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If there's a model that puts the sport in sport utility vehicle, it's the Infiniti FX. Riding on a platform shared with the Nissan 370Z, the Infiniti FX drives like a tall-riding sports car. The only other SUVs that come close to this kind of driving experience are the BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne.
While the 2013 Infiniti FX offers exceptional sportiness, it comes up short where utility is concerned, which limits its appeal.
We tested the V-6 version of the FX, whose name was changed to FX37 for the 2013 model year thanks to its new, larger 3.7-liter V-6 engine. A V-8 edition, dubbed FX50, is also offered. The FX37 starts at $45,945 including a $995 destination charge, but with the addition of all-wheel drive (rear-wheel drive is standard) and a few option packages, our as-tested price ballooned to $57,250. To see the FX37's specs compared with the Cayenne, X6 and Acura ZDX, click here.
SUVs aren't usually known for their driving dynamics, but the FX is no ordinary SUV. Its sports-car roots make it one of the best-handling SUVs around, rewarding enthusiast drivers like few others can. With precise, sure-footed responses and weighty steering, you can tell there's something special about the FX37 the second you dive into a turn. This is an SUV that drags you into the experience of driving and doesn't let go. I like that.
Despite a bump in horsepower — from 303 to 325 hp with the new 3.7-liter V-6 — the FX37 doesn't feel remarkably different in everyday driving compared with its predecessor, the FX35. Performance is more than adequate; there's significant reserve power for passing slower-moving trucks on the highway, making the V-8 FX50 unnecessary for all but the most power-hungry shoppers.
Despite the new V-6's greater power, gas mileage improves slightly. Our all-wheel-drive FX37 is rated 16/22 mpg city/highway — 1 mpg better on the highway than the FX35.
The FX's swoopy concept-car looks have evolved since it debuted more than a decade ago, but its overall shape has remained much the same. From the outside it doesn't look like there's much room in the backseat, but when I got inside I was pleasantly surprised by good headroom and acceptable legroom, even for taller adults. It's a comfortable place to sit, and there's a reclining backrest, too.
The Not So Good
Though it doesn't come at the expense of backseat space, you do pay a visibility penalty for the FX's distinctive looks. Rear visibility is extremely limited thanks to a small rear window, and it can make backing out of a parking spot nerve-wracking. The standard backup camera makes things a little less stressful, but it's no substitute for the sense of confidence in your surroundings you get in a car with great natural visibility.
Ride quality in the FX37 isn't necessarily harsh, but you do get tossed around in the driver's seat a bit when traveling on rough pavement. It's a side effect of the FX's focus on handling dynamics, as the four-wheel independent suspension and our test car's optional 20-inch wheels and tires transmit a lot of information about the road to the cabin.
The FX has a spring-loaded, fold-flat second-row seat — a nice touch — but the combination of a high load floor and a low roofline — the FX sits about 2.5 inches lower than a Cayenne — limit the FX's cargo-carrying versatility compared with taller luxury SUVs.
The FX received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top score, Good, for front- and rear-impact crash protection, the latter of which is a test of a vehicle's head restraints and the neck protection they offer. As of publication, the FX hasn't undergone the IIHS' side-impact or roof-strength tests.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows and active front head restraints for whiplash protection.
For $2,950, the optional Technology Package bundles a number of high-tech safety features including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, forward collision warning with automatic braking assistance, and front seat belts that tension automatically in the event of certain emergency driving situations. The package also includes Distance Control Assist, which helps maintain a safe following distance by making the gas pedal pulse or push back against your foot if you get too close to the back of a car. The selectable system will also automatically apply the brakes when you release the gas pedal to reestablish following distance.
FX37 in the Market
There wasn't anything like the FX when it first appeared as a 2003 model, and even today there isn't much. Direct competitors like the X6 and ZDX have emerged, mimicking the Infiniti's styling approach — and in the case of the considerably more expensive X6, the driving experience too. Regardless, if you want the entertainment factor of a sports car along with some of the versatility of an SUV, the FX still delivers.
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