I love technology. I was an early adopter of the microcomputer (8″ SS/SD floppies, anyone?). I spent way too much on a TI calculator in college because it could *gasp* do square roots. My car has rain-sensing wipers, self-leveling headlights and power headrests. However, spending a week with an Infiniti FX35 made me wonder if, just as electronic calculators have given us a generation who can’t do simple math in their heads, the technical fripperies in our cars are going to produce a generation of drivers who can’t drive.
The FX35 is a gadget geek’s wet dream. It gives you an alphabet soup bowlful of technosystems at your beck and call. Not only do you have the usual VDC, TCS, ABS and TMPS but your menu also includes IBA, FCW, LDW, LDP, DCA, ASC, DRM, CVTCS and ICC. (Click here to break the code.)
Want to back out of your driveway? First, you can’t see anything through the FX35′s gun-slit rear window. The blind spot created by the SUV’s huge D pillar means your neighbor’s mailbox is at risk. Then, when you engage reverse, both outside rearview mirrors tilt downwards, giving you a nice view of the driveway next to the car—instead of where you’re backing. But don’t worry. The dash-mounted screen shows what’s to the rear along with what’s on the other three sides as well. It’s like the car’s saying “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t let you do that. Here, look into my ‘Around View Monitor’ and I’ll show you what you need to see.”
Once underway, HAL’s on full alert. If you get too close to the [non-powder] white line whilst unwrapping your Big Mac, the Infiniti’s Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system sounds an alert. If you ignore that, the Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) system gooses the brakes on the opposite side of the car to nudge the car back towards its own lane. They’re incredibly intrusive. Fortunately you can actually shut off the LDW permanently and the LDP is off by default, but why pay for them if you aren’t going to use them?
The FX35′s Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) keeps you from getting too close to the car ahead of you while you’re sipping your grande soy half-caf cinnamon dolce no whip latte—to the point of applying the brakes automatically (if needed). I’m wondering how long it’ll be before someone has an accident because they were too stupid to realize they were in a car without this feature. “Officer, I don’t know what happened. The car just plowed right into that other car.”
Don’t worry about paying attention to traffic. The Forward Collision Warning (FCW) will alert you to things you don’t notice while you’re texting your BFF. And if you can’t be bothered to notice those alarms, the Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) will apply the brakes to slow you down. And if you’re still too engrossed in your happy place to react to this, you deserve to crash.
Or you can save almost $3K by not ordering the technonanny package and enjoy the car that’s underneath all the gizmology. The FX’s 3.5L V-6 gives you 303 horses, which can haul you from rest to 60 in about six seconds. The CUV’s seven-speed transmission shifts almost imperceptibly; the Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) gives a satisfying blip on the throttle when you use the steering-wheel mounted paddles.
Thanks to a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, the FX35′s handling is definitely un-SUV-like. At slow speeds, the speed-sensitive power steering feels a bit heavy. As you pick up speed, the fun begins. Drive this thing like you stole it and it shrugs and asks, “Is that the best you’ve got?”
Head out on the highway, turn on the air conditioned seats, set the cruise control at a comfortable speed, crank up some Miles Davis on the excellent 11-speaker Bose audio system and the FX35 is in its element. It eats up the highway like Oprah at a benefit buffet.
As far as its looks are concerned, the pictures say it all. The front’s ugly and the rest isn’t bad.
The price of admission depends on how heavy-handed you get with the option sheet. The FX35 starts at $42,150. Adding the Premium Package (climate controlled seats, memory seats, Bluetooth, power tilt/telescope wheel) will cost $2,350. The Navigation Package, which includes the “Around View Monitor,” is another $2,850. The Technology Package gives you the electronazi systems for $2,900. The whole nine yards brings the “as tested” price to $50,250.
The FX35 doesn’t need so much wizardry. A terrific driver’s car lurks underneath all that code. Unfortunately, most owners will never know this; they’ll never turn off the electronic doo-hickeys to let the goodness shine through. They want to be insulated from the driving experience. Don’t they?
[Nissan provided the vehicle, a tank of gas and insurance for this review.]