I lusted after Infiniti’s “Bionic Cheetah” from the moment I saw the renderings in a buff book (remember those?). After climbing behind the wheel of the first-gen FX, I knew that if I ever needed an SUV without cargo space or off-roadabilty, the FX45 was the
truck crossover for me. For one thing, it was carved from a block of sex. For another, the stiff-legged handling was righteous. But there's a new sheriff in high center of gravity town: the FX50. Can Infiniti’s new model match the moves, let alone the lines, of it's much admired (by me anyway) predecessor? Well, lemme tell ya…
The FX50’s re-sculpted snout is like Mike Tyson's tattoo. You contemplate it for a second and briefly ratiocinate, “Cool.” One beat later you're wondering, “What in the fuck was he thinking?” From the CUV’s basking shark grill to its squigly lamps, the FX50's prow looks like a weird toad. Fender vents? Why? Thankfully, the FX50’s sheetmetal contains plenty of the previous car's clever cuts and inventive angles, keeping the basic shape solidly in the “Hell yes” column. Especially squatting on those shiny 21” dubs.
Swing open the FX50 door and behold! Infiniti has set a new standard in the all-important wooden door insert competition. The rest of the cabin lives up to the maple-accented portals’ upmarket aspirations, with scads of top shelf soft touch leather and plastic. The FX50’s optional quilted leather seats (with adjustable thigh and back bolstering) are complemented by a steering wheel meaty enough to put off even the most casual vegetarian. The new Fiddy is a lot classier than the last FX, though just as cargo-challenged.
But it’s not short of gadgets. The FX50 packs more electro-wizardry into one space than the Consumer Electronics Show. In front of your left knee: seven buttons labeled with abbreviations like DCA, FCW and IBA. I have no idea what any of them do. But the sheer amount of pressable stuff will impress (and confuse) the Joneses. As for doodads I do understand, the radar-cruise control works so well that I didn’t touch a pedal for over an hour in bumper-to-bumper gridlock. Combine that with Infiniti's beepy Lane Departure Warning system and the FX50 is the first car you can drive from the passenger seat. Blindfolded.
The FX50 is the only Nissan FM chassis variant with the sizzling 5.0-liter V8. That's a shimmering indicator to where Nissan's (and the rest of the industry's) head has been: squarely up their backsides. Still, what a gnarled, snarling brute of an engine. The mighty mill stumps-up 390 horses and 369 torques, making this power-wagon thuggishly quick.
No joke. The brand new lunatic fringe Mitsubishi EVO X with its dual-clutch tranny and cantaloupe-sized turbocharger hits 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. The 4,575 pound FX50 takes one tenth of a second longer. One tenth! The big Infiniti feels much faster than the EVO, and through the quarter-mile — it is! By the time I hit 120 mph it was obvious that the FX50 is a motorized mental case meant for drivers much more psychotic than I. And that’s saying something.
Sadly the transmission sucks. I'm stealing from Berkowitz, but “AUTOCOCKBLOCK!” Under brisk acceleration, the devious seven-speed has you in fifth gear by 30 mph. For the math-averse, that's one shift every six mph. I hate it. True: you can paddle the gears yourself. But it's a slusher, not a dual-clutch. So you're playing the hurry up and wait game. That's hateful, too. If you floor it, the tranny will hold gears up to 7000rpm redline– and the already low mileage will drop off a cliff. The stoppers are mean and mighty, once you get your leg into 'em; the lack of initial bite is disheartening.
Infiniti has revised the FX50’s underpinnings, reducing the travel and heft of the old multilink rear with liberal lashings of aluminum, and fitted double-wishbones up front. Combined with fat, sticky rubber and lots of computerized prestidigitation, the big, tall, portly CUV handles as well as if not better than your sports car. Equally astounding, this time ‘round, your dental fillings are safe.
Unfortunately, tossing the FX50 into a tight corner feels like riding a Macbook. I’m not saying it’s numb, but I would have to drink five Arrogant Bastards to personally achieve the same effect.
So, the new $63k Infiniti FX50 is a ruthlessly fast, lateral-G genius saddled with an electric chastity belt (or three) that’s not very practical and drinks like Charles Bukowski on a bender. Infiniti has crafted a vehicle with all the grace und pace of its German rivals. If you can put up with the numbskull transmission (and insatiable thirst) the FX50 is the fastest, most tossable sedan-on-stilts money can buy. Just don't look it in the eyes.