By on July 14, 2008

The Bionic Cheetah gets a bigger engiune. (all pics courtesy Jonny Lieberman) 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.

Class on stiltsSwing 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. 

No static at all.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.

Tenacious tiresSadly 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. 

Grace UND paceSo, 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.

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49 Comments on “2009 Infiniti FX50 Review...”


  • avatar
    AKM

    I agree with your styling assessment of the previous FX. Have not seen the new one in person, but the pics of the front made me cringe too.

    As a side note, I live in a wealthy area of NJ and expected to see the new FX and the X6 everywhere….I have not seen a single one yet!

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    It looks like the Alfa-Romeo SUV that Fiat never built. And that’s a pity.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Good Gawd, that is an ugly ride.

  • avatar
    John R

    I’ve seen this at the NY car show a while back. I like the old one better, but I could get used to this and may grow to like it.

    As CUVs go this is probably the only one I would want to own…until Nissan makes a G35 or M45 wagon.

  • avatar
    JJ

    As far as SUVs go I like this one. This one and the X5/6…The exterior still looks good to me, the rear is a little bit too bulbous and those stupid side-vents aren’t great but a good modern take on the FX45 I would say.

    Shame the autobox and the electro-nannies kill most of the fun.

    Maybe there will be a solution though, since Infiniti will be launched in Europe about right now, and they’ll mod their cars to European specs.

    That usually means steering feel/suspension upgrades (giving it A steering feel maybe?) and a better interior (although you seem to like it fine as is, I have to say that the typical JDM/US interior styling of this car doesn’t really work for me). Possibly they’ll do something with the gearbox/engine combination too.

    I’ve also read there is/would be an ‘S’ version available, so maybe that could be the better option?

    Anyway, this will be a welcome addition to the Euro carpark IMHO, and I like the EX too. The other Infiniti models probably will have a hard time here but well the more choice the better. And as for mileage, at least it’s better than a Range Rover.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Wow are Evo’s up over 5’s for 0-60? I was always under the impression they were in the mid to high 4’s… Also, from the sounds of it, an Evo handles better in dirt/gravel as well.

    I also don’t really understand how it, with a high center of gravity can handle better than a sports car…??

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I’m not too crazy about the front end (angry alligator anyone?) but the overall shape is a pretty good redo on the previous FX without straying too far. I still like the old one better though but I’m sure this one will grow on me in time.

    Kinda ironic that this new 5.0 V8 drinks so much gas, yet Infiniti markets it as fuel efficient. Is it indeed more so than the old 4.5?

  • avatar
    rob

    I’ve never been a fan of the FX35/45. The front & rear end styling, impractical (read: low) storage capacity, shitty mileage, etc are too much of a compromise. The new model is worse from a styling perspective … and therefore a total flop for me.

    Speaking of mileage, 18 mpg for a 390 hp beast like this is really not too bad … especiallty when offset by the organsmic exhaust note (assuming the new V8’s note is similar/better than the outgoing V8’s note)

  • avatar
    tigerthunder

    Fender vents? Why?……
    “the standard side air vents put funtion above mere fashion, reducing front end lift by up to 5%”

    it seems the mpg got better (by one) and the horsepower went up by 70… ill take that all day long

    i drove one the other day and ive got to disagree about the tranny, it felt amazing to me smooth around town and very responsive when you out the gas down

  • avatar
    phil

    very nice review, thanks. i don’t think you can crown this ute the handling champ until you drive the cayenne GT. i have a feeling that the infinity will come out on top overall but the GT will have better steering feel and a better tranny. i personally find the looks of this car garish and even cartoonish and prefer the Cayenne to this. but OMG the timing of this release, could it have been worse?

