — and highly expensive — field where the top-shelf Infiniti plays, it left our reviewers cold with its interior presentation.
Our criticisms of the interior were not ignored, and Infiniti has put time and money into creating world-class interiors. Just like the similarly revitalized Nissan 370Z, the 2009 Infiniti FX50 features top-quality leathers, trim that features piano black and hand-stained maplewood, and an information system with a large 8-inch screen and a remarkably intuitive interface.
But new materials and attention to detail aren't enough for a spot in our rotation. The FX50 also makes some big strides in technology, notably Around View, a parking monitor system that puts cameras on the front, sides and rear of the vehicle to give you a live, 360-degree view of your surroundings.
The FX50 also has some neat features for drivers who don't really like to drive. An advanced lane departure warning system will go so far as to steer the vehicle with selective brake application. Distance Control Assist monitors and modulates the car's speed in relation to the traffic ahead and works in hand with the Intelligent Brake Assist to bring the vehicle, if needed, to a complete stop with no driver intervention. As one of our editors mused in our full test of the 2009 Infiniti FX50, the system "theoretically makes it possible to drive HOME (hundreds of miles easily) without touching a pedal — or the steering wheel. Theoretically, of course."
And then there is the all-new aluminum-block V8 and seven-speed automatic transmission, both of which are sure to make their way into future Infinitis (like an M50 sedan, for example) should the automotive market rebound. The new transmission and engine surprisingly deliver a 1 mpg improvement in fuel economy on the EPA's city cycle over the FX45, and a whopping 3 mpg increase on the highway cycle. This FX50 AWD has an EPA rating of 14 city/20 mpg highway.
What We Bought
The 2009 Infiniti FX50 S AWD already comes pretty well-equipped. And it should for a base price of $58,400 plus $865 for the destination charge. Goodies like all-wheel drive, lightweight 21-inch wheels, a hard-drive-based navigation system with an 8-inch screen, magnesium shift paddles, power moonroof, Bluetooth and intelligent key with push-button start are all included in the substantial base price.
The S package adds $3,000 to the base price and adds electronic dampers, rear active steering (a technology Nissan has shown enthusiasm for over the years, beginning with the Nissan 300ZX Z32 and lately in the Infiniti G37 coupe), adaptive front lighting system, powered bolsters and thigh support for front-seat passengers, and 265/45R21 Dunlop SP Sport summer tires to wrap around those massive 21-inch rims.
With the Sport package ticked, our Umbria Twilight FX50 has an MSRP of $62,285.
Is It Enough?
While the world might have changed its vehicular priorities just as the 2009 Infiniti FX50 appeared, we won't let this stand in the way of enjoying what this high-performance utility vehicle has to offer. Is being better in every way going to be enough in these times? With competition from the economy and the sharp new BMW X6, is the Infiniti FX good enough? Will this year send us into a nostalgic tailspin, or is it possible that the old formula has a place in today's automotive environment?
After all, gas is cheap again.
Stay tuned to our long-term road test blog for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles.
Current Odometer: 1,394
Best Fuel Economy: 17.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 10.7 mpg
mbeAverage Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 14.1 mpg
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.