Tag - Infiniti

Thrifty Thrust — Lexus CT200h vs. Kia Optima Hybrid vs. Infiniti M35h


Photos courtesy of Infiniti, Lexus and Kia media relations.

It's hard to believe that more than ten years have passed since the introduction of the Prius--a car which either revolutionized the vehicular landscape for the better or, alternatively, represented the beginning of the end for automotive enthusiasm, depending on who you ask. Over the past decade, hybrids have made their way into just about every segment, and while production hybrid sports cars aren't quite here yet, several manufacturers have tested the waters of marketing hybrid vehicles to the enthusiast crowd. Honda did it first with the Accord Hybrid back in 2005, if you'll recall, and the result wasn't pretty. While very few critics disliked it, it was outwardly identical to regular Accord, and boasted a heavier, more complicated, more expensive powertrain that returned only marginally better gas mileage than the V6 on which it was based. Oh, and the engine interacted with the stereo. That was kind of a big deal back then, though if you lurk on any BMW-friendly message boards, you know it's still kind of a big deal now.

Sporty hybrids have come quite a long way since the aforementioned Accord, and now that they've come into their own a bit, we feel it's time to give them a good, solid look from an enthusiast perspective. In this post, we'll take a look at three hybrids marketed to enthusiast buyers--the Kia Optima Hybrid, the Infiniti M35h, and the Lexus CT200h--and rank them from least to most attractive from a driver's standpoint. I know what you're thinking. Hybrids? On Speed:Sport:Life?  Fear not, my friend. We're not here to figure out which cars are the best at being hybrids. That's for other people. We're here to determine which hybrids are the best at being cars--fun cars. We’re somewhat infamous for doing money-no-object comparisons in the past, and this will be no different, but the point here is to figure out whether any of these greenwashed go-getters hits the enthusiast sweet spot. And with that, let's jump right in. Third place: Lexus CT200h. We start with our least favorite. If you've been reading SSL for a while, you know that I had great things to say about the refreshed Lexus IS F last year. With the bar thusly set a bit high, I welcomed the opportunity to check out their new hybrid hatchback. Here, unfortunately, the news is not so good. Let’s start with the positives. While our CT tester lacked the F-Sport suspension and tire/wheel package, its relatively compact size and diminutive curb weight makes it the most nimble and lively of the bunch. It may lack the Infiniti’s brash, hybrid pony car attitude, but it makes up for it with agility. The fantastic seats back up the CT’s sporting credentials, representing the only truly conventional sporting aspect of the interior. But while the Lexus is the lightest of the tested hybrids at ~3,200lbs, it's also the least powerful by a significant margin. With a power plant sourced from the Prius, the CT only boasts 134 ponies--72 fewer than the mid-pack Kia and 226 shy of the beastly Infiniti. To make matters worse, the parallel/series hybrid arrangement of the Prius also carries over, so not only is the car lacking in power, but it delivers it sluggishly and noisily. It’s not a pleasant sort of noise either, as anybody who is used to CVT-style NVH can confirm. There’s no rumbling or purring here, just a harsh blarble of constant-RPM engine noise set against vibration from the drivetrain. And while this combination of low power and a hyper-efficient drivetrain makes it a great hybrid, it doesn't do much for the fun factor. It’s no surprise that Lexus makes the best hybrid here (we averaged 40mpg on the dot in mixed driving), but the best performance hybrid? Afraid not. Like the original 2008 IS F, a great deal of potential is wrapped into this somewhat middle-of-the-road first effort. The chassis is promising and the ride is almost perfect, but the power delivery is a disappointment. Here’s hoping that Lexus can work the same magic they did on the refreshed IS F and bring us a second-effort CT that really hits it out of the park. Second place: Kia Optima Hybrid

