2009 Infiniti FX50

Is bigger better?

2009 Infiniti FX50
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FAST FACTS

1. The all new 2009 FX50 replaces the FX45 and gets a 5.0-liter V8 engine with 390hp and 369 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Thanks to a new seven-speed transmission the FX50 is capable of 0-60 mph runs of just 5.5-seconds.

3. The FX50 comes standard with 21-inch Enkei wheels and upgraded brakes.

4. A Sport Package is offered with continuously damping shocks, sporty front seats with pneumatic bolsters and an innovative rear active steering system.

Having just stepped out of Infiniti’s FX35, I slide myself into the FX50 and I begin to wonder why the more powerful version costs almost $15,000 more (especially when the two vehicles only differ in price by $8,000 in Canada). The interiors of the two SUVs are almost identical – that is, if you happen to have the $2,350 Premium Package on your FX35 that comes with quilted leather seats (which are standard equipment on the FX50).

Not that I’m knocking the interior… it’s actually very impressive. You feel like you’re in a sports sedan and all that quilted leather is impressive. Unfortunately wood trim comes standard on the FX50 and just looks out of place in the modern cockpit, compete with drilled aluminum pedals and magnesium paddle shifters to rifle through the seven-speed automatic transmission.

The interior of the FX50 continues to impress with standard equipment that includes full leather, a dual-zone climate control system, an 11-speaker Bose audio system, 8-way adjustable power driver and passenger front seats, a sporty leather steering wheel with integrated cruise control and audio buttons and the Infiniti Intelligent Key with a push button ignition. (Essentially all standard FX35 gear).

The FX50 also comes standard with a power tilt and telescopic wheel, climate controlled heated and cooled front seats, a 2-position driver memory seat, an 8.0-inch LCD screen with Navigation, Infiniti’s Around View monitor (an optional extra in Canada) and a Bluetooth handsfree system.

All these options retail as the $2,350 Premium Package and $2,850 Navigation Package for the FX35.

My FX50 tester also came equipped with the $2,900 ($3,500 CDN) Technology Package, which includes a long list of safety and convenience features. In the convenience category are rain-sensing wipers (which really should be standard on all FX models), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) that maintains the distance between a vehicle ahead, and Distance Control Assist (DCA). DCA essentially works like adaptive cruise control but at low speed so that you can drive in rush hour traffic by just operating the gas pedal. The FX will automatically keep a distance between you and the next car, even slowing the vehicle when necessary.

In terms of the safety features in this package, the list includes pre-crash seatbelts, Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) that will notify the driver of an object or pedestrian in the vehicle’s path before and ultimately engage the brakes if the driver does not react.

A final safety system is the combined Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) system and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system. LDW notifies you if you are straying out of a lane and if you go too far or do not react in time the vehicle will apply a slight amount of brakes to the opposite side of the vehicle to bring it back into the lane.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I ever felt the vehicle apply the brakes but on narrow roads or even while cruising on the highway the system went off a fair number of times. I found it irritating in many circumstances, however, that really is the point, as it is designed to prevent accidents caused by driving fatigue.

One package not included on my tester was the $3,000 ($3,500 CDN) Sport Package that includes Continuous Damping Control self-adjusting shocks with Auto and Sport modes, adaptive front lighting with auto-leveling headlights, sportier front seats with thigh support and a four-way pneumatic bolstered driver’s seat. The system also features Infiniti’s innovative rear active steering that works with the sophisticated ATTESA E-TS AWD system to deliver maximum safety and performance.

All said and done, when you consider the FX50 comes with standard equipment that costs $5,150 on the FX35, then the difference between the two models is whittled down to $9,600.

WHAT YOU’RE PAYING FOR: V8 POWER

So what else do you get for all that cash? How about a significantly larger 5.0-liter V8 engine that increases power output from 303hp to 390hp. Torque for the hefty V8 is rated at 369 ft-lbs.

Personally I was surprised to discover that I preferred the V6 equipped SUV. Sure it wasn’t quite as powerful, but it felt like power delivery was more linear. The V8 also made the sporty luxury crossover feel more truck-like. The V8 engine does add a bit of weight to the vehicle and gives it a slightly worse front to rear weight balance of 54/46.

Acceleration with the FX50 is an impressive 5.5 seconds to 60 mph, and is faster than the 35’s still-impressive low six-second run. It’s also roughly the same time (if not a little faster) than the $71,000 Porsche Cayenne GTS.

Where the V8 really seemed to shine, however, was in highway passing, where it showed an impressive amount of grunt in the higher gears.

As for the sound, the V6 is, again, surprisingly louder under throttle with a nicer sound. The 5.0-liter does have an awesome start-up growl and a noticeable V8 wop-wop-wop as the engine turns over.

Regardless, the V8 is a necessity for those who would otherwise only look at a German SUV… and I really do think they should give this a try, as well as the V6 model - even though they probably wouldn’t buy it just because its not a V8.

WHAT YOU’RE ALSO PAYING FOR: 21-INCH WHEELS

Other than the V8 engine, the other big-ticket upgrade on the FX50 is the wheels. At each corner you and everyone you pass while crawling along in rush hour traffic can’t miss the stunning 21-inch Enkei wheels.

Infiniti has also equipped FX50 models with a brake upgrade, featuring four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers. And of course the FX has ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.

Despite the insistence that the wheels are ultra lightweight and that the brakes are more powerful, initial pedal feel isn’t as confidence inspiring as on the FX equipped with the standard 18-inch wheels. Still, the stopping distance from 60 mph is rated at around or under 120 feet… an impressive number indeed!

NOT SO FUNCTIONAL

Much like the FX35, the 50 suffers from a lack of functionality. Sure it’s great for hauling your kids around, but cargo space is awkward and the overall cargo volume is not indicative of how much you can (or can’t) fit in the back. As for towing capacity, the FX50 has what seems like a decent amount of pull, with a 3,500lb rating, but German competitors range from 5,000 lbs to over 7,000 lbs of towing capacity.

As for fuel economy, the FX50 gets a rating of 14/20 mpg (city/highway) a better than average number, considering the performance.

THE VERDICT

With a long list of standard features that are offered as options on the FX35, the FX50 is really only distinguishable by its V8 engine and 21-inch wheels. Personally, I felt the drive to be less engaging that the V6-equipped model, as it felt more like a truck than a sporty crossover. Still, without the V8 the FX model doesn’t have a chance of winning-over German-buying customers. The V8-powered FX50 has impressive power and performance statistics and is a great-looking alternative to German SUVs.

POSITVE

Big and powerful V8 engine
Impressive standard quilted leather seats
Stunning 21-inch wheels

NEGATIVE

Awkward cargo area
Low 3,500 lb towing capacity
Exhaust note not as impressive as V6 model

Related Reading
2009 Infiniti FX35

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