First seen as the “Bionic Cheetah” concept vehicle in 2001, the Infiniti FX45 appeared in second-generation form at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January 2002. Late that year, the conspicuously sleek sport utility vehicle went into production, reaching showrooms in January 2003.
Infiniti’s goal was to combine sports-car performance with SUV utility and all-wheel drive in a vehicle comparable to the Nissan Murano. Based on the company’s full-size Q45 sedan’s engine, the FX45’s 4.5-liter V-8 generates 315 horsepower and teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a manual-shift mode. All-wheel drive is standard, and the FX45 has a four-wheel-independent suspension. Infiniti also produces a similar FX35 that is equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine.
Suspension refinements for 2004 are intended to improve ride comfort. Aluminum roof rails and chromed wheels are newly available. A new Snow-Mode function can enhance traction in slippery low-speed conditions.
With a tapered back end that evades the customary SUV profile, Infiniti’s boldly styled crossover model has a wide stance and a relatively long, 112.2-inch wheelbase. The Japanese automaker has promoted the FX45’s “aggressive” image by noting that the exterior suggests sports-car shapes. Set farther to the rear than some, the cabin has long doors.
Alloy wheels hold 20-inch tires. Ground clearance is 7.6 inches, and a roof rack is optional.
Five people fit inside the FX45, which features a wraparound-style cockpit with aluminum accents. The steering wheel and gauges move up and down, and the driver uses drilled metal pedals. Rear occupants get a 60/40-split, folding bench seat. Cargo volume is 27.4 cubic feet, which expands to 64.5 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded.
Automatic dual-zone climate control is standard. An optional 11-speaker 300-watt Bose audio system is specially tuned for listening to rock music. Options include a DVD-based 3-D Birdview navigation system, a rearview monitor, a DVD entertainment system and “intelligent” cruise control.
Under the Hood
The 4.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine produces 315 hp and 329 pounds-feet of torque; it mates to a five-speed-automatic transmission with manual-shift capability. The all-wheel-drive system starts off in 50/50 mode. If no slippage is detected while cruising, it begins to send 100 percent of engine power to the back wheels. The FX45 can tow up to 3,500 pounds. Infiniti claims that it can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
All-disc antilock brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control and roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags are standard.
Both the FX45 and its FX35 sibling deliver a road-going experience that comes closer to a sports car than a typical SUV. Each grasps the pavement tenaciously, even through demanding mountain curves. Unlike some vehicles, these FX models perform just as masterfully as their luscious looks suggest. They provide a satisfying ride.
What you get in the FX45 is a healthy helping of fierce power, which reaches beyond the already-impressive capabilities of the six-cylinder FX35.