For those of you who look for an SUV to tow, carry people, and offer plenty of room for gear, the FX isn't a rational choice. However, once you leave a BMW sport sedan in your dust at a green light, the all-new FX50 and FX35 become a lot more appealing.

If you look at the new FX from the side, it might not be immediately clear you're eyeing an all-new vehicle-but a lot has changed underneath. Based on a modified version of the new FM architecture underpinning the G35 and EX35, the FX is more rigid and resistant to bending. Length is up by two inches, the wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer (added between the front wheels and A-pillars), and the front track is almost two inches wider.

There are two engine choices: the 5.0-liter V-8 is good for 390 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, increases of 70 and 34, respectively, and the FX35's new 303-horse V-6. Backing both engines is an all-new seven-speed automatic transmission, the first in any Infiniti. We tested an FX50, and on freeways and twisting canyon roads, its engine and transmission are well matched. Power comes quickly and effortlessly as it rockets to speed, and the transmission makes it easy to keep things in check when descending steep grades. Under light to moderate acceleration, the seven-speed's close-ratio shifts are quick and smooth; pushing it makes the shifts hard-thumping pulses. Throttle tip-in is sometimes touchy, but easy to adapt to. And despite the crossover's width and bulk, it corners well and feels confident in tight turns. But that comes at a price: The ride isn't soft, not by a long shot, but it's much better than in the previous FX. On poorly maintained roads, you'll feel every bump, but it won't rattle any fillings loose.

The cabin has undergone major changes, with new gauges, steering wheel, and quality materials. And believe it or not, when Infiniti repackaged the cabin, front and rear headroom and hip room, rear legroom, and cargo volume actually decreased for 2009-unusual for a redesigned vehicle. Towing capacity remains at 3500 pounds for the 50 and 2000 for the 35 AWD.

The FX is filled with new technology. The new Around View Monitor shows an overhead view of the FX, and with a vehicle this wide and a nose this long, AVM quickly becomes your best friend in parking lots. Intelligent Brake Assist, which beeps when you get too close to the vehicle (or tree, etc.) in front of you and activates the brakes if an accident can't be avoided. Lane Departure Prevention calculates position compared with the lane markers and if the vehicle drifts, uses VDC to brake the inside wheels to steer the car back into its lane.

Predictably, this added technology and new engine will raise the MSRP. Infiniti tells us to anticipate the FX35 will start around $48,000 and the FX50 closer to $52,000.


2009 Infiniti FX35/50
Base price $48,000/$52,000
Layout Front engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engines 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
Wheelbase, in 113.6
Length x width x height, in 191.1 x 75.9 x 66.1
Curb weight, lb 4300; 4641
GVWR, lb 5301; 5766
Payload capacity, lb 1182; 1213
Max towing capacity, lb 3500
Max cargo capacity, cu ft 62
EPA fuel econ, city/hwy, mpg 14-16/20-23
CO2 emissions, lb/mile 1.05-1.20
On sale Currently