When the FX was first introduced, there was nothing else like it on the road. Its low-slung body, rounded corners, short overhangs, and taut lines set it apart from boxy SUVs-and it came from the factory riding on 20s (20s!!!), which was stunning in 2003. Now, as the market heats up and more sports-car-influenced vehicles join the fray, Infiniti has revamped its successful crossover for 2009.
As is the case with other recent Nissan/Infiniti models, the biggest changes can be found underneath familiar sheetmetal. The FX is based on a modified version of the new FM architecture underpinning the G35 and EX35. Use of laser welding on the body, reinforced C-pillars and other structures, and the addition of a new floor crossmember help make this FX 1.6 times more torsionally rigid and 3.4 times more resistant to bending than the previous generation. The FX now weighs about 60 pounds more, aluminum front and rear outer door panels and suspension components helping nullify the added weight of a new engine, stronger structure, and more sound insulation.
The side profile is nearly the same as the first-gen's, as Infiniti did little to its sinewy, sports-car-like curves. Length is up by two inches, and width and height increases were nominal. The nose now exudes more attitude, with more muscular lines along the hood sides and sculpted headlights flanking a trapezoidal grille filled with horizontal dark-chrome waves. Adaptive front lighting, which swivels the headlights as much as 17 degrees, is optional. Like the EX35, the FX uses Scratch Shield paint, which the manufacturer describes as being self-healing, repairing swirl marks and minor scratches. It'll be interesting to see how it works in the long run.
Front-end dimensions have changed to accommodate many of the FX's new attributes, including a new control-arm aluminum front suspension and a bigger V-8. The wheelbase is up 1.4 inches (front wheels are moved forward) and front track is 1.7 inches wider. Filling the added space along each side are air vents, which Infiniti insists are functional. (The automaker credits these vents with reducing frontal lift by five percent, by releasing air-and internal pressure-from the engine bay.) Another new styling cue: The taillights, no longer flush with the body, are surrounded by LEDs that light during lane changes or turns. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard with the V-6 and 20s optional; going beyond the precedent the FX45 set, the FX50 comes with 21-inchers as standard equipment and summer tires are available. Revisions to the bumpers, headlights, and taillights help bring the coefficient of drag to 0.35 from the 2008 model's 0.37.
The longer, sharklike snout houses the most major change to the FX: its engines. Buyers can still choose from a V-6 or V-8, both of which are different from the prior duo, The vaunted VQ V-6 in the FX35 is updated to nearly equal the output of the variant in the Nissan 350Z, at 303 horses and 262 lb-ft. The topline FX is no longer a 45-it's a 50, its nomenclature based on the new VK50VE 5.0-liter V-8, good for 390 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, increases of 70 and 34, respectively. The new V-8 continuously twiddles its cam timing and lift, which helps improve fuel economy by one mpg city/three mpg highway-that's right: 70 more horses and better fuel efficiency. When we last tested an FX45, it reached 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. We expect the FX50 to be considerably faster. Backing both engines is an all-new seven-speed automatic transmission, the first in any Infiniti, with downshift rev matching, manual mode, and optional steering-column-mounted magnesium paddle shifters.
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The cabin has undergone major changes, with new gauges, steering wheel, and standard seven-inch screen. There are more seat options, including front sport seats with S-Class-like air-inflating side bolsters; quilted leather; driver memory; and heating/cooling. If you've seen the inside of an M35/45 or G35/37, you'll have no difficulty recognizing the FX's center stack. The cabin is finished in Maple wood trim. As was the case with the original, utility is not as high a priority as is performance. There are only two rows, and cargo volume actually decreased for 2009. Standard and optional interior amenities include an ionizer, 11-speaker Bose audio system, 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, iPod interface, navigation, XM NavTraffic, and rear-seat DVD entertainment.
There is no shortage of technology, much of which is new or integrated in the FX for the first time. Vehicle Dynamic Control with traction control returns for 2009, as does ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive (standard on FX50, optional with V-6-powered FX models). New for 2009 is Continuous Damping Control, which comes as a part of the FX50's Sport package. This feature designed by ZF Sachs rivals Delphi's MagneRide (GM's Magnetic Ride Control). CDC uses an aperture-based valve instead of being a fluid-based system like Delphi's. Measurements are taken every two milliseconds by nine sensors to determine damping and CDC can control all wheels independently. The Sport package also comes with Rear-Active Steer, which moves the rear wheels up to one degree in response to the steering angle of the front wheels. The rearview monitor, standard on every FX, helps display what's behind the vehicle when in Reverse. The Around View Monitor, first introduced on the EX, shows either a top-down view of the crossover as you park or focuses on the curbside angle-you choose.
Much of the FX's new tech, though, comes under the umbrella of the Infiniti Safety Shield. This includes Intelligent Brake Assist, which beeps when you get too close to the vehicle (or tree, etc.) in front of you. If a frontal collision can't be avoided, IBA activates the brakes. It uses the Intelligent Cruise Control's laser rangefinder to determine the distance between the FX and whatever lies ahead. Distance Control Assist works with the cruise control's sensors to measure distance, but in this case, it's meant for rush-hour traffic, slowing or stopping the FX when it gets too close to the car in front of it. What was once called Lane Departure Warning is now Lane Departure Prevention for 2009, which uses VDC and a small camera to help keep the FX in the intended lane. The camera views lane markers ahead; LDP calculates position compared with the markers, braking the inside wheels to steer the car back into its lane when the vehicle starts to drift. All these systems can be shut off. Other safety features include the high-strength steel-reinforced cabin; dual front, side-impact, and rollover curtain airbags; TPMS; and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS, brake assist, and EBD.
The FX is set to go on sale at the end of June. Pricing has yet to be announced, but we'd expect the FX35 to start at about $40,000 and climb quickly from there. A topline FX50 will likely crest $60,000.
| 2009 Infiniti FX |
| Base Price || $40,000-$52,000 (est) |
| Vehicle layout || Front engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV |
| Engine || 3.5L/303-hp/262-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 5.0L/390-hp/369-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8 |
| Transmission || 7-speed automatic |
| Curb weight (dist f/r) || 4100-4600 lb (mfr) |
| Wheelbase || 113.6 in |
| Length x width x height || 191.1 x 75.9 x 66.1 in |
| 0-60 mph || 6.0-7.0 sec (MT est) |
| EPA city/hwy econ || 14-16/20-23 mpg |
| CO2 emmisions || 1.05-1.20 lb/mile |
| On sale in U.S. || Jun-08 |