If you’re familiar with my earlier evaluation of Kia and Hyundai’s latest efforts, then you already know that I came away relatively impressed satisfied by the Optima and Optima Turbo. For better or for worse, that formula carries over to the Optima Hybrid. Everything we expect form the Optima is here—an attractive, functional interior (with a few too many buttons for my taste, but nothing out of control); great exterior styling; sporty suspension tuning (compared to the Sonata, anyway) and great power delivery. Like the big Infiniti, the Kia mates a traditional step-geared automatic to its electric assist system. While this makes it less potent as a hybrid, the more conventional drivetrain setup is a little more inviting to performance drivers. Sport and Economy modes for the hybrid system provide different throttle and electric power delivery settings, but in the real world, don’t actually seem to make a big difference in fuel economy. One black spot on the drivetrain is the gear selector. Manual mode feels very vague, resulting in missed shifts after a bump of the selector doesn’t quiiiiite make it to the sensor. A mild frustration, but a notable one. And on that subject, the overall fuel economy of the Optima Hybrid didn’t exactly blow me away. Between myself and another contributor, we weren’t able to do better than 33 or 34mpg in a handful of commuting arrangements varying from around 75% city to almost 90% freeway, and this in a car rated at 35mpg city and 40 on the highway. As a hybrid, I must admit, the Optima doesn’t really impress.

As an enthusiast car, however, the Optima fares much better. The roughly 200hp combined from the hybrid system made the Optima much more satisfying to drive than the Lexus, even with nearly 3,500lbs to haul around. Here, my friends, is a mainstream hybrid sedan that quite adequately gets out of its own way. Toyota’s latest Camry has moved in this same direction, so the gap to their Synergy Drive systems isn’t nearly as big as it once was, but the added thrust is welcome in a segment that was until quite recently dominated by rather sleepy offerings. There’s one last thing which carries over from the original Optima, and that’s the steering calibration. This was part of the 15% or so of the original which we found fault with. It’s not awful, but it’s just not there—the type of system where you find yourself constantly correcting the car’s trajectory on the highway. Part of this is likely down to the tire selection, but honestly, it’s just not something I can get my head around. So while the Optima represents an excellent effort and a breath of fresh air for the hybrid family car segment, unfortunately for the Kia, it’s not quite enough to take on our favorite of the current performance hybrids. First place: Infiniti M35h

I know what you’re thinking: The Infiniti won because it’s the most expensive, most powerful, and most luxurious. Hold that thought, though, because that’s not the point. The Infiniti wins because it’s so much like its V8-powered stable mate that it almost-allllmost makes the M56 obsolete. Let’s start with the numbers: ~360hp, some ungodly amount of torque (Infiniti doesn’t advertise its total system torque output, but it has to be somewhere between 300 and 450lb-ft), and 4,100lbs. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s got the grunt to back it up. The M Hybrid will crack off 0-60 sprints in under 6 seconds, making the Optima’s mid-8-second runs feel lethargic and the CT’s 10-second figure look positively pedestrian. It’s an unfair comparison to be sure, but it’s necessary for context. Here’s some more: A ~5.5-second 0-60 run in the M Hybrid makes it only a half a second slower to 60 than the M56 we tested last year (a gap that it maintains through the ¼ mile). That’s not just adequate, folks. That’s quick. And the fuel economy? Our best average in the M56 was ~20mpg. The Hybrid? 27mpg, no matter how we drove it. That’s a 35% improvement over the V8 in exchange for a 10% drop in acceleration. So how does it drive when the wheel isn’t pointed straight? Quite well, in fact. The hybrid-friendly, all-season tires did little to subdue the M’s already tail-happy attitude. Getting fully crossed-up when turning onto a highway from a stop prompted grins from passengers (and this driver, of course) and cross-eyed looks from passers-by. The M35h cannot be had with the M37 or M56’s sport package, so you have to make do with the 18” wheels and standard suspension, but since Infiniti tunes their vehicles' ride and handling a lot more aggressively than some of their competition, the Hybrid’s chassis doesn’t feel like a compromise.

