The Infiniti FX presents wild styling with monster wheels. BMW's hottest X5 also comes with 20-inch wheels, but on the curvy FX they look disproportionately larger. The FX35 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, which are larger than what you'll find on most SUVs. Once you get used to the monster wheels, Infiniti's bionic cheetah styling begins to sink in.
The Infiniti design team wanted to blend a substantial SUV lower body with a sleek, elegant upper body more reminiscent of a classic sports car or GT. In other words, the FX is supposed to look like a sports car from the beltline up. It does, sort of.
Its proportions are certainly striking, starting with a wide stance and long hood under the tucked-tight roof. The overhangs are short, exaggerating the distance between its front and rear wheels. An oversized grille greets oncoming traffic, and the bulging hood looks high. A peek underneath the hood suggests it doesn't need to be, as the engine is tucked well below.
For 2005, a darker chrome grille, and darker accents around the headlights and taillights help visually distinguish the FX45 and Sport Package FX35 from the standard FX35.
The engine in the FX sits behind the front axle, giving the base V6 rear-wheel-drive model a near-optimal weight balance of 52 percent front, 48 percent rear; which in turn improves overall handling balance and reinforces the FX's road-burning feel. Even the protruding, stylized taillights have function beyond their looks. The lip of the lights that extends past the rear hatch adds aerodynamic downforce on the rear end, like a spoiler. Order the polished chrome wheels and you will, undoubtedly, have one of the most attention-grabbing SUVs on your block.
When you climb into the driver's seat, you're coddled by the console and instrument panel. It's more sporting and more intimate than you might expect, but it also feels like a tighter fit than you'll find in most other SUVs. The overall impression is of a great luxury sport wagon.
The front seats are comfortably firm, like those in a good European sedan, but the adjustments may require quite a bit of fiddling before you're set (that's why they invented seat memory). The driver's seat allows three inches of vertical travel, so you can perch up high to keep tabs on the rest of the tall SUV commuters around you, or drop down toward the floor for serious driving on challenging roads.
The view over the FX hood reminds us of that in a Jaguar, with the metal sloped and contoured over the headlights and grille. It's the opposite of the squared-off hood of a BMW X5 or Range Rover, as if the FX is trying to tell you you're in a car rather than a truck. The view in the mirrors is not hindered by the fat, sloping rear pillars.
The optional rear-view camera displays an image of what's behind the vehicle on the seven-inch dashboard monitor, with two virtual lines that correspond to the width of the FX. It's a great aid for checking behind the vehicle before backing out of a driveway or shopping center parking space, helping to ensure no people or objects are back there.
Infiniti's designers wanted three separate interior zones intended to meet the needs of various FX occupants, the driver zone, the comfort zone and the play zone. The driver zone is designed to be like a cockpit. The steering wheel and instruments remind us of those in Nissan's 350Z sports car, with a thick wheel rim and big gauges that move with the tilting steering column to optimize viewing angle.
Climate controls and stereo and navigation controls are densely arrayed in the center stack. They look cool, but you have to look at them to operate them. Adjusting a switch requires more attention than we prefer.
The comfort zone is reserved for the front passenger, who gets the same range of seat adjustments as the driver, a separate adjustable center armrest and individual climate controls.
The play zone, the back seat, has personal reading lamps, a center armrest with tray and storage, seatback pockets for storing DVDs and magazines, reclining seatbacks and chest-level air-conditioning vents. The optional DVD player ($1,750) has a seven-inch screen, a remote and two sets of wireless headphones. The play zone is surprisingly comfortable. Three adults fit comfortably in the split rear seats, and the recline feature makes it much more accommodating for taller folk than the rear-sloping roof might suggest.
The FX has plenty of clever storage spots, including a lockable storage box in the center console with enough room for larger items like a purse. The door pockets flip out, and there are three hidden bins under the rear cargo floor. The rear seats fold flat easily with simple levers that are accessible from the side doors and the rear. The sculpted rear hatch pops with an electro-magnetic release. Total cargo capacity (64.5 cubic feet with the rear seat folded) is less than many square-shaped SUVs, but larger than in some others, including the BMW X5. Infiniti says it placed a higher priority on floor space than sheer volume, and the FX has a larger load floor than the X5 or Lexus RX330. Of course, that means its floor-to-ceiling measurement is shorter, as is the size of the opening under the sculpted hatch. At 30.6 inches, the load height is high.
The optional 300-watt, 11-speaker Bose stereo was tuned for the middle-aged mid-life crisis male, and it seems to sound best blaring classic rock at high decibels. Infiniti says it worked with Bose specifically to emphasize bass and treble for rock and roll.
To make life easier for those aging rockers, the FX can be operated without the key. With