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Review: 2013 Infiniti FX50S

Kamil Kaluski September 10, 2012 Featured, Infiniti Reviews 17 Comments

Infiniti offers four SUV/CUV vehicles: the EX35 which I found to be too small to be a proper family vehicle, the FX which we’ll look at now, the JX35 which is a great family vehicle with a not-so-great power-train, and the huge QX56 which is amazingly comfortable and handles surprisingly well.

My first experience with the FX was when in 2003 when I rented one in San Francisco. I was surprisingly smitten by the then new vehicle, complaining only about rear visibility and fuel economy. In the ten years since then the FX has undergone an evolutionary update, but does it still have what it takes to smitten me?

Many question why people like vehicles such as the Infiniti FX, BMW X6, and the Porsche Cayenne. After all they’re neither proper SUVs, wagons, or sport sedans. They try to be all those things yet do none really well. The answer is in the compromise; they do each of these things just well enough to offer the buyer 80% of they would want in a truck, a wagon, and a luxury sporty sedan, and that’s good enough for most people’s daily use.

Interior:

The dash layout is a standard Infiniti fanfare, good but with room for improvement. Top-view parking assistance cameras offer much needed confidence in tight spaces as visibility over the long flat hood and small rear windows isn’t great. Overall the quality not only feels top-notch but also feels like it will stay that way for years.

The front seats wouldn’t be out of place in an M Packaged BMW; supportive, comfortable, and adjustable in many ways. The headrests, even with active head restraints, don’t beat you around the back of the head like those on Fords, for instance. Heat and ventilation in seats is a luxury must-have these days and is present here. The rear bench seat is equally nice, heated too, but lacks slightly in the leg room department, a victim of styling-over-functionality design, but it’s not bad.

Driving:

It’s a heavy (4557 lbs) all-wheel-drive wagon-y thing, and as long as you keep that in mind and respect physics and local laws, you’ll find the FX50 to be just delightful. Really, take it on a twisty hilly road such as the Merritt Parkway and you’ll have a hard time picking between this and a 3-series killer de-jour.

The suspension is a nice compromise between sport and comfort, swaying more to the sport side. Part of the S package in this FX50S is a selectable shock setting that actually makes a difference and four-wheel-steering which I didn’t know was there until I returned the car back to Nissan.

The 2013 FX50S has a 390hp V8 mated to an seven-speed automatic transmission. The good news, which be a function of more power, that unlike the V6-powered Infinits I drove, this vehicle does not seem to tuned for maximum fuel economy. There is power available at all times: low-end power, passing power, and simply more power on-demand power than needed in most road situations. The obvious disclaimer is that this is still a heavy wagon-y thing and, no, it wouldn’t make a good track car.

Conclusion:

The base rear-wheel-drive Infiniti FX35 starts at $43,700. The fully-loaded FX50S pictured here came with a price tag of $67,000. Woofa, that’s a lot of money, until you consider its competition. The two most direct competitors to the FX50S are, in my opinion, the BMW X6 xDrive50i and the Porsche Cayenne S. When comparably equipped those two vehicle surpass the price of the FX50S quite substantially. While I wouldn’t argue about the price of a badge, I would argue about which actually drives better.

The FX is not a vehicle for everyone. It’s a vehicle for those who prefer a really nice sporty do-it-all vehicle which also happens to look pretty (in my opinion). In this package come great dynamics and a very nice interior. The new FX has retained all of what I liked in the original, but the fuel economy has improved even with the eight cylinder engine. Call me smitten-ed.

 

  • But is it better than a SRT-8 Jeep?
    http://hooniverse.com/2010/03/31/suv-showdown-inf

    My wife really, really likes the styling of the FX Infinitis. I would rather have the Jeep. I need to see another SUV Showdown.

    • Jeff's SUV showdown is my favorite article on Hooniverse…ever.

  • Cadillac CTS-V Wagon base price is $64,515…

    But this is the ONLY Infiniti I find pleasing to the eye.

    • Maymar

      The Cadillac's available with three pedals and has the lower CoG – makes it an easy choice for me.

      Although, the G's not a bad looking car either – I'd love to see one with the V8 shoehorned in.

  • Number_Six

    Let's face it, people buy these overpriced basketball shoes for one reason: to sit up high like a big boy. It's easier to feel all aggressive and self-important when you're looking down at the plebs in their wimpy little normal cars. These things are shit in the snow (as are X5's and Cayennes) and the owners are the kinds of people who crawl over the smallest of speed bumps, which tells me they have zero interest in any off-road capability the vehicle may (but doesn't really) have.

    /buy a wagon or buy an off-roader rant

    • BobWellington

      Wow, somebody's mad. Not sure how these are bad in the snow. I drove a 2000 2WD Expedition with all season tires (not super smart, but we drive up to Canada from Georgia every winter) in the snow with no problem, I think one of these would be pretty decent. Now, I myself, would rather have a nice wagon over this, but this isn't that deplorable of a vehicle. Some people need to get over the fact that a lot of people like crossovers.

      • jeepjeff

        If you are driving a 2WD Expedition in the snow with all-season tires and posting here, you might just be a better than average driver.

        Do you ever chain up those rear wheels?