  • avatar
    serpico

    Ugly, even for free I don’t want it.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    sorry i dont get the attraction, i think it looks like a melting mutant toad.

    as for the engine, who cares. cars need 40 mpg engines these days, not stoplight sprint specs.

    so i call it a waste of carbon cradits.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Sheetmetal fashion can be so amusing. Different brands want to set themselves apart from everyone else, and at the same time they don’t.
    Side vents have pretty much always amused me. Utterly nonfuncional little dollops of chromed plastc make up. Any stylist who includes them on a new vehicle is letting his thoughtless, faddish, “me too”-ism show.
    Honestly, unless your car buying motives are entirely emotional, this new “Fiddy” is an utterly ridiculous vehicle.
    Great writing, Mr Lieberman, lots of laughs, thanks.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    .
    Saw an ’09 FX the other day. It didn’t float my boat. Where the previous version was smooth and sleek this one looks lumpy, bumpy and garish.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    I enjoyed the review, although I still fail to see the point of a vehicle like this. And I’m offended at the implication that this thing will handle better than my sports car, I highly doubt that

    One pet peeve I have with this (and probably 2/3rds of all car reviews I’ve read both on and offline): If you’re going to mention a significant visual aspect of the exterior or interior (like the wood on the doors), please include a picture of it in the review. Especially considering you took these pics yourself (and did a great job of it), it would have been really nice if the features you touched upon were illustrated in a review. I can’t count the number of times a car review has mentioned something about an interior or exterior that I wanted to see, but when I checked out the related pics I came up empty-handed. It’s a small thing, but it’s incredibly frustrating

  • avatar
    BEAT

    This is my first time to Say “Ugly” in TTAC and this is an ugly car.
    Same here, even If it’s free I will not take it.

  • avatar

    The Evo isn’t about going fast in a straight line, it’s about handling.

    Still, no denying that the FX is one quick beast.

    I fully agree that the styling of the original was clean and classic. And such a shape always gets “improved” by adding various trendy bits and excessive flourishes.

    I’d like to have some quick initial reliability results for this one. But this will depend on how many people a new FX, then sign up and participate. We’ve had a great response from EX owners, so it could happen here as well.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    thetopdog:

    When I was in college, I was having a beer with a photography professor one night. “The hardest thing to do is photograph a car. The only thing harder than that is photographing a car’s interior.”

    I hear what you’re saying, and I’ll keep practicing.

  • avatar
    prndlol

    This is one of my most hated cars of late. The exterior styling is nothing short of grotesque. The interior is gluttonous. Ghastly effort all around.

    The three G’s.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    As CUVs go this is probably the only one I would want to own…until Nissan makes a G35 or M45 wagon.

    The first time I saw an EX35 in person, I started to wonder whether it was essentially a G35 wagon. The shape is a lot lower and more wagon-like than the promotional pictures imply.

    I even went so far as to take one for a test drive. Sadly, that was… less than impressive. I stepped on the brakes firmly from around 80km/h (50 mph), and I’d swear that the back wheels came off the pavement. It definitely wasn’t my idea of a nice stable stop. I lost interest in the EX at that point.

  • avatar
    netrun

    It almost two years for the previous version to grow on me (like mold) so I’m not surprised I don’t like the redesign.

    But if this is what Nissan wants to offer up as a wagon I’m a bit confused – just where has the wa-gone to?

    With cargo space at such a premium, I could see the wife and I getting into an argument over whose toothbrush is staying home on the next trip.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Let me see, jerseydevil said, it looks like a melting mutant toad (I would not have put it so nicely), it corners poorly, its transmission sucks, it costs $63K, it sucks gas like a binging jumbo jet, it’s pretty much good only for a drag strip, and it gets 4 stars? The worst thing is, I am not even surprised anymore.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    Clearly what Nissan needs is a 500Z and a G500 sedan and wagon

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    hwyhobo:

    It corners superbly — better than whatever you’re driving.

    It’s just numb while doing so.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    like some others have said:
    no thanks…
    i kinda feel sorry for people who buy one of these…

  • avatar

    i am math averse, but 5th gear by 30 is one shift every 7.5 mph, not ever 6 mph. still, point taken. i wonder how many more mpg they got by f-ing up the tranny.

    generally, i think these (FX45 included, sorry) are a literally huge waste of space. this is a perfect example of selling a car/truck/suv/crossover/wtf to people who make purchases because “it looks cool” and “its got so many buttons.” just play with something shiny. it’s cheaper.

    golf clap for getting “prestidigitation” in

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    shortthrowsixspeed:

    You really are math averse.

    30 mph divided by 5 shifts = 6 mph

    6 x 6 x 6 x 6 x 6 x 6 = 30

    Of course I’m counting 1st gear as a shift… so…

  • avatar

    FM + V8 … hmmm. At least it provides some V8 swapage opportunities into a 350Z as these FX50s gets to the scrapyard age.

