With the exception of the speeding ticket I received 10 minutes into my test drive, my experience with the new FX45 was quite good. Some of the minor complaints that I had with the previous model were addressed and some new features have been added to keep the FX at the front of the pack.
One of the complaints that I had, a choppy ride when equipped with the 20 inch wheels and tires, was considerably improved to a point where it is now a decent riding car. I say "car" because the FX series is far from an off-road capable truck-based Sport Utility Vehicle. The FX is designed to be an on-road crossover SUV with sports car-like handling and demeanor that just happens to have the space and utility of a mid-sized SUV.
The FX styling is in a class by itself. Introduced in 2003, the unusual look of the FX has stood the test of time and is still turning heads 3 years later.
There isn't anything out there that looks even remotely like it and that's what makes the FX so appealing. But even without the avant-garde styling, the FX is a vehicle to be reckoned with. It has a classy interior, a world-class V8 engine, and plenty of other desirable features to make it a standout.
For 2006, minor changes to the grill, bumper and wheels keep it fresh on the outside, while a reworked interior cleans up some of the clutter on the dash to make it even more inviting.
Also for 2006, Infiniti has made several options standard including: a 300-watt, 11 speaker Bose audio system, a 7-inch color display that switches to a RearView Monitor when the transmission is shifted into reverse, and an Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) among other things.
There are 3 models for 2006, the V8 powered FX45 comes standard with all-wheel drive, while the V6 powered FX35 can be ordered with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The platform for the FX is not, as some would think, the same platform used in the Nissan Murano. The Murano uses the front-wheel drive platform from the Altima and Quest, while the FX uses the rear-wheel drive platform found in the G35 and M35/M45 sedans.
The FX35 now has standard leather and a standard 10 way power drivers seat. The front passenger seat is 8-way powered and both front seats are heated. There is also a power tilt and telescopic steering column and driver's seat memory as part of the base price.
On the FX45, the formerly optional Premium Package is now standard. This was a $2,500 option last year and included a Sunroof, the Bose sound system, a Homelink garage door opener, automatic headlamps and a bunch of other stuff.
Our test vehicle was the FX45 with all the bells and whistles currently available. On the road, the FX was smooth, quiet and stable with virtually no wind noise and reasonably well controlled road noise on most pavement surfaces. But it was the winding country roads that reminded me where the FX shines. Cornering is very flat, especially for an SUV, and the steering was spot-on with an almost sports-car-like feel of the road. When you compare the FX with the group of competitors listed at the top of the page, this (along with the more conservatively styled BMW X5) is the sports car of the bunch.
This athleticism is what hurts it for off-road ability. The tires are too low-profile and the suspension is too stiff for any real off-road use. This is not a bad thing since most vehicles in this class, even the ones that are famous for their off-road prowess, rarely venture any further off road than the owner's driveway.
The V8 has been bumped an additional 5 horsepower which brings it to 320. This is a genuinely smooth engine with a sultry sound at full throttle that makes you want to dip into the throttle often. (just don't do it on the Palisades Interstate Parkway when the speed traps are out)
Backing up the go power of the big V8 is a powerful braking system with 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes that have 12.6 inch rotors up front and 12.1 inch discs in the rear. Of course the FX is equipped with 4 channel ABS as well as Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist
Since most people don't by an SUV just to drive it like a sports car, I should probably take a look at its utility side, most notably its carrying capacity. The FX has plenty of room for five passengers and their belongings with a cargo volume of 27.4 cubic feet with the seats up and 64.5 cubic feet with the seats down. The rear seat has plenty of legroom even with the front seats adjusted all the way back.
The FX has some interesting options available. One of these new toys is a Lane Departure Warning System. If you are on a road with lane markings and you are traveling over 45 miles per hour, this system will chime if you drift over the lines on the roadway without signaling. The system worked really well, even with lines that were almost completely faded in spots. There was a small camera mounted next to the center rear-view mirror that looked through the windshield. That plus some pretty sophisticated computer software allowed the system to work surprisingly well in most road conditions. There is a switch to turn it off once you realize just how often you go over the line, or if you simply don't like to be told off by your car.
Another feature, which we have seen on other high-end vehicles, is Intelligent Cruise Control. Like normal cruise control, this system allows you to set a speed and have the system maintain the set speed without holding your foot on the gas. The difference with the laser cruise system is that it is watching ahead and if it sees a car in your lane traveling slower than you, it will automatically slow you down and maintain a preset following distance, even applying the brakes if necessary to maintain a safe distance. If more than 30% braking is required to avoid hitting the car ahead, a warning chime will sound telling you to put the latte down and get back to driving the car.
These two systems help the inattentive driver stay out of trouble, but are not meant to be an automatic pilot, even though the technology is good enough to be able to actually drive the car for you in some conditions. The manufacturer's lawyers will have none of that. They will not allow the engineers to take that final step and actually have the computer steer or stop the car for you. No, the responsibility for driving the car still falls to the driver and is likely to remain that way for years to come. I simply don't see any manufacturer willing to take over the responsibility of driving a car away from the driver as long as there are hungry lawyers looking for deep pockets.
While the lane departure camera watches ahead, another video camera is mounted just above the rear license plate and provides an unobstructed view to the rear when you put the car in reverse. The image is displayed on the center screen and is easy to see day or night. There are lines superimposed on the camera image as a guide to show you the path the car is taking. These lines will bend as you turn the steering wheel and also tell you how close you are to obstructions. It is a really neat system.
The Infiniti FX is a crossover vehicle, which means that it has the convenience and capacity of a mid-sized SUV, but it is built on a car platform to keep the handling characteristics and ride quality of a sedan without the extra weight and ground clearance (and gas mileage penalty) that a truck-based SUV is saddled with.
So, if you are looking for an upscale crossover SUV with unique styling along with a classy interior and the ride and road manners of a good sedan, the FX45 may be just the ticket (ouch, bad choice of words).