Nissan has launched its luxury arm in the UK with a five-model line-up. Of those, the biggest, most powerful and priciest variant in the Infiniti range is the FX SUV. Everything about the flagship FX50S’s appearance tells you it’s not to be messed with. Vast from all angles, it has undeniable road presence and is already the most popular model in the brand’s stable. Who could ask for more?
Two engines are offered with the FX sports utility vehicle – a 3.4-litre V6 petrol unit and the 50S variant’s 5.0-litre V8. All powerplants are linked to a seven-speed transmission with permanent four-wheel drive. The flagship model’s motor puts out a hefty 385bhp and 500Nm of torque. This isn’t a car for shy, retiring types. The 6ft 4in wide, 16ft long vehicle is loud, brash and quick off the mark, so the driver has to keep their eye on the ball at all times, and be prepared for the scrutiny of other road users. There’s a pleasingly gutsy roar from the engine under acceleration and the FX is surprisingly agile, accelerating from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds. That’s nearly as quick as the 5.4-second Q7 and decidedly faster than the X6, which takes 7.4 seconds. Press your foot down, and you will be pushed back into the seat. The FX will be a rare sight on UK roads, as was Infiniti’s intention. So, if you’re in the market for fast, stylish SUV with guaranteed exclusivity, you have to consider this.
Due to the widespread use of aluminium in the bodywork, the FX is comparatively light for a large SUV. It weighs 2,120kg – less than the Q7 or X6. As a result its handing is keener, although those massive 21-inch alloy wheels do little to aid manoeuvrability or the harsh ride, despite the latter using adjustable dampers to provide normal and sport modes.
Parent company Nissan has a strong reputation for reliability, so it’s fair to expect the Japanese firm’s luxury brand to excel in that area. It’s a little early to say whether that has been borne out; suffice to say Infiniti doesn’t even appear on the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) vehicle recall website. Certainly the build quality was exemplary on the model I drove; no squeaks, rattles, buzzes or even so much as a stitch out of place.
As it’s a high-end vehicle, you would expect an extensive list of safety and security kit, and the FX delivers. Anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, front driver and passenger airbags, front hip-thorax side airbags and front-to-rear curtain airbags, bi-xenon headlights with adaptive front-lighting system, auto-level and headlight washers are among the standard features. It’s yet to be Euro NCAP tested, although a high rating is expected, based on parent company Nissan’s X-Trail and Qashqai performances.
Although one of its main rivals is BMW’s X6, the Infiniti has one big advantage – it seats five as opposed to the German car’s four, so it’s more versatile. However with boot capacity rising from 410 to 1,305 litres with the seats down, the newcomer can’t match the established model’s 570-litre space which expands to 1,450 litres. And both are blown out of the water by the Audi Q7’s 2,035-litre maximum capacity. Still, comfort is a given, and the driver’s seat is extremely comfortable and infinitely adjustable. Regarding equipment, virtually nothing has escaped Infiniti’s attention. The standard list is exhaustive, while the Around View monitor, available with the Connectiviti+ package, is worth special mention. When you engage reverse gear, the monitor displays a live image the car as if looking down on it from above. Occupants see all round the vehicle at once. Initially you can’t help but wonder how on earth the image is created; nevertheless, it’s easy to understand and use.
Where Infiniti really plans to score is in the ownership experience. Rather than wave customers goodbye once they’ve collected their new vehicle, the brand expects to create and nurture a long-term relationship with owners. So the cost of ownership is relative – expensive by some standards, but possibly worth every penny by others. And as you might expect from a large SUV with five litres of V8 power, economy is pretty dire at 21.6mpg on the combined cycle and a dreadful 16mpg on the urban scale. Not exceptional for its class by any means, but painful on the wallet nonetheless. Insurance is in the highest (group 20) rating, as well. Still, the self-healing paint will minimise the need for minor cosmetic repairs. A purchase price of £53,800 places the model firmly in the premium SUV sector; by comparision, the Q7 4.2 FSI S line is £50,585 and the X6 xDrive 50i, £53,775. Take into consideration the comprehensive spec, the 20,000-mile service intervals and potentially outstanding aftersales back-up, and the benefits of FX ownership start to stack up. The only downside is the small dealer network, however expansion plans are on the cards.
Submitted: 19/11/2009 09:44:26
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