This column is for folks who fancy diamonds on a Rolex, opt for the penthouse suite at a Ritz-Carlton, and ask for hot fudge on their “Death-by-Chocolate” ice cream. In other words, it’s for people who appreciate more of a good thing.
Those of you who are more practical than indulgent — whose skeletal systems lack even a single decadent bone — might soon wonder why I’m making a fuss over Infiniti’s 2012 FX50.
But those who enjoy driving and appreciate vehicles that enhance the experience will get it. I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Nobody is going to buy an FX50 for basic transportation. They’ll buy it because they want more power, more luxury and more high-tech features than anyone actually needs in a vehicle.
Call the FX50 a “more-mobile.”
And call it a hoot to drive. Yeah, I initially cringed whenever the test car passed filling stations with four-buck-a-gallon gasoline. Plan on paying 15 to 30 cents a gallon more to quench the FX50’s thirst because it is designed to run — and not particularly far — on premium fuel. The EPA estimates the FX50 will travel just 14 city or 20 highway miles on a gallon of high-test.
Mash the gas pedal, however, and the pain goes away … or rather it is replaced by a state of automotive bliss. The 5-liter, aluminum V8 under the FX50’s sinuous hood is a beast. Prod it and it snarls, propelling the 4,560-pound FX from a standstill to 60 mph in just 6.6 seconds.
No, wait. That’s the 0-60 time for the FX50’s more affordable sibling, the FX35. That model is powered by a 303-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6.
The FX50’s V8 is generates 390 horsepower and 369 pounds-feet of torque. Its extra power propels it to 60 more than a second quicker than the FX35, which in its own right is pretty quick for a crossover.
The FX50 also has more handling chops than is customary in a crossover, particularly one with approximately 7.4 inches of ground clearance.
Standard all-wheel drive and 21-inch aluminum-alloy wheels wearing wide, low-profile 265/45R21 tires contribute to awesome grip in everyday driving and a decent toehold even on wet roads.
A beefy steering wheel connects the driver to a speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system that delivers sport touring sedan-like feel, feedback and control.
The FX50’s cornering tenacity and poise shouldn’t come as a big surprise given that it is based on the rear-wheel drive architecture found in Infiniti’s high-performance G-line sedan and coupe.
Nevertheless, finding this kind of handling prowess in a crossover is still unexpected.
Perhaps the test car’s performance was enhanced by a couple of features that were part of its optional Sport package: Rear Active Steer, which enables the rear wheels to turn in response to driving conditions and in conjunction with the front wheels, and Continuous Damping Control, which can automatically stiffen or soften the ride according to driving conditions and driver input.
The test car was bristling with other high-tech features, including Intelligent Brake Assist and Lane Departure Warning and Prevention systems. The former can apply maximum braking power when it senses an impending collision. The latter not only warns when the FX50 is about to stray into an occupied lane, but can control the steering to prevent it.
Both of those features were part of an optional Technology package, but every FX50 bristles with standard high-tech goodies. These include a seven-speed automatic transmission that learns driving patterns, climate-controlled driver and front passenger seats, and a voice-activated navigation and entertainment system.
Also standard is my favorite Infiniti feature, a backup camera system that displays a 360-degree overhead view of the vehicle.
What you won’t find in any FX50 is a ton of passenger or cargo room. There’s no seven-passenger seating option, and the second-row seat is a little tight for three adults. Second-row legroom and cargo volume with the rear seats occupied aren’t generous either.
I didn’t mind because the FX50 delivered beyond expectations in areas that matter more to me. I haven’t yet tested its closest competitors, Acura’s ZDX and BMW’s X6, but for now the FX50 delivers more performance, tech and overall driving fun than any crossover I’ve driven.
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