  • avatar
    Tummy

    I have a 2004 FX45 and it took me two years before I grew to like the styling.

    The old FX takes corners very well, I believe AMCI got 0.92G on the skidpad, and in real world driving, it has more grip than I have courage to test. The V8 is really heavy though, and spoils some of the handling compared to the smaller engine models.

    I’m finding that I get around 19mpg, which I think is ok considering we only manage to get around 21mpg out of a MB C300 4matic (loaner car).

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Jonny,
    Great review, but you didn’t answer the most important question — how does the FX compare to the X6 you just reviewed?

  • avatar

    for those who enjoy arguing over the insignificant, i had obviously not anticipated that anyone would count “shifting” from neutral to 1st as a shift. however, two points.

    first, if you count shifting from neutral to first then each successive shift should be counted as two shifts. for example, “shifting” from 1st to 2nd would be a shift from 1st to neutral and then another from neutral to 2nd. that means a total of not 5, but 9 shifts. bringing the end result to a shift every 3 1/3 mph. how aggravating.

    second, even disregarding the previous argument as to the absurdity created by a “shift” from neutral to 1st, why count the neutral-1st shift at all? if the point is to show how frustrating it is to have multiple shifts from 0-30mph, the shift from neutral to 1st does not support your point because it takes place, necessarily, before you have begun accelerating. thus, it is not accurate to represent it in a count designed to demonstrate such frustration. that is, of course, unless you want to bolster the number of shifts in order to make the point seem more significant than it is. if so, go with nine shifts. it’s much more impressive.

  • avatar
    James2

    Who cares about the numbers of shifts? That’s the engineers just trying to compensate for the ridiculous 4575-lb curb weight. It’s in chapter one on How To Rig The EPA Test 101. GM does largely the same thing with the Corvette and its skip-shift function.

    Use the 390-bhp engine as God intended and I’ll be surprised if it breaks double-digit MPG.

  • avatar
    urS4red

    Excellent review of a putrid vehicle – only the X6 is less practical and worse looking.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Jonny Lieberman wrote:
    It corners superbly — better than whatever you’re driving.

    That is both arrogant and condescending at the same time.

  • avatar
    Nue

    lol WB all hail Jonny.

  • avatar
    barberoux

    Sorry this isn’t a vehicle it is a fashion accessory, an expensive accessory at $63K. What does it do right? It has a big engine with lousy mpg, at a time of $4+ gas prices. It isolates the driver from the driving experience, “I didn’t touch a pedal for over an hour in bumper-to-bumper gridlock”. That is a driving experience? Plus for $63K you get “the transmission sucks”. But you do get “the maple-accented portals’ upmarket aspirations, with scads of top shelf soft touch leather”. So does my couch. No wonder there is so much crap in the market place. You seem to care more about the soft seats and number of buttons than for what a car should be built for. For $63K I could buy a MX-5, a motorcycle and a GTI, for when it rains. What are you reviewing? Is this “The Truth about Fashion”?

  • avatar
    danms6

    It corners superbly — better than whatever you’re driving.

    That is both arrogant and condescending at the same time.

    It’s also probably accurate and pretty funny. Lighten up, Jonny’s humor means no harm.

    barberoux:

    The emotional qualities of a car are important to a lot of people. If all vehicles were designed with only utility in mind, the world would be a sad place filled only with Corollas, Rangers and motorcycles.

  • avatar
    J.on

    AKM,

    I live in a wealthy area in South Florida, and I have yet to see the FX50 of the X6 either…!

  • avatar
    Tummy

    barberoux:
    Sorry this isn’t a vehicle it is a fashion accessory, an expensive accessory at $63K. What does it do right? It has a big engine with lousy mpg, at a time of $4+ gas prices.

    $63k fully loaded is actually a bargain when you compare it to the X5, X6, ML550, and ML63. They said the same thing about gas prices when the first FX45 came out and gas was $1.72 in 2003. I have to believe that people who will buy this car will think about gas prices.

    barberoux:
    It isolates the driver from the driving experience, “I didn’t touch a pedal for over an hour in bumper-to-bumper gridlock”. That is a driving experience?

