Is your significant other hounding you that your next vehicle should be an SUV? Is this a problem because what you really want is some fancy pants sports sedan? Nissan's Infiniti division has the answer: the FX45. You see, it has the general
statistics of a luxury SUV, with all-wheel-drive and a big V-8, but it also has an athletic stance and sporty rounded shape. How does it perform? I'll get to that in a minute. First, some specifics. The FX45 and its sibling, the FX35, are
built from the same platform as the rear-drive Infiniti G35 sports sedan. The FX35 is available in rear- or all-wheel-drive and can be had with Nissan's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 280-horsepower. Not a bad deal. But the FX45 comes only with
Infiniti's 4.5-liter 315-horsepower V-8 (courtesy of the Infiniti Q45) and all-wheel-drive. Both vehicles are mated to a standard five-speed automatic transmission. Infiniti provided an FX45 for testing. It proved to be quite powerful. So
powerful, in fact, that I can't repeat the expletives I uttered upon initial acceleration. This truck is invincibly forceful. There isn't a gap in traffic too small to squeeze through, and few stoplight grand prix that a driver can't win. That
said, there are some caveats. All that power passed through an all-wheel-drive system means that gas mileage is anemic. Indeed, the test mileage of 16 mpg included quite a lot of highway driving. But it's the handling that is not garden variety.
The FX45 comes with huge 20-inch tires that do much to enhance its muscular looks. But those tires tend to wander, pulling the vehicle to the left or right, even if you are pointed straight ahead. The light steering is so quick, it's of little help.
While the steering does stiffen somewhat at highway speeds, it adds little to the driving experience. With those large tires hooked to a sports-tuned suspension, I don't have to tell you how firm the ride becomes over Pennsylvania's third-world
roads. It certainly doesn't feel luxurious. And while the firm ride might be excused for the sporty handling, it's too easy to get in over your head in this vehicle. Push it hard into a corner, like a sports car, and suddenly the tires start to tango
and the body lean kicks in. For enthusiasts, handling won't be problem. So, this is a beast that needs the driver's total concentration. Do something stupid like talk on a cell phone or eat a burrito while driving and you could end up off-road
unintentionally. The interior has the traditional modern Nissan/Infiniti appearance, trimmed in a striking combination of bronze and dark gray. It is quite handsome. The front bucket seats are firm but comfortable, although the passenger's side
front seat is lacking in the number of adjustments, considering that this is a luxury vehicle. The back seats (Inf
initi doesn't offer three rows in the FX) are comfortable enough, yet access to them is compromised by the narrow opening at the bottom of the rear doors. The rear cargo compartment is nicely trimmed, but space is at a premium due to the car's
styling as well as its full-sized spare tire. A nice touch is the placement of handles on either side of the cargo compartment to release the split-folding rear seats. The center console has the usual video screen that incorporates a global
positioning system, audio system, climate controls and trip computer. As on the Infiniti Q45, a blizzard of buttons makes all of it seem less than luxurious and more of a chore. Over the top options include a rear-mounted video camera that turns on
when the vehicle is shifted into reverse to compensate for the limited rear view. The image appears on the FX's video screen. Another option is the intelligent key. When the key is nearby in a pocket or purse
for example, FX sensors allow the car to be unlocked by pushing a button on the exterior door handle or start the car by turning the ignition. All of this can be done without putting the key in the ignition, as long as the key is within close
proximity of the FX. While an enthusiast will say this car is filled with performance and character, an average buyer might find it over the top, especially at the car's $44,225 base price. The FX35 starts at just over $35,000. Worrisome
was this vehicle's build quality. While I could chalk off the FX45's squeaks and rattles to the fact that it is a well-used press sample, it's harder to excuse the driver's side window that balked at opening or the CD player that wouldn't function.
With tons of speed and a driving experience that commands attention, the FX45 will capture the hearts of driving enthusiasts. For most others, it might seem like a frivolous purchase.