By on January 5, 2012

As auto enthusiasts, we champion cars that deviate from the soporific segment norm. If we don’t, who will? Most manufacturers offer, at most, one or two such vehicles. Then there’s Nissan and its luxury arm, Infiniti. In the crossover / SUV / minivan arena they field a fiscally insane hodgepodge of deviants: cube, JUKE, Xterra, Quest, EX, FX. Automotive deviants rarely sell well, and (like their human analogues) often die tragically early deaths. Not the Infiniti FX, now in its tenth model year. But will there be a third generation?

The first generation Infiniti FX’s exterior was timeless near-perfection: so clean, and such an intriguing combination of feminine curves with masculine proportions. The second generation, typical of follow-ups to icons, transformed the original into an overstyled cartoon. Revisions for 2012 continue this unfortunate trajectory, adding the grille from the rhino-like QX. Someone clearly felt that some visual punch was lacking, for there’s also a new Limited Edition coated in Iridium Blue and shod with gray turbine-bladed 21-inch alloys that appear oversized even within the FX’s generous curves. So, do you love it or hate it?

Inside there’s also a special blue…on the floormat piping. The 2012 FX’s interior is as tasteful and cosseting as the exterior is outlandish and off-putting, with calming curves, premium materials, and large, comfortable seats. The Infiniti EX35’s interior is infamously tight. Inside the larger FX, the retro-positioned windshield and many curves yield an atmosphere that’s nearly as intimate (along with outstanding ergonomics), but there’s actually enough room for four full-sized adults. Cargo space falls short of the segment norm, as does the lack of a third row, but as the prices of designer’s-wet-dream exteriors go these aren’t bad ones.

The FX’s electronics can be irritating. The Bluetooth system requires too many steps, the voice recognition system often becomes an exercise in frustration, and reactions to button presses are often delayed, so you hit them again, only to have the second push reverse the first. To an even greater extent than the typical system, the nav displays too few street names even when zoomed in. The around-view monitor, on the other hand, makes parking or backing out of a curvy driveway a joy. Want the full array of gadgetry, including adaptive cruise and lane departure warning? Then no Limited Edition for you. The “Technology Package” is only offered on the regular FX.

The Limited Edition isn’t offered with the suitably gonzo 390-horsepower 5.0-liter V8. The mandatory 303-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 moves the ovoid SUV well enough, but induces no adrenaline rush. Being charitable (for once) about the sound of the six we’ll say that its loud, couth-deficient character fits the rest of the vehicle. The seven-speed automatic transmission behaves well, shifting quickly in manual mode (though there are no paddles to assist with this).

The FX35 drives very much like a G37 that’s packed on a quarter-ton (for a curb weight of 4,284 pounds) and been lifted a few inches. Which is essentially what it is. The basic dynamics are the same, just surreally altered. The steering doesn’t feel precise or provide a very direct connection to the front wheels, but the wheel is small, the system is quick to respond, and together with the chassis it yields a surprisingly chuckable chunk of SUV. A touch soggy and unwieldy, but oddly entertaining. The view forward over the long, dramatically undulating hood enhances the experience. Think Corvette, just much higher off the ground.

Though the FX’s feel is distinctly that of a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, all-wheel-drive (mandatory on the Limited Edition) effectively blunts the platform’s inherent tendency to insufficiently linear throttle-induced oversteer. With the V6 it’s only easy to hang the tail out on loose surfaces or at low speeds. But the stability control kicks in too hard and too early anyway. Despite their size—265/45VR21—the tires aren’t very grippy, and lapse into a safe, mushy slide at their limits. Credit the odd choice of tire model: Bridgestone Dueller H/L 400s. Not high-performance rubber, and a sign (along with the lack of the FX50’s Sport Package option) that the FX35 Limited Edition is more about show than go.

The payoff for the ride-oriented rubber and softer suspension tuning than in earlier FXs: livable ride quality. Even with the 21s impacts are only occasionally harsh. My wife, who couldn’t stand the ride in the sport-suspensioned G37, found the FX35 quite comfortable.

The sticker price for all of this sport truck goodness: $52,445. A regular FX35 AWD with Premium Package lists for $2,700 less. Figure $2,500 for the LE’s special blue paint and 21-inch wheels. A similarly-equipped Porsche Cayenne with 20-inch wheels lists for over $12,000 more, about $1,400 of which can be attributed to feature differences according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool. Or, if utility truly isn’t needed in your sport utility, the Acura ZDX is $1,040 less before adjusting for feature differences and about $875 less afterwards.

But what if utility matters a lot, as it does for the typical crossover buyer? Infiniti gave the FX ten years to carve out a space for itself. For the 2013 model year they’re caving to market demand and adding a Murano-based minivan substitute to the lineup. Compared to the FX35 LE, the JX35 lists for nearly $5,000 less after adjusting fore feature differences. Forego dubs on both and the gap narrows by a grand. Still, the writing is on the wall. In the JX35 most people will see more room for more people for less money. During 2011 monthly FX sales usually failed to break 1,000 units. Once the JX arrives they could well slow to a trickle. The FX35 might not be perfect, but it delivers a unique driving experience. The automotive landscape would be poorer without it. Want the aggressive egg to survive its impending intramural encounter? It needs your support more than ever.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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38 Comments on “2012 Infiniti FX35 Limited Edition...”