Where you do have to compromise is the transmission. Like the Optima, the Infiniti uses a traditional automatic, and like the Kia’s, it’s a bit awkward to use with sporting intentions, and even with all that power and torque available, it’s easy to get lost in the M’s 7 gears. And while the Infiniti’s interior is by far the most comfortable and attractive, it’s not the most sporty. The seats are big and soft, the dash very decadent and expensive-looking, but nothing really screams sporty. The nod goes to the Lexus here. So yes, I may have confirmed all of your expectations so far, but here’s the kicker. The Infiniti doesn’t win because it’s the most powerful, the most expensive and the most luxurious car we tested. In fact, the Infiniti wins because it’s fun, fast, and surprisingly, a very good value. The M35h costs less than the M56—$5,500 less, to be precise—despite delivering nearly-identical performance. That’s no insignificant chunk of change. Consider for a moment that the Optima Hybrid carries a $600 premium over the base Turbo model—a car with which it can’t possible compete on performance—and the value proposition of the M makes more sense. Yes, the M35 Hybrid is expensive. As it has been said, in this, as in all things, context is king.   Lexus CT200h Premium: Base price: $30,900 As-tested price: $36,725 Fuel economy (observed): 40.1 mpg Kia Optima Hybrid: Base price: $25,700 As-tested price: $31,750 Fuel economy (observed): 33.6mpg Infiniti M Hybrid (M35h) Base price: $53,700 As-tested price: $65,645 Fuel economy (observed): 27mpg

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Female Pink Viagra For Sale, Consumer Reports released their 2012 Top Picks and automotive Report Card today. The highlights?  Toyota took home five of the ten Top Picks, Subaru scored all As, Mazda is the comeback kid and Ford stumbled over their own new tech, Female Pink Viagra reviews. Snippets of the press releases are available after the break. For the full releases, Buy cheap Female Pink Viagra no rx, check the PR Newswire ticker on the right side of the page, or go here: http://www.speedsportlife.com/prn-feed/.

Five Toyota Models Named Consumer Reports' Top Picks; First Time in Nearly a Decade One Brand Has Dominated

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YONKERS, N.Y., Female Pink Viagra alternatives, Feb. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the competition grows stronger with each passing year, it has been increasingly difficult for a single automaker to dominate Consumer Reports' annual Top Picks list, Female Pink Viagra For Sale. This year, Toyota is the first brand to earn half of the top 10 spots in nearly a decade.

The Top 10 Picks By Category:

FAMILY SEDAN: Toyota Camry Hybrid ($29, no prescription Female Pink Viagra online,052). In addition to its impressive 38 mpg overall fuel economy, Female Pink Viagra online cod, other high points include a comfortable ride; a roomy, quiet, cabin; fairly quick acceleration; and for 2012, a nicer interior and somewhat crisper handling (although the Camry is still no sports sedan), Female Pink Viagra photos.

SPORTY CAR: Ford Mustang ($28,880 to $43, My Female Pink Viagra experience, 880). Female Pink Viagra For Sale, The heart of this iconic sports car has always been its strong acceleration and rumbling V8 power. But now there's more to the Mustang than power. Agile handling, a decent ride, online buy Female Pink Viagra without a prescription, comfortable front seats, and very good fit and finish make the current version an inviting package. Effects of Female Pink Viagra, The Mustang delivers good fuel economy (22-24 mpg) for its class.

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AFFORDABLE FAMILY SEDAN: Hyundai Sonata ($21, Female Pink Viagra pharmacy, 800). CR chose the four-cylinder Sonata as a more affordable alternative to the Camry Hybrid. The Sonata provides a roomy, well-equipped cabin, Female Pink Viagra recreational, supple ride, nimble handling, Is Female Pink Viagra safe, and thrifty 27 mpg overall, for just a little bit more money than many small sedans.

FAMILY HAULER: Toyota Sienna V6 Female Pink Viagra For Sale, ($35,810). The Sienna fits the bill nicely for families looking for a comfortable, roomy interior, buy Female Pink Viagra no prescription, plenty of features, and the ability to carry up to eight people. Where to buy Female Pink Viagra, Among its high points are lively performance, decent fuel economy (20 mpg), and a comfortable ride, although the handling is rather lackluster, Female Pink Viagra street price. It's the only minivan that has at least average reliability.

SPORTS SEDAN: Infiniti G ($34, Get Female Pink Viagra, 225 to $37,225). The G37's agile handling, blistering acceleration, and comfortable, well-crafted interior make it one of CR's highest-scoring sedans, Female Pink Viagra For Sale. The G is on this list for the sixth straight year. The less expensive but equally inviting G25 isn't as quick, Female Pink Viagra overnight, but gets 24 mpg overall, 3 more than the G37. Online Female Pink Viagra without a prescription, GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius ($26,750 to $28,217). The Prius sets the standard for fuel efficiency, Female Pink Viagra australia, uk, us, usa, practicality, and affordability with its overall 44 mpg. Female Pink Viagra For Sale, Its roomy interior, comfortable ride, and hatchback versatility make it easy to live with. Female Pink Viagra long term, The 41 mpg of the new Prius V wagon easily tops its class.

