Toyota launched their luxury arm (known as Lexus of course) here in South Africa, oh I don’t know, about ten years ago now and have enjoyed a fair amount of success; taking the fight to well-established luxury brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes.
But it’s not only the Corolla that has a series of more refined half-siblings. Nissan too has a mistress that goes by the name Infiniti – and they specialise in voluptuous luxury models for the higher end of the market.
I recently had a week with their big SUV, the FX, and on first impressions alone the FX is likely to attract more attention than anything else in its market. And that’s because it’s actually quite unlike any other SUV, sporting a long flowing bonnet, high shoulder line and coupé-esq profile. Then there’s the styling, which combines smooth rounded bulges with sharp distinctive opposing lines. It’s not to my taste personally, however a vast number of people commented on how great the FX looks, so perhaps I’m in the minority.
Hop inside and things are somewhat more familiar that the left-field styling. Mostly everything is nicked out of Nissan’s Murano along with a few of their other higher end offerings. This of course means that the FX suffers from a button overload on the dashboard, leaving things cluttered and at times somewhat confusing. Aside from this, and some cheap plastics here and there, it feels comfortable and luxurious with plenty of toys and a mammoth sound system by Bose.
Taking a look over the stats of the FX 30d S leads one to the impression that it’s pretty brisk. Sporting a 3.0 litre turbo charged diesel unit that was first used in the Navara, the FX enjoys 175kW and more importantly 550 torques. I say more importantly because the FX tops the scales at 2.2 tons, a fact you quickly come to notice when moving off the mark at a set of traffic lights. The combination of massive weight, the diesel powerplant and a sluggish seven speed automatic gearbox leads me to doubt the claimed 0-100km/h time of 8.3 seconds. A series of successive pull offs in traffic also leads me to doubt the claimed urban fuel consumption figure of 11.2 litres per 100km (since I only managed 15).
Once on the move however things do improve significantly. The FX gathers momentum with absolute ease and displays impressive handling characteristics for such a giant lump. The steering is nicely weighted and quite precise, while the active suspension and intelligent all-wheel drive system work hand in hand to minimise body roll and keep power on the road.
In fact the all-wheel drive system is so clever it deserves special mention. A central clutch distributes torque between the front and rear axles, constantly adjusting from up to a 100% rear bias to a 50/50 split between the two axles, maximising grip on slippery surfaces. In dry conditions there’s actually a rear-wheel drive bias which gives an unexpected element of sportiness.
Adding further to that element of sportiness is the active rear wheel steering system. Unlike conventional passive rear steering systems, Infiniti’s technology features precise, electric motor-driven control to turn the rear wheels as much as one degree, helping with a tighter turning circle at low speeds and better stability at high speed.
I’m left somewhat confused by my experience with the FX. There’s a vast amount of intelligent technology hidden underneath its quirky exterior that I can greatly appreciate. However the drivetrain is too much of a let down by comparison to anything German for me to seriously consider it a contender.
Price: R 748 767
Engine: 2993cc V6 turbo charged diesel
Power (kW): 175
Torque (Nm): 550
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 8.3
Top Speed (km/h): 212
Fuel Consumption (l/100km): 9
First published in Autodealer KZN
And Merry Christmas…