2012 INFINITI FX35 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 23, 2012

The 2012 Infiniti FX35 and FX50 look like they sacrifice some practicality in the name of a sexy design and scorching performance—and that's exactly the case.

The 2012 Infiniti FX is a prime example of how sometimes first impressions really do hold true. With its aggressive, curvaceous form and rakish, hunkered-down profile, it's one of the raciest-looking crossover wagons on the market. And it turns out, that's exactly what the FX delivers: Rorty V-8 or V-6 performance, with rear- or all-wheel drive and an attitude much more like a sport sedan than a utility vehicle. Of course, quite a bit of practicality does get sacrificed in the process. 

For 2012, Infiniti has given the FX a new front-end appearance—with a different look to the grille and headlamps, and a completely resculpted front fascia to blend it all together. Otherwise, not much has changed since the FX was last redesigned, for 2009. The design is a bit busy in places, and the metallic ducts just behind the front wheels, in our opinion, interrupt some nice fender lines. With its last redesign, the Infiniti FX also became a bit warmer and more sophisticated, but with the lack of an all-encompassing interface like iDrive or MMI it's also undeniably more cluttered compared to other vehicles in this class (something many will be happy to live with).

Two different models of the 2012 Infiniti FX are offered—the FX35 and FX37—but with the two models looking essentially the same and both offering more than enough power, it's really a matter of whether you want a V-8 and how much money you're willing to spend. The FX35 gets a 303-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, while the FX50 has a 390-hp, 5.0-liter V-8. Both get a new seven-speed automatic transmission, and while FX35 models can be had with either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, FX50 models come only with AWD.

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For most buyers, the V-6 will be plenty fast, and the engine is still among the sweetest V-6 engines around. With either of the engines, the seven-speed automatic shifts quickly and responsively, too. The V-8 is clearly even faster—about a second faster to 60 mph, in about five seconds—but we tend to think that for those who lack unlimited fuel budgets and off-duty-cop status the V-6 version with rear-wheel drive is the sweetest pick of the bunch. AWD models have a somewhat less communicative steering feel, and the FX50 AWD feels (and is) hundreds of pounds heavier. Also, the V-8's gas mileage might be below some shoppers' threshold, at 14 mpg city, 20 highway.

Inside, the FX35 and FX50 are delightful—provided you're in the front seats. Like many sports cars and sport sedans, the FX seems to give those in front good comfort and enveloping support while neglecting backseat passengers (it's surprisingly cramped back there). Cargo space also suffers because of the curvy design and high cargo floor.

All the standard safety features that you might expect here come standard in the FX, and as with most luxury vehicles in this price territory, a number of (expensive) high-tech active-safety options might help you avoid an accident in the first place. Lane Departure Prevention follows lane markings on the road, notifies the driver, and can even apply the brakes lightly, while an advanced cruise control system can bring the FX to a complete stop if traffic slows.

Between the two models, there's very little feature difference at a standard-feature level; the FX50 comes with bigger, showier wheels, but with the new Limited Edition, you can get 21-inch graphite-finish wheels, dark-tinted headlamps, adaptive front lighting, and other extras on the FX35 AWD. The available navigation system comes with a 9.3-gigabyte music-storage feature, and Bluetooth is well-integrated. Other big-ticket tech options include a lane-departure warning system, an adaptive suspension, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, and a navigation system with an especially good display and interface.

8

2012 INFINITI FX35

Styling

The 2012 Infiniti FX models have a racy profile and aggressive road presence, but it's a bit cluttered in the details.

For 2012, Infiniti has given the FX a new front-end appearance—with a different look to the grille and headlamps, and a completely resculpted front fascia to blend it all together.

Otherwise, not much has changed since the FX was last redesigned, for 2009. It looks somewhat like a coupe in profile, and that's the intent. But the design is a bit busy in places; as we see it, the 'rippled' headlight and taillight designs are distracting what's an otherwise clean look, and the metallic ducts just behind the front wheels interrupt some nice fender lines.

With its last redesign, the Infiniti FX also became a bit warmer and more sophisticated inside. It's definitely rich and elegant, but with the lack of an all-encompassing interface like iDrive or MMI it's also undeniably more cluttered compared to other vehicles in this class (something many will be happy to live with).

9

2012 INFINITI FX35

Performance

The 2012 Infiniti FX models are very satisfying to drive, and they handle more like sport sedans.

Two different models of the 2012 Infiniti FX are offered—the FX35 and FX37—but with the two models looking essentially the same and both offering more than enough power, it's really a matter of whether you want a V-8 and how much money you're willing to spend.

