2013 INFINITI FX37 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 23, 2013

The 2013 Infiniti FX makes bank with its good looks and sport-sedan performance; if you're seeking gas mileage, back-seat and cargo space, and all-weather traction, keep seeking.

Sheetmetal can lie, but the Infiniti FX doesn't tell fibs. The look is coupe-like, and so is its performance.

So how does that affect what it's actually supposed to be--a crossover utility vehicle? The quick answer is that It makes the FX a flawed, but enormously fun car to drive. One with not a lot of back-seat or cargo space.

At first glance, the FX is the best example of its kind, the usually awkward marriage of a fast, sleek shape and a tall-wagon body. It doesn't work on the BMW X6, but the FX is mostly a success. It's low, sculptured, with a roofline that drops quickly once it clears the front doors. There's some excessive detailing in the lighting and on the front fenders, but on the whole, it's a shape that's still fresh and intriguing five years into its current look--even longer on the same general theme. The same's true for the cabin, which doesn't lack for buttons or switches, but mutes the clutter of switchgear with rich finishes like available quilted leather and subdued wood trim.

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Whether you choose the V-6 or the V-8, the FX has startling acceleration--especially when you consider its chunky curb weight. The V-6 is upgraded this year from 3.5 to 3.7 liters, and from 303 to 328 horsepower, which nets a mild gain in gas mileage--not the FX's strong suit, still. It's quick enough to rip off 0-60 mph times in the six-second range, but if that's still not up to snuff, the 390-hp V-8 will cut that by about a second. A rev-matching seven-speed automatic is the only transmission, and it's at its best in sport mode. Shift quality isn't quite as seamless as the latest eight-speed ZF boxes, though. All-wheel drive is an option on the FX37, standard on the FX50, and it's a significant penalty in weight and gas mileage. Handling is the FX's forte: "for a crossover" hardly applies to its quick, more natural-feeling steering and very firm ride that gets choppy as wheel sizes rise from standard 18-inchers on base models.

Inside, the FX37 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. A surround-view camera system is one of Infiniti's most useful new tech pieces, with its 360-degree view of the parking space around you.

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 FX37 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.

With the FX, Infiniti has a smart character actor. It needs more like it--the lineup is a little shy on star power, compared to the broader offerings at Lexus, Mercedes, and Audi. It's not right for every role--but when it is, the FX can be perfect. 

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2013 INFINITI FX37

Styling

A crossover with coupe-like style, the Infiniti FX is a rare styling success in that awkward niche.

Coupe-like and curvy, the Infiniti FX is as far from any SUV styling themes as the two-door G37. It's a crossover, sure--but it sure doesn't look like one.

Last year, the FX's front end was updated with a new grille and headlamps, a subtle update that marked the first real change since today's model was introduced in 2009. Change is something the FX hasn't needed: its smooth take has stayed fresh, probably because its few rivals haven't succeeded in pulling off the same cross-over appeal. (BMW X6, anyone?)

It's not that the FX is a complete styling success--busy details clutter a few surfaces, especially in the distracting surfaces molded into the taillights and headlights, and the ducts cut into the front fenders. It's that the FX is still nearly alone in its niche. Only the Range Rover Evoque cuts the utility shape into such an interesting new pattern, and it's angular where the FX is bulbous, organic.

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).
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2013 INFINITI FX37

Performance

The Infiniti FX runs like a sport sedan, and if you pass up the biggest wheels and tires, it's a decently plush ride, too.

Poised isn't a word we write too often when talking about crossovers. The Infiniti FX (next year, the Infiniti QX70) is different. Related to the G37, the FX can't help but feel more composed, and more content to tackle the road than the duller utes at other luxury brands.

Though it's near the end of its current model life, the FX merits a new engine this year, with the old 3.5-liter, 303-horsepower V-6 yielding its space to a 3.7-liter, 328-hp six shared with other Infinitis. As the Nissan/Infiniti V-6 has grown in displacement, it's grown a little less tame, and there's slightly more noise and vibration than you'd find in a similarly sized six in, say, the Lincoln MKX. Power's never in question, though: it's still among the sweetest engines around, and it's plenty quick, with 0-60 mph times in the 7.0-second range.

A seven-speed automatic with a sport mode and rev matching--and on V-8s, paddle shift controls--is the only gearbox, and its sport mode and paddles are in step with the FX's aggro personality. Left in D, the FX doesn't go out of its way to snap off downshifts until you're more than a quarter-deep into the throttle--where it lets out a rasp and leaps forward with some mild shift shock. It's easier to drive more smoothly using the semi-manual controls.

Adding all-wheel drive to the six-cylinder also puts on a couple hundred pounds, and weight's already the FX's archenemy. It may be the only crossover of its kind where we imagine how much better it would be if it dropped 300 or 400 pounds.

Closer yet to the sporty-coupe borderline is the FX50, shod with Infiniti's 390-hp, 5.0-liter V-8, the seven-speed automatic, and standard all-wheel drive. For most buyers, the V-6 will be plenty fast, but the V-8 is clearly even faster—about a second faster to 60 mph, in well under six seconds. Still, we tend to think its appetite for premium gas and for vacuuming up speed limits will make the FX37 the default choice.

Despite the chunky curb weight (4,200 pounds minimum), the FX crossovers 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. All-wheel-drive 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.