        Here in California, there are three levels of road restriction for snowy conditions:
        R1: Snow tires, chains or other traction device on drive axles, except 4WD/AWD with M/S tires
        R2: Chains or traction devices (snow tires no longer good enough) on drive axles, except 4WD/AWD with M/S tires
        R3: Chains required on all vehicles, no exceptions.

        R3 is never used in practice. If the road is that bad, they close it off. This means that having an AWD or 4WD vehicle in the Sierra Nevada in winter is a huge advantage, because you never have to put chains on. The reality is, safety compensation takes over, and people with AWD vehicles, 18"+ rims, rubber band M/S tires and three open diffs drive around like they're invincible. They get stuck in stuff that doesn't cause me to blink. They do impromptu pirouettes in traffic and generally make the locals grumble about out-of-control four-by-fours. The luxobarges driven by the Northwoods Tourists are the worst. The FX50 is definitely a stereotypical vehicle for these folks, although the Lexus GX and LX seemed to be the most popular choice.

        • BobWellington

          No chains. We don't have the Expedition anymore, either. Sold it with 315,000+ miles on it with no major repairs, original engine and trans. We were in some pretty bad snowy conditions with it (nothing with very deep snow, though), but careful driving certainly pays off.

          I agree with you about people having too much confidence, but all things equal, a car like the FX50 should be pretty good in snow. Snow requires very light inputs and extra amounts of smoothness, and a lot of people have trouble driving cars in rain, so it's not too surprising to see idiots strewn across ditches in the winter.

          I actually witnessed a crash for the first and only time for me so far in the winter up there. It involved an idiot trying to get across multiple lanes and another idiot driving too fast to even have a chance to brake. It was pretty minor, though, since the snow allowed them to have less friction. ha

          • jeepjeff

            I believe it made 315k with no major problems. Ford makes some great drive trains.

            You're right the magic is careful driving and light inputs. I watched someone drive a TransAm up an 11% grade on a couple inches of packed ice and snow. There was a little bit of fish tailing, but only a little bit. I was impressed. I still prefer my Jeep for snow duty.

            I think part of the problem is that even though vehicles like the Infinity FX often only have LSDs and lockers as options, they all have ABS controllers with TC built in, and selective computer control of individual brake calipers can go a long way to making up for open diffs. This lets your sports CUV feel only modestly less capable in the snow (my Jeep with an all mechanical driveline, no center diff and an LSD in the rear almost feels like it has better grip on snow than pavement). This lets you drive confidently way past your brakes. Which leads to moron-in-a-4×4 billiards, as you described. In some ways it's nice to have a vehicle that feels like it can handle only as well as it can brake in the snow (I still prefer my Jeep, but I know where the line is, and the extra traction is great in 6" of untracked snow).

            EDIT: Looks like the FX doesn't have a center diff. It's got a transfer case with an electro-hydraulic actuated clutch pack on the front output and a diff on the front axle. The ABS and the transfer case are controlled by the same computer, so the traction control system has at least five control points on the car: the four brakes and the clutch pack. This should be pretty impressive on soft stuff (as noted in the SUV face-off). However, better in this case does mean: better able to corner past the braking capability…

            • FuzzyPlushroom

              Yeah, if Expeditions manage to avoid shooting spark plugs, they're pretty bulletproof. It's mostly rust and resale value that gets 'em, in my limited experience.

              For the record, the best snow car I've encountered was an Outback with mediocre all-seasons – went through a foot of white crap like nothing, and stopped competently with its ABS. My five-speed 850, on good tires, was second. Limited ability, but you knew exactly what it could do, and could slip the clutch and start in second as needed.

    • They're as good or bad in the snow as anything else. Tires and the driver are key factors. But I'm the guy who spend years driving RWDs in New England on snow tires. FWIW, a see a ton of FWD and AWD cars and CUVs/SUVs on snow tires around here… sometimes even in July. 🙂

      These types of vehicle begin to appeal to more and more as I get older, busier and a little bit fatter.

      • jeepjeff

        Yeah, I guess the definition is relative. Mine is something along the lines of "can you make through snow up to your differentials?" But when I encounter snow, I am often trying to escape a mountain storm before the plows have gotten out. In a city that gets covered in snow for 4-5 months out of the year (well, not last winter, that was freaky), ground clearance and maximizing traction isn't as big of a deal.

        Once the car can move forward in the given conditions, the biggest factor is always the driver, you're right. (I'm still young and stupid. I'm sticking with my 2-door discomfort-mobile.)

    • lzaffuto

      You're looking at it the wrong way. This is a giant hatchback with a V8 and RWD/AWD. Although I might be biased as an owner of an EX35. I owned a Mazda 3 five door… my EX is about the same size in and out and is just as practical, but the Mazda didn't have RWD and 300hp and wasn't based on the platform of a 350Z. IMO, NOBODY is buying these thinking they are off-road capable. They are fun-to-drive sport sedans with a more practical hatchback instead of a trunk.

  • That car has a big fanny.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      Using British definitions, the driver may very well be a big fanny.

  • There are a lot of reasons to hate this car, but many of them melt away from behind the wheel.

    Feels like a more honest interpretation of "Modern Muscle Car" than the Challenger: big, loud, fast, kinda dumb and really fun.