2009 Infiniti FX35

The driving dynamics of a sports sedan, with all the functionality of… well… never mind

2009 Infiniti FX35

FAST FACTS

1. The redesigned 2009 FX35 uses a more powerful version of the 3.5-liter V6 engine with 303hp and 262 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Thanks to a new seven-speed transmission the FX35 can hit 60 mph in just over six seconds.

3. Modifications to the body and chassis give the SUV a longer wheelbase and wider front track, so it handles even better than the first generation FX35.

4. A $2,350 Premium Package includes impressive quilted leather seats.

With the launch of the new 2009 Infiniti FX line, the more powerful FX50 has been stealing all the headlines, but thanks to many changes the higher-volume FX35 might be all the crossover you need.

In the luxury crossover segment, or any crossover segment for that matter, manufacturers boast about how they have essentially built a truck on a car platform, providing both functionality and driving enjoyment. The Infiniti FX35 then is the epitome of vehicles in this segment as few autos of this size can be tossed around corners like a sports sedan. Then again, the FX isn’t exactly what you might call functional… but we’ll get to that.

A GREAT NEW LOOK

Some might say that the new FX35 doesn’t look all that new, but a list of small (and not-so-small) changes helps this luxury SUV keep up with the times. Out front the SUV gets a new dark-metal-look wave grille and some pointy wrap-around HID headlights. Out back new LED taillights help keep things looking fresh as well.

Our tester featured the stunning Mojave Copper paint and while the whole burnt-copper look has certainly been overdone in the auto industry as of late, it still works on a true “bling-mobile” like the FX. Other nice touches include the satin silver painted roof rails and the chrome front fender vents, which aren’t just for decoration; they actually help reduce front end lift by as much as five percent. We would have liked the optional 20-inch wheels that come in the $2,650 Deluxe Touring package but the 18s still looked fine. And besides, the Deluxe package includes wood grain interior – yuck!

A major change to the exterior of the SUV is that the wheelbase has been extended by 1.4-inches. This might not seem like much, but it means that the wheels sit further to each end of the FX, giving it not only a sportier appearance, but also a sportier drive. And to further assist in the handling department, the front track has been widened by 1.7-inches.

Overall, the small changes make a huge impact and the FX not only looks in keeping with the times, the new bodywork helps reduce the drag coefficient from 0.37 cd to 0.35 cd – which yields a noticeable fuel-economy improvement over time or long distances.

SAME OLD 3.5-LITER V6, BUT WITH ADDED POWER

Under the hood is a familiar 3.5-liter V6, however, output has been increased for ’09. Horsepower has been bumped-up from 275hp to 303hp and torque sits at a healthy 262 ft-lbs. This engine is capable of scooting the FX35 to 60 mph in just over six seconds!

Unfortunately, the engine is pretty thirsty and drinks premium fuel at a rate of 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. A slightly better 23 mpg highway rating is achieved by the RWD model.

While there are some who might have liked to have seen the larger and even more powerful 3.7-liter V6 engine from the G37 used in the FX, using the old 3.5-liter engine has the added bonus of that exhaust note – one of the best in the industry.

Mated to the V6 is a new seven-speed automatic transmission that features a manual shift mode that rev-matches on the downshifts. The FX also features what Infiniti calls Adaptive Shift Control (ASC), which is essentially an electronic system that monitors how you drive and increases or decreases shift times to suite the driver and driving style.

Our tester was an AWD model, which featured Nissan’s ATTESA E-TS AWD system, however a RWD model (only available in the U.S.) is offered for $42,150, compared to $43,600 ($51,800 CDN) for the AWD vehicle.

INTERIOR: OPTIONAL QUILTED LEATHER A MUST-HAVE

Open the door of the FX and slide effortlessly into the cabin and you’ll be greeted by a wide range of amenities. Standard is full leather, dual-zone climate control, an 11-speaker Bose audio system, 8-way power adjustable driver and front passenger seats, a sporty leather power tilt-telescopic steering wheel with integrated cruise control and audio buttons and the Infiniti Intelligent Key with a push button ignition.

Our tester came with the optional $2,350 Premium Package and the $2,850 Navigation Package. Included in the Premium pack are some mighty fine options, including aluminum pedals, magnesium paddle shifters, a Bluetooth system and iPod interface, a two-position driver’s memory seat, climate controlled front seats and, most noticeably, quilted leather seats.

The quilted seats make the single largest difference on the interior of the FX and are a must-have option, bringing the feel of the low $40,000 SUV well up into the $60,000-plus range.

As for the rest of the interior, we had some likes and dislikes. The black lacquer trim looks great and suits the sporty flare of the SUV and we wouldn’t trade it for the more expensive wood-grain for any amount of money. The switchgear did, however, seem to be a little cheap.

Our tester also featured the $2,850 Navigation package, which includes an 8-inch touch-screen, a sonar parking system and Infiniti’s Around View Monitor (AVM) system.

Two option packages, not included on our tester, are the $1,600 Mobile Entertainment package with a ceiling-mounted flip down 9-inch LCD screen and two pairs of wireless headphones and the $2,900 Technology Package. The Tech package includes rain sensing wipers, pre-crash seat belts, Distance Control Assist (which actually does all the braking for you in stop and go traffic) and intelligent cruise control as well as several other impressive safety features like Intelligent Brake Assist, a Lane Departure Warning system (which notifies you when the vehicle is straying from its lane) and a Lane Departure Prevention system that applies brakes on one side of the car to pull it back into a lane if the driver does not respond to the warnings.

Adding all the available packages can raise the price of the FX35 to almost $57,000.

STANDARD SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Even without the added safety features, the FX35 has a long list of safety equipment including four-wheel ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, a tire pressure monitor system, as well as Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system with traction and stability control. The crossover also comes standard with dual-stage front airbags, side air bags and roof-mounted airbags. (At the time of publishing this article there were no available stats on the NHTSA or IIHS crash tests).

FUN, BUT NOT SO FUNCTIONAL

As mentioned at the start of this article, the FX35 is lacking in one key crossover category, namely, cargo space. While room for passengers is excellent, the FX, due to its design, has very little trunk room. Sure, the 24.8 cu.-ft. of space is a decent number, but the shape of that space just doesn’t make it very useful. We don’t want to go easy on Infiniti, but as the FX is designed more and bought more for aesthetics than functionality we can’t say that this trait (or the fact that it only has a 2,000 lb towing capacity) is too much of a strike against it.

As for the fun-factor, the FX35 has it to a degree that very few SUVs do. It sounds great, has lots of power, accelerates vigorously and thanks to some wide tires, good brakes, a four-wheel fully independent suspension and a 53/47 weight distribution, it drives a lot like a luxury sports-sedan.

THE VERDICT

All in the FX35 is an incredible machine and is a great alternative for those who want the look of an SUV with the driving enjoyment of a car. Those who want all that but also need a functional vehicle should, however, consider themselves warned.

We do insist that anyone looking at the FX50 or one of its competitors give the FX35 a try. With a standard engine that really goes and some of the optional upgrades, it is a definite contender in categories well above its asking price.

POSITVE

Fast and fun to drive Impressive optional quilted leather seats More powerful but same great-sounding 3.5-liter engine

NEGATIVE

Awkward cargo area Low 2,000 lb towing capacity Optional 20-inch wheels come in package with wood-grain interior

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