  • avatar
    carguy

    I wonder why Infiniti spent money messing with the appearance but never took the time to fit the upgraded 3.7 engine?

    • 0 avatar

      Limited demand + CAFE, perhaps?

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      or put decent tires on it. Those 400 duelers are absolutely terrible. through a long and frustrating story that doesnt need to be re-told, I ended up with 2 of these on my ride and they are the worst tires ive ever had. Luckily, judging by the treadwear so far and reviews online, I will be replacing them very soon. I don’t understand why they would put tires like that on a luxury (“near-luxury”) car.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Wow those rims are really over the top, looks like something from a concept car. Stock 21s?!? What is this world coming to? Shame this “thing” is so high off the ground, as a wagon with a lower stance and normal front grill it would look great. However as is this is a messy blob, that somehow manages to look even heavier then it is (which is downright shocking).

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    This review is somewhat wanting in terms of technical data….whither the transmission? CVT? No? Then how many cogs in the cogswapper, and what does that do for noise, performance, etc.

    When you review a vehicle, review the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t realize that one of my edits had cut the transmission information. It’s been put back in. Seven-speed manually-shiftable conventional automatic. Nissan only has CVTs in cars with transverse powertrains.

    • 0 avatar
      Sketch

      If you care about performance, you are looking at the wrong vehicle. This one is purely about style. Functionality takes a major back seat here. I rented one of these once, by accident. They were out of my preferred Mazda 6, so they offered to upgrade me from the Corolla they had to a G35. I said yes, walked outside, and found an FX35 sitting in the spot. Figured I’d give it a try, since we had 4 adults and needed to move a bunch of stuff. Luckily it was a short trip, as if we had to fit more than a couple of overnight bags in the back, they wouldn’t have fit. The increase in ride height did turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as there had been some major rains and some of the roads were flooded. That’s pretty much the only positive that comes to mind. It’s big, heavy, and as a result is slow and handles terribly. And even though it’s big, because of it’s sporty shape it has very little interior space. We ended up renting a second car so we could move everything. A Corolla, if I remember correctly…a vehicle with more useable trunk space than the back of an FX35, even with the rear seats folded down.

      It also had the worst headlights I’ve seen in years, but that may have been due to some problem with that particular rental vehicle. Never before have I wished for 80’s pop-up Fiero headlights…driving 70^H^H55mph on the highway at night is pretty scary when you can only see about 2 carlengths in front of you.

  • avatar
    Dan

    An interesting take on a 2+2. It looks interesting, the front cabin is wonderful, it has the cargo useability of a hatch. But, as so often now, the option bundling ruins it.

    The 3.5 V6 is underwhelming in a car this big and gaudy. The heart of a $23,000 Altima has no place in a $40,000 two ton luxury sort of sport. The V8 moves and sounds great – which is meaningless because it’s only available with the dual dealbreakers of AWD and bundled everything for upwards of $60,000.

    For most of the model run dealers only stocked the V6, so the V8 is nearly non existent on the used market too. Cars.com shows just 3 within 50 miles against 85 FX35s.

  • avatar
    Wagen

    Such large wheels, such small brakes. Disappointing.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    If my neighbor was Ellen Degeneris, I bet this would be in my neighbor’s driveway. That is the market I see driving this. Professional, mature, empty nester females. Soon to retire white collar ladies.

    Androgynous mature types. Pretty and wealthy.

    If my neighbor was Michael Kors, I bet this would be in my neighbor’s driveway. Elegant, sporty, likes manicures, clean.

    If MIchael Kors and Ellen Degeneris were my neighbors, I would probably have to weed my yard. And have grass. Stop parking on the lawn. You know, the kind of stuff neighbors who would be driving this kind of vehicle would expect their neighbors to do.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    VW’s obsolete Samarkand and Audi’s current 5-spoke A5 turbine wheels are the best turbine wheels in the biz. The ones on these Inifiniti are the worst. Maybe its just me, but I would go crazy when one of them is inevitably turned “backwards” after rotating the tires.

  • avatar

    I think the JX does it a lot better than the Q7.

    I too like the old FX better. It and the G35 were special to me, at the time.

    The craziest thing about the current FX is the stock grilles you can get.

    I love Nissan.

  • avatar
    segfault

    This is way off topic, but speaking of the Juke, I can’t help but wonder how the 1.6 liter turbo from the Juke would work (in terms of both performance and fuel economy) in the Versa, Sentra, or even the Altima and Rogue.

  • avatar
    John R

    Really too bad you don’t get the V8 with this. I’ve always loved this and the previous generation – both far more comely than the X6 (blech).

    “The automotive landscape would be poorer without it. Want the aggressive egg to survive its impending intramural encounter? It needs your support more than ever.”

