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Infiniti FX35 Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $35,000 - $45,000 Sport Utility Vehicle
Who should buy this car: If you are looking for a competent mid-size SUV that is also a head-turner, your ship has come in
Comparable models in this class: Acura MDX, BMW X5, Buick Rainier, Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX330, Lincoln Aviator, Mercedes M320, Mitsubishi Montero,  Volkswagen Toureg, Volvo XC90
I'm always surprised by which vehicles wind up impressing me and which do not. Quite often, I'm turned off by hot new vehicles with ultra-modern design. But just as often, I go gaga over something that's really pushing the style envelope.  Such a vehicle is the Infiniti FX35.

The FX35 competes in the medium luxury sport utility market.   It vies with the Acura MDX, Lexus RX330, Mercedes-Benz ML320, BMW X5 and even the new Porsche Cayenne. Prices for this group of vehicles range from the low $40 thousand on up to within spitting distance of six figures.  Depending on what you want in your mid-sized SUV, you can spend just about anything.

The first thing that hits you about the FX35 is its styling. Far more futuristic looking than its competition - even the redesigned RX330 - the FX35 draws your eyes to it. A sloped, rounded front end with almost-too-small headlights, moves back to a cabin that arches over the inhabitants, then downward to the rear deck. The rear-end design is as striking as the front.

I liked the FX35 the first time I saw it. But when I received a "thumbs up" from a passing Thunderbird driver, I knew my opinions weren't off base. And then when my wife said she liked it, I knew that Infiniti had a winner, because my wife is definitely a fan of conservatively styled cars.

A comment here on Infiniti and parent company Nissan styling. Both brands have shown over recent years that they can knock your socks off with their designs.  If you see a car moving down the road and like the way it looks, chances are it'll have either a Nissan or Infiniti badge on it.  Their joint design studios are at the forefront, much in the same way Chrysler was just a few years back.

Under the hood of the FX35 is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that is a derivative of the engine in the Nissan Z350. Nissan advertises that it has been voted one of the world's 10 Best Engines, and it's true.  We've driven several vehicles with derivatives of the engine and they've all shown great performance.

The engine is hooked to a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. We had zero opportunities to try the FX35 on challenging roads, so the manual mode went untested. But the automatic did its job well, delivering 18.7 mpg in mostly highway driving. Sure, it would be nice to have better economy - particularly during a week when the price of gasoline went over $1.75 a gallon - but 18.7 is good for an SUV.

While it may not look it from the outside, this vehicle was loaded with interior space. We took the Thursday morning golf group in the FX35, fitting four senior golfers and their bags easily into it. There was more then adequate rear-seat legroom, and there was room in the cargo area for four golf bags as well.

In addition, the HVAC system kept all four passengers comfortable, with the rear passengers having their own controls.

At the other end of the spectrum, when I was called on to baby sit over the weekend, we were able to fit my grandson's car seat in the back quickly, and remove it just as quickly. The sunroof provided extra entertainment for him.

The front seats were power adjustable, with unique seat top-mounted switches controlling height, fore and aft movement and seat back angle. The leather-faced seats were also heated - a bonus.

In between the two front seats was an arm rest/console that was somewhat confusing. On top were two arm rests that were adjustable fore and aft for the passengers' comfort. These could also be lifted individually to provide small storage areas.  Both could be lifted to expose a larger storage compartment below that was large enough to hold a CD collection, for example.

I liked the instrument panel on the FX35. The dials were white on black with clear markings. In the center of the dash was an information panel that provided a wealth of information, but our tester did not have the optional navigation system. The non-navigation display was lighted in orange, and we learned to use it and maneuver through it easily.  The optional navigation replaces this screen with a full color display

In the console were two large cupholders that would accommodate Big-Gulps or large bottles of water, and of course in the center of the console was Infiniti's trademark analog clock.

Handling and steering feel were first rate with flat cornering and excellent tire grip.  This was due to fairly stiff spring rates which gave our test car a firm and, on some road surfaces, a hard ride

Infiniti's FX35 has tough competition in growing field. But there is no doubt in my mind that it is the equal of current competition, both in styling and performance.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate 

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Specifications 

Engine Type 3.5 liter double overhead cam (DOHC) 24 valve V-6 with variable valve timing
Horsepower 280 @ 6200 RPM
Torque 270 @ 4800 RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium Unleaded.
Transmission & Drive 5-speed electronically controlled automatic with manual shift mode
rear wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive
Tires - Standard P265/60R18 all season tires
Overall Length 189.1"
Wheelbase 112.2"
Width 75.8"
Turning Diameter 38.7 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 4,056 lbs.
Fuel Tank 23.8 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 17 , hwy 23. 
Towing Capacity 3,500 lbs.
Base Price $34,350 plus $545 destination charge 

2004 Infiniti FX35

Standard Equipment

  • 5 person seating capacity
  • 8-way power driver and passenger seats
  • Dual Zone front climate control with rear air and interior air filtration
  • 4-wheel independent suspension
  • Privacy glass
  • Rear spoiler
  • Front and rear ventilated disc brakes with 4-wheel ABS
  • Traction control
  • Front side mounted air bags
  • Xenon HID headlamps
  • Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
  • Electrochromatic inside rearview mirror
  • Leather wrapped steering wheel
  • Leather trim on doors and center console
  • AM/FM cassette in-dash 6 disc CD player with 6 speakers

Major Available Options

  • All-wheel drive
  • DVD based Navigation System with rearview camera
  • Intelligent keyless entry
  • Intelligent cruise control
  • Power tilt and slide glass sunroof
  • Leather seats
  • DVD mobile entertainment system for rear seat passengers
  • 20-inch chrome wheels with P265/50R20 all season tires
  • Sport-tuned suspension
  • XM or Serius Satellite Radio
  • 300-watt Bose audio system with 11 speakers

For more information on the Infiniti FX35, visit infiniti.com

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