The second generation of Infiniti's FX premium crossover utility vehicle arrived for 2009, with more power, more high-tech features and a bolder new design.
It made its debut at last March's Geneva Motor Show in the form of the V-8 version, renamed the FX50 from the previous model's FX45.
At the New York auto show a few weeks later, the redesigned FX35, the V-6 model, was unveiled.
With these vehicles, the number that follows "FX" refers to that model's engine size - the FX50 has a 5.0-liter V-8, while the FX35 comes with a 3.5-liter V-6.
Three versions are offered: the FX35 with rear-wheel drive (base price $42,150 plus $815 freight); FX35 with all-wheel drive ($43,600); and the FX50 with all-wheel drive ($58,400). The FX50 does not come in a two-wheel-drive version.
The V-8 engine of the FX50 is rated at 390 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque. That's an increase of 70 horsepower from the 2008 FX45.
For the FX35, the V-6 engine produces 303 horsepower and 262 foot-pounds of torque. The 2008 model had 275 horsepower.
All models come with a new seven-speed automatic transmission. Optional are steering-wheel paddle shifters that allow for manual operation of the gears without having to worry about a clutch.
The FX is now the middle-size SUV in the lineup of Infiniti, which is Nissan's premium brand. For 2008, Infiniti introduced the smaller EX35 crossover, and for the past six years, the company has sold the QX56, a traditional body-on-frame, full-size sport utility based on the chassis of the Nissan Titan pickup.
Infiniti introduced the original FX for 2003. While the FX has an outward appearance similar to that of the Nissan Murano crossover, they are completely different vehicles.
The Murano, also introduced for 2003 and also redesigned for 2009, is built on the front-wheel-drive chassis of the Nissan Altima sedan.
But the FX rides on the rear-drive chassis of the Infiniti G37 sedan. The only Nissan-branded vehicle that uses that architecture is the rear-drive 370Z sports car (itself partially redesigned for 2009 and renamed; it was the 350Z last year).
The EX, which also is built on the G37 chassis, is aimed at women, while men are the target audience for the FX, Nissan said. Men made up about 65 percent of the buyers of the original FX, and that should continue with the new versions, the company added.
Nissan says FX buyers typically are in their early to mid-40s, married, with household incomes of about $150,000 for the base model and $300,000-plus for the V-8 version.
The original FX was intended to make a statement about design and performance, Nissan said, and the redesign continues that theme, but with a more-muscular body that gives the car a more-aggressive look to reflect the boost in power.
It's still quite recognizable as an FX, however; the restyling didn't change the basic shape, which is low, sleek and swept rather than boxy like a traditional SUV.
The V-6 engine has all the power anyone really needs, and it also offers the best fuel economy - 16 mpg city/23 highway with two-wheel drive, and 16/21 with all-wheel drive.
With the V-8, you get lots more power, of course, but the EPA ratings are just 14 city/20 highway. One advantage is that with the V8, the FX will tow a trailer weighing up to 3,500 pounds; the V-6 is limited to 2,000 pounds.
Nissan greatly improved the FX interior on these new models. The cabin envelops its occupants in luxury without being ostentatious. Leather seats are standard on all models.
As with the previous model, the new FX seats five people in two rows; no third row is offered. But it is roomier inside than the EX35. The rear seat can hold three adults comfortably, with plenty of legroom.
The intelligent all-wheel-drive system was not included on our FX35 tester, but it's designed for all-weather driving and all road surfaces, wet or dry. It's not intended for off-road use, however.
There are some cool new high-tech safety features available, including intelligent brake assist, which Nissan says provides "forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking."
A new FX feature that made its debut last year on the EX35 is the lane-departure warning and prevention system, designed to help keep the vehicle in its lane. When the system's sensors detect the vehicle drifting out of its lane - by reading the lane markings on the road - the system gives audible beeps, then gently begins to move the vehicle back in line.
This feature was fun to play with, but the beeping actually became quite annoying after a while as I drove a few hours along an interstate highway. I ended up using the pushbutton switch on the dash to the left of the steering wheel to turn it off, but each time I got out of the car, then re-entered and started the engine again, it defaulted back to the "on" position.
It would be a good feature to have if you were prone to nodding off at the wheel, however.
Our tester also was equipped with intelligent cruise control. This system includes distance-control assist, which Infiniti says "helps reduce the stress of driving in heavy traffic by intuitively helping to release the throttle and apply the brakes to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead."
Here again, some people will like this; some will turn it off. The problem I found is that it will pace you to the car ahead if that car is going slower than the speed you've set the cruise for, and unless you pay attention and move to the passing lane, you'll be forever slowed down by the vehicle you're following.
Those features - lane-departure and intelligent cruise with distance-control assist - are part of the $2,900 Technology package, which also includes the intelligent brake assist and rain-sensing wipers.
The tester also came with the Navigation package ($2,850), which brought another cool safety feature - a rear back-up camera, as well as a bird's-eye around-view monitor that displays on the dash-mounted navigation screen.
We also had the Premium package ($2,350), which tacked on front dual-reclining, heated/cooled bucket seats with height adjustment, two-position driver's power memory and adjustable headrests; Bluetooth connectivity; auxiliary jack for an iPod that also charges the device's battery; outside mirrors with driver's side two-position memory and automatic tilt-down (a waste of money and a major nuisance on any car that has these); a power tilt/telescopic steering column with memory; the steering-wheel paddle shifters; alloy foot pedals; quilted leather seats; alloy roof cargo rails (100-pound capacity); and both a cargo net and cargo cover.
Standard on the FX35 are 10-spoke alloy wheels; optional are 20-inch, five-spoke wheels. The FX50 comes with 21-inch wheels.
Total sticker for our FX35 two-wheel-drive test vehicle was $51,065, which included freight and $8,100 in options
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1995. Contact him at 210-250-3236; email@example.com.
2009 Infiniti FX35/FX50
The package: Midsize, four-door, five-passenger, V-6 or V-8 powered, rear- or all-wheel-drive premium crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: Redesigned for 2009, this is Infiniti's midlevel SUV offering, with lots of power, luxury, safety and nifty high-tech gadgetry.
Negatives: No manual gearbox offered for those who want a sportier driving experience; can get quite pricey even in the base model when options packages are added.
Engines: 3.5-liter V-6; 5.0-liter V-8.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 303 HP/262 foot-pounds (V-6); 390 HP/369 foot-pounds (V-8).
Length: 191.3 inches.
Curb weight: 4,094-4,575 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Trunk volume: 24.8 cubic feet (behind rear seat).
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, roof-mounted side-curtain for both rows, standard.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 23.8 gallons/unleaded premium.
EPA fuel economy: 16 city/23 highway (V-6, 2WD); 16/21 (V-6, AWD); 14/20 (V-8).
Major competitors: BMW X5/X6; Porsche Cayenne; Audi Q7; Mercedes-Benz R-class, M-class; Volvo XC90.
Base price range: $42,150-$58,400 plus $815 freight.
Price as tested: $51,065 including freight and options (FX35 2WD).
On the Road rating: 9.1 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.