Performance is one of the vehicle's strong suits, and it excelled in our track testing. Along with the aforementioned 5.2-second time to 60, it finished the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds at 102.1 mph and stopped from 60 in 115 feet. However, while on the figure-eight loop, our tester found the communication between steering, transmission, and throttle to falter. When driven aggressively (9/10ths), he had to saw the wheel to keep it on course-the steering was slow to react to inputs and the transmission paused before shifting at redline. Less aggressive driving solved the problem, and the 50 ran the figure eight in 26.7 seconds at 0.66 average g.
The cabin has undergone major changes, with new gauges, steering wheel, and quality materials. We tried the optional sport seats with S-Class-like air-inflating bolsters and quilted leather, a combo that gives support in turns and comfort for long drives. If you've seen the inside of an M35/45 or G35/37, you'll have no difficulty recognizing the FX's center stack. 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, 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, iPod interface, navigation, XM NavTraffic, and rear-seat DVD entertainment.
There's 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. New for 2009 is Continuous Damping Control, which uses nine sensors to take measurements every two milliseconds to determine damping; it can control all wheels independently. The rearview camera and monitor are standard on every FX, but what really helps with parking is the new optional Around View Monitor, introduced on the EX. At first, this feature, which shows an overhead view of the vehicle, may seem gimmicky, but after using it once, it proves its worth. With a vehicle this wide and a nose this long, AVM quickly becomes your best friend in parking lots.
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. What was once called Lane Departure Warning is now Lane Departure Prevention. A small camera views lane markers ahead; LDP calculates position compared with the markers. When the vehicle starts to unintentionally drift, it uses VDC to brake the inside wheels, steering the car back into its lane. These systems are nice to have, but what's even nicer is that when you tire of the beeping and flashing (the systems run on the conservative side), they can all be shut off. Other safety features include a high-strength steel-reinforced cabin; six airbags; TPMS; and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS, brake assist, and EBD.
As with the first generation, less utility than an SUV and less sport than a sport sedan makes this more an emotional buy than a rational one, but Infiniti's improvements will tug at the heartstrings more than ever before. It isn't a race car, but for someone who needs an SUV and isn't going off-road, this is a strong choice. And when the light turns green, it'll leave some sports cars in its dust.