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Review

First Drive: Infiniti FX30d GT car review

11/05/12

THE REASONS for never having heard of Infiniti are fast running out, and not just thanks to the company’s continued sponsorship of the Red Bull Formula 1 team.

The cars are turning heads in the industry, with the FX premium SUV at the sharp end of Infiniti’s assault on markets dominated by the big three German brands. Around 70% of all Infiniti cars sold are FX models, making it their bread and butter.

It’s still a relatively new brand to Britain, only having launched across Europe in 2008. But being new it doesn’t have any established patterns that it needs to follow or conservative customers to placate. It means the company can do things exactly the way it wants to.

Motorsport is at the heart of what Infiniti wants to be about, and the FX is positioned as a particularly sporty sports utility vehicle. It’s targeting a younger audience than most of its rivals, and is more aggressively styled. Its 2012 facelift is more of a mild front end tweak, since the company’s own research shows the main reason people are buying the FX is for the way it looks, closely followed by how much standard kit it has.

While it’s priced in line with its German rivals it blows them into the weeds for standard equipment. And not just by a little bit. The comfort-biased GT and sports-focused S equipment lines both come full to the brim with technology.

As standard all FX models have 20- or 21-inch wheels, clever Scratch Shield paint that ‘heals’ light scratches and swirl marks, front and rear parking aids, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control with extra vents in the rear, real wood trim, leather seat facings, electric front seats, keyless entry and starting, a power tailgate and heated, ventilated front seats.

Providing masses of luxury kit as standard is one of the pillars Infiniti is building its cars on. If you upgrade to either GT Premium or S Premium and enjoy the multimedia and trim extras that come with them, the only cost option is metallic paint. Everything else you could wish for is standard.

The vast majority of UK FXs are sold with the 235bhp 3.0-litre diesel under the expansive and curvaceous bonnet. It’s no slouch, shoving the 2.2-tonne car to 62mph in 8.3 seconds and topping 130mph on the autobahn, but with care it returns over 30mpg.

There are also two petrol options; a relatively lightweight 3.7-litre V6 that produces 316bhp and helps drop the car’s weight to just over two tonnes, and finally a thundering 5.0-litre V8 with 385bhp.

The latter is the flagship and sounds beautiful; the volume and tone just perfect for the car. It gives impressive pace and has a useful swell of midrange torque, but you’re unlikely to see the claimed average of 21.6mpg very often.

The limited edition FX50 Vettel Version, designed in part by double F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, links a tweaked version of the V8 with a special sports exhaust that produces one of the best noises you’ll find coming out of any car anywhere.

Back to the standard FX though, and its cabin is a haven of modern style. Some might feel there are a few too many buttons too close together, but you do get used to the layout. The instruments are clear and engaging, suggesting more vigour than those of some of its rivals. There are lots of little touches like that but it all adds up to a very different-feeling product.

The standard suspension on the GT and GT Premium is a little more consistent than the variable Continuous Damping Control setup on S and S Premium models, which although offering increased cornering stability, sometimes feels like it can’t make its mind up as to how it wants to react to bumps.

There are a few niggles of course, and most are with the seven-speed automatic gearbox. Its reluctance to change up is especially noticeable in the diesel, leaving you trundling along in traffic at around 2,000rpm when it should have shifted up long before. It’s supposed to ‘learn’ your driving and shift accordingly, but it’s not completely convincing.

The same goes for the top end, where it should up-cog no later than 4,000rpm, but it hangs on until 4,500rpm and loses momentum. The steering column-mounted shift paddles can partially overcome it but the shifts could still be quicker and crisper. Seventh gear could do with being taller, too, but none of this is really a big deal for the FX’s target audience.

All in all it’s a very interesting car with a mind-boggling kit list and a generally tight driving experience. It’s a sizeable beast and will do everything that buyers want a large SUV to do, whether it’s motorway cruising or urban supremacy. Of course it’s not cheap, but the value it represents even before you consider the exceptional Infiniti sales experience is mightily impressive.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Infiniti FX30d GT, £46,865 on the road.

Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel producing 235bhp and 406lb.ft.

Transmission: 7-speed automatic gearbox driving all four wheels.

Performance: Top speed 132mph, 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds.

Fuel economy: 31.4mpg.

CO2 rating: 238g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy2 (worse than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups2 (higher than average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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