The FX35 gets a 303-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, while the FX50 has a 390-hp, 5.0-liter V-8. Both get a new seven-speed automatic transmission, and while FX35 models can be had with either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, FX50 models come only with AWD. For most buyers, the V-6 will be plenty fast, and the engine is still among the sweetest V-6 engines around. With either of the engines, the seven-speed automatic shifts quickly and responsively, too.

The V-8 is clearly even faster—about a second faster to 60 mph, in about five seconds—but we tend to think that for those who lack unlimited fuel budgets and off-duty-cop status the V-6 version with rear-wheel drive is the sweetest pick of the bunch.

Overall, the FX models handle as if they're considerably lighter, and they have a sense of poise and balance on a curvy road that's better than most other SUVs and crossovers. AWD models add some all-weather ability, but beware that the systems still have a rear bias, plus low-profile performance tires, so the FX isn't a great Snow Belt crossover. We've also noted that AWD models have a somewhat less communicative steering feel, and the FX50 AWD feels (and is) hundreds of pounds heavier.

7

2012 INFINITI FX35

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Infiniti FX models have great front seats and opulent appointments; but a lot of utility was sacrificed in the name of styling and performance.

Provided you're in the front seats, the FX35 and FX50 cabins are cozy places for a long haul. The interior is in many ways comparable to that of a sports car or sport sedan, and while it gives front occupants plenty of comfort and enveloping support, it shorts those in the back seat. Cargo space suffers, too, because of that stylish roofline.

In front, the seats are about perfect—nicely padded and somewhat bolstered for curvy roads, also heated and cooled in most models; most will find them great for a long day of driving.

Backseats also are tough to get into with the arch of the roofline in the way, but once you're in, there's just enough space for two adults—though surprisingly little legroom. And for those who plan to carry much cargo behind the backseats—or even the front ones—the FX still isn't a great choice. The back window is limiting, and the load floor is high.

Materials are like those used in luxury sedans, not SUVs, and there are plenty of delicate details, like the soft leather, with criss-cross stitching, for the sport seats.

Ride quality varies depending on which model you choose. In the FX35, it's firm without being at all jarring; but FX models tend to be firmer, to the point that it might be uncomfortable over frost heaves and potholes. Thankfully, unlike Infiniti's G and M sport sedans, the FX's interior doesn't become much noisier on coarse road surfaces.

7

2012 INFINITI FX35

Safety

There isn't much crash-test info to go on, but those who enjoy driving yet want to stay safe will find a good, security-minded feature set.

All the standard safety features that you might expect here come standard in the FX, and as with most luxury vehicles in this price territory, a number of (expensive) high-tech active-safety options might help you avoid an accident in the first place.

Lane Departure Prevention follows lane markings on the road, notifies the driver, and can even apply the brakes lightly, while an advanced cruise control system can bring the FX to a complete stop if traffic slows.

Visibility is of course an issue, as you might guess given the curvy body and thick rear pillars, but it's not as bad as you might think. Since the FX isn't as high as other crossovers and SUVs, so you're more at street level. Get the optional Around View Monitor, and it helps a lot with parking, showing an overhead view of the vehicle.

And there still aren't many conventional ways—like crash tests—to gauge the FX, as it's a relatively low-sales-volume vehicle. But the insurance-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given it top 'good' ratings for frontal and rear impact (although they also didn't test it for side impact).

In addition, the FX35 and FX50 have all the safety features that buyers of this type of vehicle should expect: standard front side airbags, side-curtain bags that protect outboard front and rear passengers, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control.

10

2012 INFINITI FX35

Features

Both 2012 Infiniti FX models come loaded with luxuries, but the tech-savvy will want to add a few options.

Between the FX35 and the FX50, there's very little feature difference at a standard-feature level; but they're both fully kitted-out as luxury vehicles.

The FX50 comes with bigger, showier wheels, but with the new Limited Edition, you can get 21-inch graphite-finish wheels, dark-tinted headlamps, adaptive front lighting, and other extras on the FX35 AWD. Both models come with a power rear liftgate.

Options are limited to big-ticket tech features like a lane-departure warning system, an adaptive suspension, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, and a navigation system with an especially good display and interface. The navigation system comes with a 9.3-gigabyte music-storage feature, and Bluetooth is well-integrated.

5

2012 INFINITI FX35

Fuel Economy

For what they are, the 2012 Infiniti FX35 and FX50 simply aren't very green.

Because of its thirst, the 2012 Infiniti FX models simply aren't very green—and that goes for whether you opt for the FX35 or the FX50. And especially considering the FX's rather cramped interior, it's not a very efficient choice.

The V-8's gas mileage might be below some shoppers' threshold, at 14 mpg city, 20 highway; and all FX models require premium gas.

Based on several different driving experiences, our editors have seen mid to upper teens in mixed driving with the V-6 and low teens with the V-8.

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