    Note to self – win lotto buy this and a Lan-Evo X…

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    A coworker I used to car pool with had a fist gen FX35. My observations:
    1. Way to small inside for such a heavy car especially the back seat. I’m six feet tall and my knees were always in the seat in front of me even when it was pulled forward.
    2. Really sucked gas – maximum mpg was 18 mpg highway at 65-70 mph.
    3. Almost no trunk room.
    4. Large tires were horrible in the rain and snow.

    He ended up selling the car about two years later.
    All in all, a nice toy for a sunny, summer day. Not very suited as a daily driver. Panther love would have been a better choice.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      I agree. The FX is so small inside, it’s actually smaller than a Camry, especially at rear leg room. I would say that the FX is more like a Corolla inside. All form, no functionality.

      The smaller EX is about the same in interior room, but substantially smaller in exterior dimensions. So that’s better.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    Those wheels look just…wow…just wow…

    And the fact they’re stock 21 inchers…I wonder how much unsprung weight those puppies add.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I still kinda lust after this bionic cheetah for the way it looks and drives. However I don’t like this new grill and cannot remember a turbine style wheel I think looks good (if it doesn’t work on the Pagani Huayra it doesn’t work on anything).

    Both the petrol engines have also become hopelessly outdated these days. They deliver some sweet power, but the mileage the V6 manages is just unforgiveably poor compared to some of the competitors’ mills that deliver the same power. In Europe you can get this with an almost up to date Renault sourced V6 diesel but then again…doesn’t really feel right to have a diesel in this car. Together with the tiny interior space and the design of the dashboard that doesn’t really convince me I’m afraid it will have to die a slow and unspectecular death (being silently replaced by other models), which is a shame. It deserved better, but Nissan probably thought they could take a few shortcuts cause the people who liked the design would still buy one and in doing so condemned this car to remain a small niche product.

  • avatar
    meefer

    I want to take the current interior and drop it in the old exterior.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    It’s been a long time since I said this about a CUV/SUV… I like it. Damn nice station wagon.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Still ugly after all these years.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    One of the most ridiculous things roaming our roads today. Fugly and without purpose.

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    Michael,

    Do you have any problem with FX’s A pillar? I bang my head against it a few times.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    I won’t cry for the FX if (when) it goes. Infiniti needs to sell cars, not let its designers go off the rails with silly products that don’t actually work in the real world. Here’s an idea – have Infiniti take on the wagon. Not some jacked up useless “lifestyle” product with no room inside. An actual wagon, with Infiniti styling. I’d bet they’d at least sell more than these things.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    Hey Michael, has anyone got their hands on the JX yet?

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    Insert obligatory “Why can’t they just make a G37 wagon” comment.

  • avatar
    LKre

    When I see the second generation, I imagine a brilliant designer, who created the original FX, tiredly yielding to endless pleas of his mentally-retarded brother to let him play a “designer” with the car.

  • avatar
    red60r

    Are the turbine wheels supposed to be functional? Some airflow would assist the smallish brake discs. Your photos don’t show the right-hand side of the car, so it’s hard to tell if the are R/L specific. Rotating tires with directional tread requires them to remain on the same side of the car, rotating only front-rear. If the “turbine” function is real, the car would pull to the right at high speed if the vanes were extracting air out the left side and pulling air in on the right. I had a Volvo 850 T5 that came with angled-spoke (5 spokes @) wheels that were all the same shape, but no aerodynamic consequences were noticable.

  • avatar
    Steve_NM

    I own a 2007 FX35. I got this used about a year ago. I came to this, by choice, after almost 8 years without a car on public transit. Choices boiled down to the FX, a 2008 EX35 or a 2009 CRV after the drawing and stabbing with knives was done with the spouse. In the end, I decided to start putting on the pants again and take the FX35 with all the wife-stress that would come with it.

    The car has certainly met all my expectations and has been ultra-reliable. I was fortunate to get a car that was well maintained by a friend of a friend after they traded in a the 2012 FX35. I could actually have taken a 2009 or 2010 but preferred the first gen styling. When the particular I picked up came on the market with about 15k in warranty left, I snapped it up although it was a 2007. Less cash out of pocket for what I was sure was a well kept car that I hope will be reliable for at least another 4 years.

    I am dreading a fast approaching all round tire and rotors replacement massacre but I knew about those coming in.

    So, the looks are polarizing like it or leave it. I won’t argue that.

    I am in the great white north and consistently get about 18 miles/gallon city. On a 10 day 2500 km Toronto/Poconos/Newark, DE/NY NY trip this last summer, we got 23 mpg which I thought was excellent for a car that is very comfortable to ride in. The 2 kids love the back seat media show. Would never ever have tried to make that trip in a CRV. We enjoy riding in it so much that we plan to make the obligatory Toronto/Disney World Florida migration for the first time this spring.

    All that said though, The car is not for everyone. I have to second JJ’s comment above: I lusted after the car for looks and driving and I do not regret buying it for a moment.


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