- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

Don’t buy the 2009 Infiniti FX50 if you don’t want to be looked at.

The Infiniti FX50 is outrageous in so many ways that it’s difficult to know where to start, but the science-fiction appearance typically is the starting point for the shock-and-awe effect the FX50 has on folks.

The FX50’s techy-but-weird visual cues would serve Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner.” But turn your head the right way, place it in an epoch before the age of machines, and the FX50’s snortier lines and sometimes garish grandeur could carry Russell Crowe into battle in “Gladiator.” This is no exaggeration — the FX50’s styling is out there. And people notice. They’ll have to put their eyeballs back into their sockets a second time when you blast away from the stoplight.

The hypersensitive throttle hardly was necessary, given the 390 horsepower the FX50’s sweetheart of a 5.0-liter V-8 generates. The crossover’s seven-speed automatic transmission is about as sophisticated as you’ll find in any ground transportation. You can shift it yourself if you insist — the best reason being to sample the rev-matching feature that automatically blips that bounteous 5-liter’s throttle on downshifts like Jimmy Garner in “Grand Prix” (and we’re done with the film analogies).

Good thing the FX50 comes standard with Infiniti’s electronically governed all-wheel drive or all that V-8 rip surely would wear out the car’s traction-control transistors.

In addition to having a lot more motor, the second-generation FX50 flaunts an interior that’s emphatically upgraded. The old innards weren’t bad at all, but the FX50 AWD presents some wonderful materials and gorgeous detailing. The instrument cluster and all-controlling navigation-system screen are among the industry’s best designs.

The FX50’s quasi-coupe styling comes at a price, though: There’s a scandalous lack of interior space. Up front, there’s really nowhere clever to place your pocket change or cell phone.

Rear-seat headroom is marginal, but the real joke comes from the shockingly scanty cargo area. With the rear seats up, the FX’s cargo envelope is 24.8 cubic feet. For perspective, the little Honda Fit subcompact car gives 20.6 cubic feet.

The FX’s cargo-area tightness is enhanced by the moderately handy pop-up organizer affixed to the luggage floor with very grabby Velcro and some devilish hook system I couldn’t release. The encyclopedia-thick owner’s-manual packet also is Velcroed back there, too, because there’s no room for it in the aptly named “glove” compartment. All this jail-cell cramp, it’s my job to call out, in a 4,575-pound trucklet with more than 9 feet between the front and rear axles.

The FX50 is Infiniti’s showcase for a list of cutting-edge “driving-aid” systems that would have been at home on Lockheed’s build sheet for the Stealth Fighter.

• The Distance Control Assist feature eases your tension in stop-and-go traffic by pressing back on the accelerator pedal to “suggest” when you’re getting too close to the vehicle ahead. If you let off the accelerator, the system also will automatically brake to keep a safe distance.

• A camera watches the lane markings, warning you if you stray from your lane. If you don’t correct your lapse, it will selectively apply the brakes on the opposite side to bring the FX back in line.

• An “automatic” braking system using an infrared laser sensor to warn if you’re approaching an object too quickly. It won’t fully stop the car, but will brake hard to minimize the impact if it’s unavoidable.

The Infiniti is priced as ambitiously as a box seat at new Yankee Stadium with an as-tested price of $67,775. But the FX50 AWD’s rarity and inimitable panache makes it one of the market’s more intriguing statements for those at a life stage with minimal space requirements - for either children or luggage.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009

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