Ride quality varies depending on which model you choose. In the FX37, it's firm without being at all jarring, though opting for the 20-inch wheels over the standard 18-inchers can induce some real ride harshness. The FX can get very choppy on urban interstates, where pavement junctions don't always meet eye to eye. Thankfully, unlike Infiniti's G and M sport sedans, the FX's interior doesn't become much noisier on coarse road surfaces. The FX50 offers an adaptive set of shocks along with an active rear-steer system, which come with 21-inch wheels; they add cost and complexity, and don't necessarily net the major handling gains to justify either.

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2013 INFINITI FX37

Comfort & Quality

Skimpy back-seat space and a shallow cargo bin undercut the appeal of the FX's snug-fitting front seats.

For the primary passengers, the Infiniti FX is a swell place to pass long road trips. If you're in back, here's hoping your genetic lottery ticket drew all small numbers.

The FX's strong, sporting slant does great things for its sense of style and for its handling, relative to other crossovers. What it doesn't provide is lots of spread-out space, the kind you can easily obtain in leather-lined appliances priced much lower. It's sporty-car snug in places, though in front the FX37 and FX50 have firm, enveloping seats with a fair range of adjustability and with heating and cooling in most versions. They're great for a long day of driving, and the seating position itself is low enough to ease entry and exit.

The FX shorts itself in the back seat. They're tough to get into, with the arch of the roofline getting in the way. There's just enough head room for medium-sized adults--a pair of them, not more--but leg room is skimpy. Folding the seats forward yields more cargo space, but the bin's small to begin with, and the cargo floor is high. The standard power liftgate does soothe the sting of not being able to cart home half the big-box store. 

Delicate details are the surprise inside the FX, akin to those used in luxury sedans, not SUVs. The leather is soft and quilted with subtly colored stitching, and the assembly quality of almost every version we've driven has been excellent. The paint finish? Orange peel describes an uneven look in the painted surfaces, and some dark colors on the FX show plenty of rind.

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2013 INFINITI FX37

Safety

We're sold on the Infiniti FX's AroundView monitor, but we wouldn't mind more crash-test data.

Safety scores aren't complete, but the Infiniti FX has some promising ratings from at least one agency's crash tests, and it doles out safety technology on par with its luxury-ute status.

As of this writing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) still hasn't wrecked an FX yet--for official purposes. Since it's a relatively low-volume vehicle, that's to be expected. However, the insurance industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the FX is worthy of a "good" rating for front and rear impacts, while it hasn't yet tested it for side impacts or roof strength.

The FX's mandatory airbags and stability control are joined by more standard safety tech, including Bluetooth and a rearview camera, which we include because of different state and pending federal rules. The FX lineup also offers Infiniti's AroundView camera system, which mounts fisheye lenses on the underside of its outside mirrors and on the nose and tail of the vehicle. The results are stitched together and displayed on the dash's LCD screen for a 360-degree scan of the surroundings. It's a feature we've used for a few months now in our Three-Month Road Test Infiniti JX, and it's exceptionally useful for parking in narrow garage and parking lot spaces. It's optional on the FX37 and standard on the FX50.

Though the camera system includes audible warnings for objects approaching when backing up, the FX doesn't offer blind-spot monitors to keep an eye on things when you're cruising.

Other safety options are bundled in packages. There's 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 an issue, of course, 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, your lines of sight fall closer to street level. The pint-sized rear glass doesn't help much, though.

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2013 INFINITI FX37

Features

Awash in technology, the Infiniti FX has quilted leather, a sunroof, and surround-view cameras, too.

Few luxury features escape the orbit of the lunar-looking Infiniti FX (or next year, the Infiniti QX70). Nonetheless, this year's swan song under the FX badge brings back a Limited Edition piled with even more standard stuff, above and beyond the usual power features, leather interior, multifaceted premium audio system, a power tailgate, and connectivity tech.

The Limited Edition is based on the V-6-powered, all-wheel-drive model. The key bling it brings is a set of 10-spoke, 21-inch wheels with coordinating roof rails and a custom white paint and grey interior. It also gets Infiniti's well-done navigation system as standard equipment, along with its integrated 9.3GB of music storage, and the AroundView camera system, which outputs a 360-degree view of surroundings from lenses mounted in the mirrors, nose and tail.

The Limited Edition's wheels are available on the FX50 as an option. Other packages bundle features such as adaptive cruise control, adaptive suspension, sport suspension tuning, a lane-departure warning system, and adaptive headlamps.

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2013 INFINITI FX37

Fuel Economy

The FX fares poorly in gas mileage, by EPA standards and by our own real-world driving experiences.

The Infiniti FX (soon to be the Infiniti QX70) isn't one of the shining stars of gas mileage. By the EPA's numbers--and subjectively gauging its cozy interior against bigger, more efficient luxury crossovers--it ranks near the bottom of the back for fuel efficiency.

With the newly adopted 3.7-liter V-6, the numbers improve a little over last year. From last year's FX35, the FX37 rear-drive ute moves up from an EPA-rated 16/23 mpg to 17 miles per gallon city, 24 miles per gallon highway, or 19 mpg combined. Those numbers are in line with many seven-seat crossovers--and the FX more comfortably seats four.

Adding all-wheel drive pushes the figures down to 16/22 mpg or 18 mpg combined--a 1-mpg increase on the highway cycle.

The V-8's gas mileage might be below some shoppers' threshold, at 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, or 16 mpg combined, in the range of the seven-passenger Mercedes-Benz GL. 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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