Whether the Infiniti FX's bulbous curves can be considered beautiful is debatable, but one thing we know for certain is that--in FX50S trim--it certainly is imposing. With muscular front fenders, a large dark chrome grille, and a pair of the most aggressive headlights we've ever seen on an SUV, the 2009 Infiniti FX50S prowls the streets looking like an angry hippopotamus on 21-inch wheels. Before you laugh, there's something you should know about the hippo. It is one of the most aggressive animals in the world, and is often regarded as the most dangerous animal in Africa and can prove quite agile and powerful when provoked. Surprisingly, despite its stocky shape a hippo can quite easily outrun an Olympic sprinter.
The same goes for the FX50S. With its mighty 5-liter V-8 and continuously damping controlled suspension, when equipped with the Sport Package, this is one big SUV that will surprise you with its speed and nimbleness. Put the seven-speed automatic transmission into the Sport mode or slap the paddle shifter for a rev-matched downshift, and the FX50S will throw you back in your seat as it rockets forward with a roar.
The FX50S isn't all power and brutality. Inside the cabin is a surprise of a different kind, with luxurious leather trim and a very advanced cabin tech packages.
Test the tech: Easiest parking ever
Moving the shifter into reverse activates a plethora of safety features. The side-view mirrors tilt downward to allow for a better view of the road. The reverse camera comes online along with the FX50S' most interesting feature, the Around View Monitor. Essentially, the AVM consists of four images from cameras positioned on the front and rear bumpers and the side-view mirrors, which are stitched together by software to create a real-time bird's-eye view of what's happening around the vehicle. The result is incredible.
The AVM is a technology that is absolutely necessary with the FX50S' extremely poor rearward visibility and high front fenders. Using the camera, we were able to perfectly maneuver the FX50S into very tight parking spots. The system can also be called up when the vehicle is moving forward with the touch of a button, although it automatically deactivates at speeds faster than 10 mph--a speed at which you probably should be looking up anyway. We can see the AVM as being useful for avoiding small pets and children who may wander into the vehicle's path as it moves into and out of a driveway or garage. The view can be changed to a close-up view of the front or passenger-side camera for delicate jobs such as parallel parking or easing into a garage. While in these views, guidelines similar to those in the rearview camera show the vehicle's position and trajectory.
The addition of standard sonar-based proximity sensors should keep you from smashing into garage walls or other vehicles, if you are not paying attention to the mirrors and cameras. The system sounds audible beeps if you get too close to an obstruction, increasing in frequency as you get closer. With multiple systems informing the driver of the immediate surroundings of the FX50S, it should be one of the easiest vehicles we've ever parked. Were it not for the FX50S' odd power steering making parallel parking difficult, it would be.
In the cabin
Describing the 2009 Infiniti FX50S' cabin is like naming a laundry list of nearly every bit of luxury and cabin tech available today. Starting with entry and egress, the FX features Nissan/Infiniti's Intelligent Key system, which lets you lock and unlock the doors without removing the key from your pocket; simply press a tiny button on the door handle while in range with the RFID smart key. Once inside the vehicle, it can be started with the touch of a button.
The driver's seat, door panels, and dash have been wrapped in black leather with silver and piano black trim pieces for accent. The seats are eight-way power adjustable and include power lumbar support, heating and cooling, and--with the Sport Package--power adjustable back and thigh bolsters. Once you've got your seat set up to perfectly match your backside, up to two positions can be stored. The top-of-the-line FX50S comes standard with Infiniti's hard-drive navigation system, which features XM NavTraffic and voice recognition. The voice recognition system is very easy to use, allowing the entry of addresses with natural speech, meaning you can just say "Broad Street" instead of having to spell "B-R-O-A-D." The system also allows the search of point of interest categories, but when the vehicle is in motion, you're only given the five nearest choices in a category, for example the five nearest gas stations or hotels.
When the vehicle is stopped, you're able to access more robust options, such as searching for specific points of interest. Typing is handled by either touch screen or Infiniti's cool rotating controller, which spins like a knob and features directional buttons. Interestingly, we were able to input addresses more quickly by spinning the knob to select letters than we could hitting the screen. The Infiniti's auto-complete feature also made short work of city names and common street names, greatly increasing our entry speed.
Audio from the 11-speaker (including 2 subwoofers) Bose system fills the cabin with clean, powerful sound. Highs and mids are clear and free from distortion. The bass can be felt as well as heard. Audio sources include the MP3/CD player, AM/FM/XM stereo, and the auxiliary input. Our tester was equipped with the standard interface system for iPod, but the 30-pin dock connector dongle was missing, so we weren't able to test it. An available 9.3GB of hard-drive space for audio storage and a dash mounted CompactFlash slot round out the available audio sources.
A Bluetooth hands-free system is standard on the FX50S and pairs quickly with phones via a series of onscreen prompts. Call quality is clear, thanks in part to the fantastic Bose system. We were able to seamlessly transfer a long phone call back and forth from the handset to the Infiniti's system without the caller noticing a drop in call quality between the systems.
A ceiling-mounted 9-inch flip-down display keeps backseat passengers entertained with DVD movies fed into a center-console-mounted DVD player. Two sets of wireless headphones keep the action from distracting the driver.