2003 FX35 New Car Test Drive
The new Infiniti FX45 is quicker than Porsche's new Cayenne S. Specifically, the FX45 can zip from 0 to 60 mph in slightly more than 6 seconds, while the Porsche Cayenne S takes a bit longer.
How can that be? Though the Porsche is more powerful, the Infiniti has a better power to weight ratio. The 315-horsepower Infiniti FX45 weighs about 600 pounds less than the 340-horsepower Porsche Cayenne S. Do the math. (Actually, we'll do it for you: The 4,949-lb. Porsche uses 1 hp per 14.5 lbs.; the 4300-lb. Infiniti has 1 hp per 13.6 lbs.) Infiniti claims the FX45 is quicker than the other hot-rod SUVs, namely the Mercedes M55 AMG and the BMW X5 4.6is.
At the same time, the Infiniti models cost less than their German counterparts.
These performance and pricing advantages come partly by making a conscious decision that Infiniti's new luxury sport-utilities would not be designed to go off-roading. Therefore, the FX45 frame could be lighter, lightening the load for the Infiniti V8.
The weight advantage was just a starting point, however. Infiniti added enormous 20-inch wheels and tires and racecar-sized brakes. Infiniti's goal was to make the FX45 as fun to drive as a sports car. It achieves this by compromising in ride comfort, space and rock-climbing ability. The end result is a car-based crossover SUV that's exciting to drive on sports car roads and full of character, but has a stiff suspension and ride, a tight cockpit, and flamboyant styling.
Squeezing into the cockpit and bouncing along a bumpy snow-belt backroad in the FX45 will appeal only to confirmed sports car enthusiasts. Infiniti expects to sell just 30,000 per year, while BMW last year sold about 43,000 X5s.
The suspension reflects Infiniti's decision not to make the FX an off-roader: Generally off-road ability is enhanced with long-travel and compliant suspension tuning, but that same ability compromises handling on winding roads. FX is tuned for those winding roads, and despite its tall 7.6-inches of ground clearance, it has no skid plates or underside armor. FX is based on the same Front-Mid engine platform used for the Nissan 350Z sports car and Infiniti G35. Thicker frame members make FX strong enough to handle the extra weight of the bigger four-door wagon body.
Marketing played a role in the FX's pure pavement identity: Infiniti doesn't believe anyone who spends up to $50,000 for a crossover SUV will risk scratching it in the dirt.
Two models are available: Infiniti FX35 ($34,200) is powered by the 3.5-liter V6 from the Nissan 350Z. FX45 ($44,225) gets the 4.5-liter V8 from the Q45 luxury sedan.
Both come with a five-speed automatic transmission, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, split folding and reclining rear seats, tilt/telescope steering wheel, traction control, stability control, brake assist, and high-intensity discharge headlights.
FX45 gets a firmer suspension, 20-inch wheels, leather heated seats and trim, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, memory for seat, mirrors, and steering wheel, auto up/down windows. FX35 offers those items in its a Premium Package ($2,600), which also includes a sunroof, a more-powerful stereo with controls on the steering wheel, automatic headlights, and a garage door transmitter. You can add the last four items to the FX45 in a Premium Package ($2,100).
Both models offer a Technology Package that includes all of the options in the Premium Packages, plus a navigation system, a remote sensing door key, traffic-sensing cruise control, a DVD system, a rear facing camera to assist backing up, and a tire pressure monitor. The Technology Package for the FX35 also adds the 20-inch wheels and the stiffer suspension, and costs $9,400 on top of the FX35's base price; the package adds $7,600 to the FX45's base price. Roof rails are available for $300 on cars with the Premium Package and satellite radio is $400.
Only a third of Infiniti SUV buyers are expected to buy the FX45. A lower-priced V6-powered FX35 starts at $34,200 in rear-drive-only form, though only about 14 percent of buyers are not expected to get the $1500 all-wheel-drive system that's available on the FX35 and standard on the FX45.