2009 Infiniti FX50S

The Infiniti FX50S is an interesting creature. Its tubby bulbous body and angry sports car headlamps and grill seem to be at odds with each other. Is this a soft luxury SUV or a rip-snorting powerhouse? After spending a while in the driver's seat, we've come to the conclusion that it's a little of both and a little of neither.

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Slightly athletic FX50S

From the front-quarter view, the FX50S is slightly athletic. Its flowing body lines have an underlying muscularity that is not immediately apparent from the front.

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FX50S side view

From the side, there's a bit of a sports car profile in the FX50S' elongated hood and dramatically sloping greenhouse--albeit one that's much taller than any sports coupe or sedan. Big, 21-inch wheels fill the wells nicely and provide plenty of grip for this high-speed heavyweight.

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Large rear end

Does this SUV make my butt look big? There's not much that Infiniti's designers could do to hide the FX50S' gigantic rear end. Angry taillamps mirror the angry headlamps.

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FX50S' rear end

The high beltline and sloping roofline don't leave much room for window glass. As a result, the FX50S' rearward visibility is among the poorest we've tested. Thankfully, there's a plethora of advanced safety tech to make up for it.

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Storage space

The FX50S' power liftgate reveals plenty of space for cargo. If more space is needed, the privacy tray lifts out and the rear seats fold flat, creating a downright cavernous cargo hold.

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5.0-liter V-8

Here we have the 5-liter V-8 enumerated in the FX50S' namesake. Sending 390 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque to all-four wheels, this power plant propels the very heavy FX50S forward with a force that belies its weight.

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Interior

Step inside the FX50S and you'll find a luxury interior. Black leather, piano black finishes, and a wood finished center console show that the FX50S is more than just a big brute. It's a big brute in a tuxedo.

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Transmission

Putting power to the four corners of the FX50S is Infiniti's seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and rev-matching downshifts. The manual shift mode's utility is limited by a vague redline and an aggressive fuel cutoff that makes approaching the FX50S' limits a scary proposition.

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Active suspension

When you equip the FX50 with the Sport package (making it an FX50S), you get the continuous damping control suspension. Leave the system in Auto mode and it will constantly monitor driving conditions and your driving style and adjust the suspension accordingly. Flip the switch to Sport and you'll lock the system in its most aggressive configuration for the best handling, but the worst ride harshness.

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Steering wheel

The FX50S' chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in the hand and features controls for cruise control, the audio system, Bluetooth hands-free system, and voice command.

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Paddle shifters

Just behind the steering wheel are steering column mounted aluminum paddle-shifters with leather trim.

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Instrument cluster

The instrument cluster features crisp, white illumination and a red, monochromatic multifunction display that shows a wide range of vehicle information.

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Center stack

The center stack is finished in a piano black and features three very clearly defined zones, from bottom to top: climate control, audio control, and multifunction display area.

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CompactFlash slot

Way down at the bottom of the center stack is this CompactFlash slot which can be used to import music onto the Infiniti's 9.3GB of hard drive space dedicated to music.

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Around View Camera

Put the Infiniti FX50S in reverse, or hit the Camera button at low speeds, and the Around View Camera comes online. The AVC is actually a system of four cameras facing downward and two cameras pointing fore and aft of the vehicle. When the computer stitches the four images together, you get a bird's eye view of what's happening around the vehicle.

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Infiniti hard drive navigation

The Infiniti hard drive navigation system is quick and responsive with very crisp and attractive graphics. The system features XM NavTraffic, but the subscription had run out on our tester. We found that we used the knob controller more than the touch screen, partially because it was closer, but mostly because it's extremely intuitive.

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Destination entry

The FX50S features an extensive point-of-interest database and lets you efficiently search, or input a known address, with the knob controller or the voice command.

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Points of interest

When the vehicle is in motion, the point-of-interest search will only show the first five entries in a limited number of categories. Stop the vehicle and you'll be able to view a more extensive list of destinations. This keep drivers from getting too distracted while the vehicle is moving, but allows them to find simple things--such as a gas station--quickly.

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GPS

We found the Infiniti GPS system to be quite accurate, with quick rerouting when we found ourselves off course.

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Fuel economy info screen

The multifunction display also shows information about fuel economy (current, average, and historical) and vehicle maintenance information.

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Audio playback

Pop in a CD and you'll be treated to the sounds of the Bose premium audio system. With 11 speakers, including two subwoofers, there's plenty of bass response without distorting the clean highs and mids. Here we also see the Record button for ripping music to the hard drive.

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Safety features

There's a veritable alphabet soup of stability and safety features that help keep this 490 horsepower hippopotamus glued to the road.

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Rear seat entertainment

The rear seat entertainment comes in the form of a nine-inch flip-down, ceiling-mounted LCD display, which blocks what little rearward visibility the driver had before.

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Center console

DVD playback for the rear LCD is handled by this center console mounted single-disc player. The center console is also home to the iPod connector and the RCA audiovisual inputs.

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