During a recent kid-free weekend, I happened to be test driving the 2010 Infiniti FX35. For the grown-ups-only weekend, I decided to do a trek from Denver to Steamboat Springs, Colo. As much as I was hoping for a break from my normal life as mom – always playing catch-up – the FX35 kept me in catch-up mode.
A lag in the FX35’s acceleration combined with super-soft brakes made me feel like I had to read the mind of the driver in front of me and mentally drive two seconds ahead of the game. This proved to be as draining as cleaning my house with my daughters on my heels messing it up again. The FX35’s steering felt heavy and unresponsive, and its stiff sports-car-like ride made day-to-day errands more of a chore than they already are.
Filling up the thirsty FX also grew tiresome. With an EPA-estimated fuel economy 16/21 mpg city/ highway and a premium fuel requirement, filling up this baby was more of an expensive chore than I had anticipated.
In the real world, the worst consequence to my constant game of catch-up is a laundry room full off dirty clothes and no milk in the fridge for breakfast. In the Infiniti, the stakes were a little pricier. Jeez, I need a nap just reflecting on it.
The first time I drove the FX was nearly five years ago. Back then the “SUV with a heart of a sports car” was edgy-looking and different from anything else on the road. The design hasn’t changed much between then and now, although times have. What was unique five years ago is sort of normal-looking now.
The FX’s aggressive appearance is assisted by huge tires and a sleek, sloping roofline. The downside to its shape is a lack of rear visibility. The bonus-sized side mirrors blocked a portion of my front/side view out the driver and passenger windows. An interesting shaped hood gives the FX an angry snarling dog look, but it also cuts down on some over-the-hood visibility.
In spite of being loaded with the $2,000 Premium Package, $2,800 Navigation Package and $2,900 Technology Package, the FX lacked an automatic liftgate. For this amount of dough, I should at very least be able to have a magical mommy’s helper in the form of an automatic liftgate to assist me.
And speaking of assistance, my kids needed a little extra when trying to open and close the doors. The weighty feel of them made it tough for little ones to pull open and then push closed.
Although I used to love the unique design of the FX, I think it needs some design updates to modernize it and improve the functionality.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair-Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
The interior of the FX felt kind of tight and cave-like when I first jumped into it. I thought it would be a claustrophobia-inducing tight squeeze when I loaded both of my kids plus a friend of theirs into the backseat. Much to my surprise, the FX swallowed all three of them easily (the two in outbound positions were in booster seats). We also managed to squeeze three sets of golf clubs in the cargo area with room to spare. Shocking! The FX has more usable interior space than meets the eye.
Despite all that space, there weren’t a lot of designated spots to store stuff. I found myself hoping for an under-floor storage bin in the cargo area, as well as door bins to hold random kid stuff that seemed to float around the FX’s floor.
Because it was the dog days of summer during my test drive, my favorite feature in the FX35 are the cooled front seats (part of the Premium Package). There’s nothing better than a great mountain drive with a Bose audio system thumping my favorite XM channel and seats gracing me with the most gentle, cooling breeze.
Speaking of the audio system, I loved the integrated iPod interface and speed-sensitive volume control. I was easily able to surf through my playlists using the steering-wheel-mounted controls – a huge bonus on those windy mountain roads. When my driving mojo was interrupted by weekend mountain traffic, the FX turned the volume down for me so I could carry on my deep conversation with my passenger (you know, the kind that only happens without kids in the car).
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The FX has all of the safety features you’d expect as standard equipment: dual-stage front-impact airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted side curtain airbags for both rows, stability control, traction control and a tire pressure monitoring system.
I know I’ve spent a fair amount of time complaining about the FX35’s visibility issues. Infiniti isn’t blind to this (pun intended), and they give FX buyers options to help minimize this problem. As part of the Navigation Package, an Around View Monitor system helps you to see all four sides using cameras mounted on the car. It’s as if you’re a bird hovering above the car looking straight down on it. This took me longer to get used to that I thought it would. Apparently, my brain just doesn’t work that way. This system is great when it’s used with the front and rear park assist system, which has sonar sensors in the front and rear bumpers. It doesn’t help when the car’s in Drive, however, and I found myself wishing for blind-spot indicators.
As part of the optional Technology Package, the FX35 is equipped with active cruise control, which keeps your car at a set distance from the car ahead of you. It was a pleasure to use when it was working. I experienced a blip with the system while driving in the mountains, and I couldn’t get the cruise control to work at all.
The lane departure warning system, which is also part of the Technology Package and can be turned off and on at your leisure, will give you an audible beep when you drift outside of the painted lane on the road. Also part of this package is Forward Collision Warning system. It alerts you if it thinks you’re not stopping quickly enough to avoid a collision with the car in front of you.
My children – both in Britax booster seats – were able to access and buckle their seatbelts easily and without assistance from me. The Latch connectors are accessible via a slit in the seat cushion. Despite the start of a good design for its Latch connectors, they’re still recessed too deeply to get to easily. Depending upon your finger dexterity, you might need to resort to using the seat belts to install some child-safety seats instead of the Latch system.
In Diapers: It’d be a tight fit for rear-facing infant seats but doable.
In School: Booster seats fit well, and there’s plenty of cargo space for backpacks and other gear.
Teens: “An SUV with the heart of a sports car” is sure to impress.