Who Needs A V8?



There's something in the water at Nissan. Has to be. There's no other explanation for a company that produces vehicles like the Murano CrossCabriolet and Juke as well as the undeniably bonkers GT-R. Infiniti hasn't escaped whatever's lurking in the well, either. The company's recent shift from a comfortable and logical naming structure to a slurry of Q-based monikers is the most recent example of insanity lurking in the luxury automaker's halls, but it certainly isn't the first. Take, for example, the FX50.

With its 390-horsepower V8 engine and a rear-bias all-wheel-drive platform, the mid-sized SUV is more sports car than family hatchback, and while a V8 in this segment is entirely ludicrous, it's also the engine option we preferred over the less-throaty 3.5-liter V6. Like nearly every other off-tilt offering from Nissan, the FX50 simply made sense in a too-much-whiskey kind of way. But Infiniti has just offered up the best argument yet against that muscle-bound bruiser in the form of the FX37. Powered by the automaker's new 3.7-liter V6 and backed by a recognizably aggressive exterior, the machine is doing a good job of stealing its older brother's spotlight.



Infiniti left the FX largely untouched aesthetically for 2013, and we can't fault its designers for the decision. The model received a full update in 2012, and the SUV continues to look sharp with its judicious use of chrome. While the rounded front-end and pinched grille give the nose a touch of the bulbousness found on the QX56, we can't get enough of the raised fenders and inset hood. Attractive headlight arrays and an aggressive, arched roofline give the FX plenty of style. Around back, the handsome LED tail lamps lend the hatch a glowering, furrowed-brow appearance, which is appropriate for a machine that spits over 300 horsepower out to the rear tires.

Inside, the cabin feels comfortably Infiniti with the driver treated to bold gauges and nicely bolstered front seats. We couldn't help but feel age wearing on the tech inside the FX37, however. With a small, single-color LCD screen nestled between the speedometer and the tachometer and the same old inelegant graphic interface on the eight-inch touchscreen positioned mid-dash, Infiniti has suddenly found itself behind the curve. We live in a time where Dodge Dart buyers can enjoy nicer tech, and that's an issue for a pricey luxury SUV.



The front seats hold fast to the notion that this is a G37 that hasn't quite realized it's lugging around a serious derrière, and the back bench serves up adequate space for hopping to the next town over. Leg space can be a bit cramped for anyone approaching six feet tall, and that attractive, sloping roof line will introduce lofty hairstyles to the headliner with a quickness, but the space is a perfect place for kids and older teens to spend time. That is, so long as everyone packs frugally. There isn't a preponderance of space behind the back seats, with just 24.8 cubic feet available with the rear bench in place. For comparison, the figure is just one cube more than what's available in the diminutive Ford Focus five-door.

Likewise, the back hatch is troubled by what has to be one of the most cumbersome cargo covers on the market. We can count the number of times on two fingers that we've been frustrated to physical violence by a new vehicle, and this cargo cover earned itself one of those digits. We don't talk about the other incident.



Fortunately, the FX37 can quickly help you forget about its less-than-stellar attributes. Plop a heel on the right pedal and the 3.7-liter V6 under the hood sends 325 horsepower coursing through a seven-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. With 267 pound-feet of torque available at 5,200 rpm, the engine develops a full 22 hp and 2 lb-ft of torque more than the outgoing V6, and since the new 3.7-liter unit will happily wind all the way to 7,500 rpm, there's plenty of thrust to be had. The SUV feels quick, popping off of stop lights and building steam in a delicious linear swell that's come to be the VQ engine family's calling card.

Traction control keeps the party from getting too sideways too quickly – you can feel the electronics rapping your knuckles any time you get frisky with the throttle. But that doesn't exactly dilute the playful rear-wheel-drive dynamics on the FX37. The vehicle still encourages you to get out and drive, unlike nearly anything else in the bloated luxury SUV/CUV amalgam, and the modest nudge in horsepower provides a serious kick in the seat-of-the-pants dyno.



With a fairly quick steering rack and capable brakes, the FX37 will paint a smile on your face if you let it, and while the tall ride height can't help but serve up a bit of body roll, the engineers at Infiniti have done an impressive job of keeping every one of the five-door's 4,209 pounds in check. The seven-speed automatic also delivers quick downshifts when necessary and remains unobtrusive in normal driving, serving up smooth transitions between its numerous gears.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the 2013 FX37 should yield 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, which is a nudge of 1 mpg highway over the old 3.5-liter V6. We observed just over 17 mpg in town and during a few aggressive back-road sprints. Those numbers won't win you any friends among the Prius set, but they do land in the neighborhood of the luxury ute's competitive set. While the BMW X3 xDrive 35i offers buyers just 300 hp compared to the 325 of the FX37, the German SUV returns 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Both machines require premium fuel.



Our tester was gussied up to $57,828, including a $760 destination fee, though the 2013 Infiniti FX37 can be had for $44,950. Adding in the $4,300 Premium Package with its navigation, voice recognition and around-view monitor, as well as the $3,300 Deluxe Touring Package and the $2,950 Technology Package, meant our FX was as loaded as they come in rear-drive trim. (If you're curious, the AWD FX37 adds $1,500 to the starting price.)

Yes, the FX37 has its shortcomings, but it makes up for those with a bold exterior, well-executed cabin and suitably luxurious drivetrain. While back seat and cargo space leave something to be desired, we love the way the FX37 drives with its powerful engine and smooth transmission. It makes us wonder if there's any reason to consider the FX50 at all.