2012 INFINITI FX REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large premium SUV
Price: $94,900 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.0 l/100km | tested: 10.1 l/100km
When it comes to the Australian car market, there’s not much room for new players.
That makes the introduction of any new brand an uphill battle - and one that newcomer Infiniti is apparently prepared to take a long-term stance on. Both in terms of brand awareness and sales.
But take a look at the attention-grabbing FX range of SUVs.
Surely, with this brutish style, you’d have to think it won’t be too hard for Infiniti to at least get noticed.
Quality: Inside, Infiniti has taken a distinctly different approach to interior design - particularly compared to German rivals.
There’s nothing staid and conservative here, but while the lines are individual, there’s still an extensive use of premium materials and high quality plastics.
We found the leather seating to be sofa-soft, and details like the flat stitching on the steering wheel (in subtly-contrasted chocolate thread) exquisite to the touch.
The Nissan-origins show in some details: the ‘blanking’ plugs and ordinary-looking silver door handles for instance let the overall impression down a little.
Comfort: Despite a swooping roof arch, the FX offers a commanding and roomy interior. Electrically-adjustable front seats are broad enough to accommodate all sizes and include adjustable under-thigh support.
The driver’s seat also adds adjustable base and backrest bolster, as well as an electrically-adjustable steering column.
The rear seat is wide enough to take three abreast easily, although the transmission tunnel encroaches on the centre position. A scalloped roof means there’s plenty of headroom, as well as generous knee and foot space.
Equipment: The FX30d range opens with inclusions such as dual-zone climate control, electrically-adjustable heated and cooled front seats, powered tailgate, sunroof, proximity key with keyless start, aluminium pedals, heated mirrors, bi-Xenon headlights with dusk sensor, automatic wipers, electrically adjustable steering column, multi-function leather trimmed steering wheel, cruise control with speed limiter and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Mid-range S models gain 21-inch Enkei alloy wheels, sports front seats with additional adjustability, Rear Active Steer (RAS) four-wheel steering, Electronically controlled two-mode dampers, dark chrome exterior highlights and graphite coloured headlining.
Storage: Looking like a cross between a luxury yacht and an art-deco locomotive may be enough to stop observers in their tracks, but it does impact on carrying capacity. The truncated tail of the FX can only swallow 410 litres of cargo and features a high boot floor.
Inside the cabin there’s plenty of room for personal effects though, a generous centre console and glovebox plus cup and bottle holders spread strategically throughout the cabin.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Thanks to the Nissan-Renault alliance, Infiniti’s V9X 3.0 litre turbo diesel V6 engine borrows the best of Renault’s diesel engineering expertise. In the FX30d it produces 175kW of power at 3750rpm and 550Nm of torque at 1750rpm.
With a touch over two tonnes to shift, the FX needs all the torque it can get. And, on the move the big Infiniti hauls like a freight train.
There’s endless urge from the diesel V6 up front and a transmission that keeps things right in the circa-2000rpm ‘sweet-spot’.
From standstill things are initially sedate - there are just moments in it - but until the engine strikes its peak torque the FX30d feels reluctant to stir.
We’d wager most of the claimed 8.3 second 0-100km/h sprint time is lost in that ponderous moment, because, once it hitches its skirt, the FX really hauls.
Roadholding is nothing short of stellar, there’s a pronounced rear bias to the all-wheel-drive system which is fine by us.
The RAS rear-wheel-steer system is supposed to tighten up responses at speed. It’s certainly sharp on a winding road, but its hard to say how big a contribution it makes.
As a whole though, the FX feels incredibly puntable for a hulking SUV.
Refinement: Cocooned inside the cabin, there’s little disturbance from either the outside world, or the under-bonnet thrum. Under load the engine gives off a pleasing muted growl - it’s not until you lower a window that you’re reminded you’re piloting a diesel.
The seven-speed automatic isn’t quite as polished however. Climbing through gear ratios poses no problems, but when decelerating, down-shifts can be a bit clunky and a secondary drivetrain vibration was evident.
The car we tested would also stubbornly hold fourth gear between 60 and 70 km/h when fifth would seem a better option. Fifth can be manually selected, but in the interests of economy it seems an unusual gearbox programming choice.
Suspension: Infiniti’s Continuous Damping Control suspension is joined by double wishbone front suspension and an independent multi-link rear. The two-mode system offers a choice between automatic and sport settings.
There is a real sporting bias to the suspension tune, and handling is quite nimble. The ride however is a little unforgiving. In automatic or sport mode, the FX thumps through potholes and, at speed, is a tad unsettled on surface irregularities.
Braking: All models in the FX range run 355mm ventilated front-discs with four-piston Infinity-branded calipers and 350mm ventilated rear-discs with two piston calipers.
There are no worries about pulling the FX up in a hurry. The pads bite smoothly (unlike some Euro competitors) and the system has no trouble dealing with a panic stop - despite the ample weight of the car.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Dual front airbags, front thorax and full length curtain airbags, speed limiter, active front head-restraints with adjustable rear restraints, front seatbelts with height adjustability, pretensioners and load limiters, electronic stability control and ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Four years/100,000km
Service costs: Servicing costs vary. Consult your Infiniti dealer before purchase
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Range Rover Sport SDV6 ($100,900) - The only serious choice if an occasional off-road jaunt is on the cards.
The Range Rover Sport also features an interior design and quality that is surely the envy of others in the premium segment. (see Range Rover Sport reviews)
Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTEC ($99,400) - Mercedes-Benz offers a well-balanced all-rounder with a turbo-diesel V6 that is a torque monster (620Nm) but does require a urea additive that may be an issue for some owners.
Before adding options, basic specification can be a little spartan compared to the well-equipped S-specified Infiniti. (see ML reviews)
BMW X5 xDrive 30d ($92,100) - The on-road performance and handling of the X5 is second to none. And, thanks to a recent update, there is a more generous equipment list than before, but not quite to the level of the FX30d S.
The drivetrain refinement of the eight-speed automatic however is far superior to the Infiniti. (see X5 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Yes, no doubt about it, Infiniti has its work cut out. Carving its place in the Australian market place is not going to be easy.
Our first impression of the FX30d S though is generally a positive one. With quality interior trimmings, fastidious paint and panel gaps, plus stand-out styling, there’s plenty to like.
It’s a big car with a big presence. There’s something about the luxury yacht comparison this car invites that just seems so apt.
But if it were our money, there’s a range of incredibly competent opposition that offers greater cargo capacity, smoother ride and thumping performance.
It hinges on you, of course, and where your priorities lie. Infiniti’s FX is little different to the run-of-the-mill premium SUV, and for some, that will be enough.
It’s not the best buying out there, but the Infiniti FX is a worthy addition to the Premium SUV segment.