In late January 2003, Nissan's luxury division began shipping a pair of remarkably sleek, brand-new crossover sport utility vehicles to dealerships. The Infiniti FX35 has a V-6 engine and either rear- or all-wheel drive. The more powerful FX45, which is listed separately in the cars.com Research section, has a V-8 engine and comes only with all-wheel drive.
Both models have a four-wheel-independent suspension and a five-speed-automatic transmission. The FX35's 3.5-liter V-6 produces 280 horsepower, while the 4.5-liter V-8 in the FX45 produces 320 hp.
The FX's grille, bumper and wheels have been revised for 2006. All models add a 300-watt Bose audio system and a RearView Monitor. Leather seating surfaces, heated front seats and mirrors, and a 10-way power driver's seat with memory and power lumbar support are now standard in the FX35. A power tilt/telescoping steering wheel is also included.
Infiniti's FX models are more boldly styled than most SUVs. They have a wide stance, a relatively long wheelbase and a long hood. A tapered back end defies the customary SUV look. Infiniti promotes the "aggressive" FX image by noting that the exterior suggests the shape of sports cars. The cabin has long doors.
Newly styled 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 roof rails are optional.
As many as five occupants can fit inside the FX35, which features a wraparound-style cockpit with aluminum accents. The steering wheel and gauges move up and down as a unit. 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.
Electroluminescent gauges are new for 2006. Options include a DVD-based navigation system, a DVD-based entertainment system and intelligent cruise control.
Under the Hood
The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 280 hp and 270 pounds-feet of torque. The five-speed-automatic transmission features a manual-shift provision.
All-disc antilock brakes, the Vehicle Dynamic Control electronic stability system, side-impact and side curtain-type airbags, active head restraints for front seat occupants, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are standard.
You need just a few minutes behind the wheel of the FX35 to realize that Nissan's claim of near-sports-car handling is virtually true. The FX35 holds the pavement far better than most SUVs and maintains 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 sleek profile suggests.
The FX35 also exhibits exemplary performance, taut handling and a satisfying ride; 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.