Late in January 2003, Nissans luxury division had a pair of remarkably sleek, brand-new crossover sport utility vehicles ready to ship to dealerships. The Infiniti FX35 has a V-6 engine and comes with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Its higher-powered all-wheel-drive FX45 companion carries a V-8. Evolved from a concept vehicle that flaunted a Bionic Cheetah theme, the FX duo seeks to blend sports-car performance with SUV utility.
Like the FX45, the FX35 has a four-wheel-independent suspension and a five-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a manual-shift mode. Borrowed from the Infiniti G35 coupe and sedan, its 3.5-liter V-6 engine produces 280 horsepower, vs. 315 hp for the FX45s V-8. Except for the engines and a few standard-equipment differences, the two models are nearly identical.
Suspension refinements for 2004 are intended to improve ride comfort. Aluminum roof rails and 20-inch chromed wheels are newly available. A Snow-Mode function has been added to enhance traction in slippery low-speed conditions.
More boldly styled than most SUVs, Infinitis twin crossover models have a wide stance and a relatively long wheelbase. A carefully tapered back end evades the customary SUV look. Infiniti promotes the aggressive image of the FX models by noting that the exterior suggests sports-car shapes. Set farther to the rear than some, the cabin has long doors.
Alloy wheels hold 18-inch tires, and 20-inch tires are optional. Built on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, the FX35 measures 189.1 inches long overall and 65 inches tall. Ground clearance is 7.6 inches, and a roof rack is optional.
Five people fit inside the FX35, which features a wraparound-style cockpit with aluminum accents. The steering wheel and gauges move up and down, and the driver uses drilled metal pedals. Rear occupants get a 60/40-split, folding bench seat. Cargo volume is 27.4 cubic feet, which expands to 64.5 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded.
Automatic dual-zone climate control is standard. An optional 11-speaker 300-watt Bose audio system is specially tuned for rock music. A Technology Package includes a DVD-based 3-D Birdview navigation system, a rearview monitor and intelligent cruise control. A DVD entertainment system is optional.
Under the Hood
The 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine produces 280 hp and 270 pounds-feet of torque; it mates to a five-speed-automatic transmission with manual-shift capability.
All-disc antilock brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control, roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags, electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist are standard.
You only need a few minutes behind the wheel of an FX35 to realize that Nissans claim of near-sports car handling talents is nearly true. Far more than most SUVs, the FX35 grabs hold of the pavement and retains that grip tenaciously, even through demanding mountain curves and grades. Turning the wheel is a pleasure. Unlike some vehicles, the FX35 performs just as masterfully as its luscious looks suggest.
The FX35 exhibits masterful performance, taut handling and a satisfying ride, as the suspension manages to absorb a healthy share of roughness. Acceleration is so eager that one begins to question the need for a V-8.
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