    How are you suppose to have a “driving experience” in gridlock traffic? Even a responsive, sporty car, like the MX5 or GTI you listed, would not be fun in traffic. The adaptive cruise in the new FX is an improvement over the current model which did not have the ability to deal with bumper to bumper traffic. In traffic, I think you would want the isolation.

    barberoux:
    For $63K I could buy a MX-5, a motorcycle and a GTI, for when it rains.

    MX5 motorcycle and GTI are still not as practical as the FX. You can’t haul your spouse, two children and a dog, in the first two, and the GTI has 1/3 less cargo space. Not to mention, other than the unspecified motorcycle, they are both slower. The GTI is even slower than the old FX45. In addition, having three items takes up three parking spaces, almost three times the maintenance, and insurance cost.

  • avatar
    Tummy

    phil Says:
    July 14th, 2008 at 9:50 am
    very nice review, thanks. i don’t think you can crown this ute the handling champ until you drive the cayenne GT. i have a feeling that the infinity will come out on top overall but the GT will have better steering feel and a better tranny.

    I priced the GTS and it costs almost $89,000 than the FX50 with similar features. So it should be better since it costs 40% more.

    I noticed that the FX was a lot faster to 60 though, 5.0 seconds vs 5.7 for the Porsche. You won’t get similar acceleration from the Cayenne until you pay at least $97k (base) for the Turbo.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Tummy: Thanks for the eloquent defense, however.

    A GTI is an infinitely more practical car. Just as much passenger room, and… the VW has to have more storage. all you can get into the back of the FX50 are wine carrying cases. By design, no doubt.

  • avatar
    Tummy

    Jonny Lieberman Says:
    A GTI is an infinitely more practical car. Just as much passenger room, and… the VW has to have more storage…

    Who am I to argue with the reviewer, but there are several aspects where the GTI is not as practical. One example, in my FX45 I was able to fit a full size bath tub from Home Depot, plus a front passenger. I wasn’t able to fully close the hatch due to the curved rear window, it did fit without extending into the bumper area. I doubt you would be able to fit a bathtub and a passenger in a GTI. The cargo capacity listed is 20 cubic feet less than the FX.

    If we are talking about comfort, rear leg room in the GTI is slightly more, but the rear seats do not recline like they do in the FX. Passenger volume is listed as ~93 cubic feet for the GTI and ~102 for the FX.

    The FX also has a tow capacity of 3,500 lbs so towing, jet skis, motorcycles, fishing boats are not a problem. I wasn’t able to find the GTI tow capacity.

    I guess it really depends upon how you define “infinitely more practical”. The only things I can think of is the much better gas mileage and lower price, as better than the FX.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Tummy:

    “infinitely” as in I would have no problem throwing sod or sticky children into a GTI.

    An FX? No, no, no.

  • avatar
    Tummy

    So really, your saying that the FX is too nice to mess up? Really, it’s just car, and much cheaper than the German competitors. I let my dog run around in it and haul stuff from Home Depot. I don’t think it’s harder to clean up than the interior of a GTI.

    In a few years, the wear and tear will mean nothing compared to the depreciation.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    There is a black one parked outside my office window right now. It looks much more svelte than did the old one – which always remined me of the Cheshire cat. The Infinity corporate grille is more integrated into this design (I am enjoying a front 3/4 view). Very nice to look at…and if Lieberman likes it, who’s to argue?

  • avatar
    Valencia

    I couldn’t agree more with the Mike Tyson tattoo reference, clever Jonny!

    In all honesty though, I would never take it over an X6. Never.

    The design is a far cry from a carving “from a block of sex”. Instead I’m constantly reminded of a dinosaur that’s feeling perhaps a little queezy and nose heavy.

  • avatar
    saikyan

    This car sounds completely ridiculous.

    I love it!!

  • avatar
    colesky

    I have driven both the FX 35 and the FX 50… while you sacrifice horse power with the 35 you really don’t sacrifice features… I really enjoyed the drive, the air conditioned seats and all of the tech gear in the vehicle… while the cameras on the side front and rear are a bit much I found the vehicle to be smoothe and engineered well. it’s a solid ride and I would call the FX 50 “The Beast”. The front of the car has a look that says “get out of my way or I’ll eat your first born child” and I like that in a ride. Slamming the foot down on the gas on the 50 was impressive…. the reviewer in the article didn’t care of the trannie of the 50, but that is why they added the triptronic so you can control the shifting without a clutch.


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