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Infiniti Details the FX

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Though sales in the luxury crossover segment are down from 2004 to 2007, Infiniti's hoping for more of the same when it comes to the FX crossover.

More of the same sales, that is. Nissan's luxury brand has been selling about 20,000 FXs a year since it bowed in 2003, and a heavily revised version goes on sale in June to take on an onslaught of new luxury crossovers coming from BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, just to name a few.

It may seem that BMW's new X6 is the prime target for this new FX, but Infiniti execs on hand at the FX's introduction in San Diego this week say nay -- the X6, with a pricetag starting in the mid-$50,000 range, is far and away higher than the Infiniti crossover's base sticker of about $41,000. That base price will be for the V-6 edition, which keeps its 3.5-liter V-6 engine and 303-horsepower output, and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. For the V-8 version, now powered by a 390-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8, the price fully loaded will likely overlap the entry-level X6 at about $55,000.

The V-8 version has 70 more horsepower than before, but actually gets better fuel economy -- 14/20 mpg versus 13/17 mpg for the old FX45, thanks in part due to a new seven-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 sees a similar boost in gas mileage, up to 16/23 mpg with rear-wheel drive, the best figures in its class, Nissan reports.

It may look difficult to tell the new vehicle apart from the previous version, but parked side by side the differences are fairly sharp. The new vehicle has much more interesting surfacing -- particularly at the front fenders, which rise along a new character line that runs from bulbous headlamps to bulbous taillamps. The rear window is much smaller, the front fenders are much more pronounced, and the roofline dips more sharply -- it's far more coupe-like than before.

There are big-ticket electronic options like adaptive suspension, a great DVD navigation system, lane-departure warnings and the like. But it's the big, blingy 21-inch wheels that set the top versions apart. That, and the new fender vents that adopt the trend filtering its way through all the car world.

We'll have more to say on the FX's driving talents after April 23, but it's not difficult to see the new FX maintaining its place in the crossover pecking order -- especially if, as Infiniti predicts, the segment will grow by 50 percent in the next three years.

Stay tuned for driving impressions of the new FX.
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