The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is a hot rod on stilts! It's a huge chunk of beautifully molded metal with eye-catching curves and sparkly accents. The FX50 is so unique-looking that it might take a little getting used to for some people. While I loved the extraordinary look of the FX50, most passers-by thought it was odd-looking and were surprised to learn that such a "weird" vehicle has such a high price tag. Perhaps the FX50 represents the equivalent of an automotive acquired taste.

The FX50 offers clues to let the average mom know that this car is more than your run-of-the-mill SUV. The first clue is its Infiniti badge, which is Nissan's luxury brand. The second is the bold curves in its sheet metal.

The FX50 caught my eye earlier this year at an auto show, so I was excited to test drive it. I love its exaggerated features and somewhat intimidating size. I think the beauty of the FX50 is in its bold, outside-of-the-box character.

From a performance perspective, the all-wheel-drive FX50 took me by surprise as I squealed the tires while pulling out of a parking space for the first time. With a standard V-8 engine, this car can haul! It's powerful, fun to drive and surprisingly agile for its size. However, that engine sucks up the premium gas, getting an EPA-estimated 14/20 mpg city/highway. Add in the FX's sport mode and paddle shifters, and I started wonder if the folks at Infiniti had made a mistake and put their sports-car guts into an SUV's body. Could it be? Nah! Infiniti has just decided that driving an SUV should be incredibly fun, and I agree.

This SUV isn't for everyone, especially families with teens who need lots of legroom in the second row. However, it's worth the extra dollars if you value performance and appreciate driving something that's a little different. This isn't a run-of-the-mill SUV.

Exterior

From the front, the FX50 has some bug-like features. The beady-looking, angled bi-xenon headlights are set far apart on the front end, creating a spooky, "I-just-might-bite" look. Tell the kids to leave their critter catchers in the house because from every other angle the FX50 is a gem.

Swoops and swishes dominate the FX50's profile. From swollen front-wheel wells to a steep downward curve behind the second-row window, my eyes were busy checking everything out. I loved the big tires (21-inch alloy wheels) and the funky-looking - yet functional - air vents that sit just behind each front tire.

The FX50 is a large SUV, but my 7-year-old had no problems opening the door on his own. His 4-year-old brother wasn't able to reach the door handles. They both were able to climb in and past the partially integrated rocker panels, which means the door panels didn't extend to the bottom of this SUV and my kids got a little dirty because of it. Fully integrated rocker panels keep mud and dirt from getting on your clothes when you get in and out of the car.

I liked the FX50's Scratch Shield paint that heals itself over time when it gets minor boo-boos. It's a gel-like clear coat that knits back together when there's a light scratch in it. The process can take as little as 15 minutes or as long as a week, depending on the outside temperature. I wouldn't want to destroy the FX50's lovely Mohave Copper Metallic finish with a slew of nicks and scratches. Thanks to Infiniti for helping protect this investment.

The only thing missing from the FX50's exterior is a power liftgate. The key fob button merely unlocked the liftgate. This might be a minor item to some, but it's a big deal to me considering the cost of the FX50.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

Interior

The FX50's interior oozes the ambience of a trendy - yet luxuriously comfortable - lounge. It's relaxed without losing any refinement with its quilted leather-appointed seats and hand-stained maple wood trim. In keeping with the sportier side of things, aluminum pedals glistened at my feet (secretly, this is one of my favorite touches).

I was overwhelmed when I noticed all of the buttons on the center stack for the navigation and stereo systems. Darn! I hate it when cars are smarter than me. Once I started trying them out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were easy to use, and I didn't need to open the owner's manual.

The FX50 has standard heated/cooled front seats. It wasn't that hot outside when I tested the FX, but I figured I'd give them a try since I've never experienced cooled seats before. Call me a prude, but I'm not a fan of cool air wafting around my unmentionables! Maybe I should have waited until it was hot out, but it felt like I was sitting on melting ice cubes.

The FX50 is the first car I've tested that comes with a built-in DVD entertainment system for the backseat. My kids figured out the entertainment system as well as its remote control and wireless headphones before I'd even buckled my seat belt! They loved this system and took their movie-in-the-car time seriously. They even made me pop a movie in for the short drive to the gas station and refused to exit the FX50 when we got home. Apparently they'd forgotten about the TV and DVD player in our house. At any rate, they enjoyed the novelty the FX50 afforded them.

The backseat has large, roomy seatback pockets on each side, and they hold more stuff than the average seatback pocket. The legroom in the second row wasn't as plentiful as I'd expected for an SUV this size; my kids had enough legroom, but a taller teen or adult might not be comfortable back there during a longer ride. The backseat cupholders are easy to access in the pull-down center armrest.

The cargo area is a little less than ample. All of my groceries and must-haves fit in the back, but fitting groceries plus a stroller would be tough. However, there's plenty of great features in the cargo area, including cargo netting and a first-aid kit.

Safety

I'm always a little deflated when crash-test ratings aren't available for some of the cars - like the FX50 - we test at MotherProof.com. It keeps me from painting a complete picture of the car for you. However, I can say that Infiniti has packed a ton of safety features into the FX50.

Traction control, stability control, antilock brakes and six airbags, including side curtain airbags for both rows, are all standard on the FX50. The SUV has several optional high-tech safety features, too.

For starters, the FX50 offers Lane Departure Prevention, which uses infrared technology to scan the road for lane markers. If the FX drifts out of its lane, it'll lightly apply the brakes. The FX also uses infrared lasers to scan the road ahead and can apply the brakes if it senses an obstruction. The Distance Control Assist program advises you to slow down by pushing back lightly against your foot via the gas pedal if traffic ahead of you is slowing. An advance cruise control system can bring the SUV to a complete stop in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The FX50 also has an Around View Monitoring system that allowed me to check around the entire vehicle for obstacles using strategically placed cameras. I was happy to have this feature since the FX50's shape caused some visibility issues for me.

In the backseat, I was a little worried when I saw that the Latch connectors sat higher than usual from the seat bottom. One of my booster seats has rigid Latch clips built into it, and I wondered if the booster seat would work in the FX. Amazingly, it did work and the booster seat still sat flat - not at an angle as I had feared - on the seat bottom. Once the booster seats were in, the kids were able to buckle up without problems.

Parents who are using a rear-facing infant-safety seat will want to check its fit during a test drive. While an infant-safety seat will fit in the backseat, the front passenger's seat will have to be moved forward to accommodate it, which will restrict the front passenger's legroom.

FAMILY LIFESTAGE

In Diapers: It might be a tight fit to get a rear-facing infant-safety seat installed, but other car seats should fit without any problems.

In School: The built-in entertainment system will entertain the kids on long - and short - rides.

Teens: The backseat's lack of legroom could lead to comfort issues for taller teens and adults.