| First Drive | Provence, France | Infiniti FX50 |
Infiniti is finally coming to Europe and Britain will be getting the model line-up mid-2009. With an entire range already to go Infiniti will hit the ground running and with its FX50S it is likely to have many established performance SUV rivals ducking for cover.
In the Metal
The Infiniti FX50S is simply a stunning-looking machine. It looks quite unlike anything else you've ever seen: part Manga comic character, part running shoe with a touch of SUV and fastback thrown in there for good measure; if you want to be seen, then you need this car. There's an almost comical look to its proportions, the body looking like it has been stretched over the impossibly wide track, wheelbase and massive 21-inch alloy wheels. The detailing is just as appealing, with the front lights recessed into the bodywork and the rear items protruding from it. There's movement and tension to its surface too, the likes of which isn't available anywhere else in the SUV class. On looks alone Infiniti's rivals should be worried, particularly in a marketplace that's driven by fashion.
What you get for your Money
With sales not starting in the UK until mid-2009 pricing for the FX50 is provisional. Expect to pay in the region of £55k for it though, that buying you one of the best-looking SUVs around, powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine. Specifications are comprehensive; at this level you get leather everywhere, satnav as standard and premium audio. Active rear steering, 'intelligent' All-Wheel Drive, continuous damping control and a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters are all also standard. Being the range-topper, the FX50 gets trick kit like Infiniti's Around View Monitor - which you might just need given the size of it.
Infiniti is making a big deal about the FX50S being the lightest SUV in its class, it featuring numerous aluminium body panels to keep its weight down. At the same time, that massively wide track and the double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension give the FX50S remarkable ability in the bends. Continuous damping control allows the FX50S to shrug off bumps and gives great body control without being detrimental to the ride. That's even more impressive when you consider the fact it rides on massive 21-inch alloy wheels.
For something so large the FX50S feels supremely agile on twisty roads. The only limiting factor is its width, which makes overtaking a sometimes fraught affair, while at town speeds width restrictors will put the fear of god into all but the most spatially aware drivers. The 5.0-litre V8 gives the FX50S excellent pace, using its 384bhp to propel the FX50S to 62mph in just 5.8 seconds and onto an electronically limited 155mph. Mated to a smooth seven-speed automatic that can be manually over-ridden by paddle shifters, the FX50S is a hugely quick and capable SUV, that's more than capable of taking the fight both dynamically and in raw performance terms to the Europe's best SUVs such as Porsche's Cayenne
and BMW's X5
Infiniti has been a long time coming to Europe and part of that has to do with getting the package completely right from the outset. The styling and performance is certainly there, as is the interior quality. There are a few hints to its Nissan parentage, but otherwise the FX50S's interior is a demonstration of brilliant fit and finish throughout. There's not a huge amount of space in there given its footprint though - rear passengers will find the privacy glass and tight rear seats a touch claustrophobic while the boot isn't particularly spacious either. A CO2
emissions rating of 310g/km and 21.7mpg on the official combined cycle aren't brilliant, either.
It's been a long time coming to Europe and still a good few months before we'll see the official Infiniti FX50S in the UK, but rivals should be worried when Infiniti's 14 centres open here. The promise of exclusivity and performance allied to those look-at-me lines are certain to ensure that Infiniti sells as many FX50s in the UK as it can get its hands on.