SMALL CAR: Subaru Impreza ($21,345). Redesigned for 2012, Female Pink Viagra description, the all-wheel-drive Impreza is a well-rounded roomy sedan with nimble handling and a compliant, absorbent ride that rivals some luxury sedans. Purchase Female Pink Viagra online, Fuel economy of 27 mpg overall is impressive for an AWD car.

PICKUP TRUCK: Chevrolet Avalanche ($47,435), Female Pink Viagra For Sale. The Avalanche provides the best combination of utility and versatility of any pickup CR has tested. Its unified bed and cab help give it a steady, comfortable ride, purchase Female Pink Viagra, and the cabin is quiet. Its overall mpg is 14. Female Pink Viagra dose, FAMILY SUV: Toyota Highlander ($38,578 to $47,255). Female Pink Viagra For Sale, The refined, comfortable, and quiet Highlander has consistently ranked near the top of its class in CR's road-test scores and has had above-average reliability. The V6 version delivers a decent 18 mpg overall, Female Pink Viagra brand name, and the hybrid model tops all SUVs at 27.

Consumer Reports Automaker Report Cards 2012: Subaru Drives Into Top Spot as Honda Slips

Mazda's score improves most while Ford's falls the farthest

YONKERS, Where can i buy cheapest Female Pink Viagra online, N.Y., Feb. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Riding a wave of impressive redesigned models in the last few years, Female Pink Viagra natural, Subaru for the first time has earned the top score in Consumer Reports automaker report cards for 2012.

Subaru's score of 75, Where can i cheapest Female Pink Viagra online, two points higher than last year, reflects better test scores for such redesigned models as the Impreza, Legacy, and Outback over the last few years, Female Pink Viagra dangers. The 2012 Impreza, which Consumer Reports just tested, now tops the small-sedan class and is the Consumer Reports Top Pick in that category, Female Pink Viagra For Sale. Subaru's average road-test score of 82 is the highest in Consumer Reports analysis.

Honda, Female Pink Viagra from canadian pharmacy, which had been the perennial winner for the past four years, slipped two points to fourth place among 13 major automakers, behind Mazda and Toyota. Honda has been hurt by several redesigned models—including the Civic and Odyssey—that didn't measure up to their predecessors, Female Pink Viagra forum. Honda models, however, Female Pink Viagra maximum dosage, are still among the most reliable on the road overall. Female Pink Viagra For Sale, Toyota remains among the top three automakers for the fifth straight year, buoyed by consistently above-average reliability and most vehicles have high test scores.

Consumer Reports automaker report cards reflect the performance, comfort, utility, order Female Pink Viagra online overnight delivery no prescription, and reliability of more than 275 vehicles that CR recently rated, providing a perspective on which manufacturers are building the best all-around models. Female Pink Viagra from mexico, Each automaker's overall score is based on the average road test scores and reliability ratings for all of its models that CR has tested.

"While Japanese automakers still hold the top five spots, their lead is shrinking. In some of Honda's and Toyota's recently redesigned models, cheap Female Pink Viagra no rx, cost-cutting has become more noticeable," said David Champion, Female Pink Viagra gel, ointment, cream, pill, spray, continuous-release, extended-release, senior director, Consumer Reports Automotive Test Center.

Mazda showed the most dramatic improvement among the 13 manufacturers rated by Consumer Reports, Female Pink Viagra For Sale. It climbed to second place from last year's seventh and increased its overall score by nine points. It was helped by an improved Mazda3 and the shedding of two models that dragged down its score, japan, craiglist, ebay, overseas, paypal, the Tribute SUV and RX-8 sports car.

On the other hand, Purchase Female Pink Viagra for sale, Ford dropped the farthest, from fifth place last year to 10th. Ford's road-test score improved by two points over last year's, but subpar reliability of some new vehicles, due largely to the troublesome MyFord Touch infotainment system and Power-Shift automatic transmission, hurt its report-card grade. Female Pink Viagra For Sale, "GM and Chrysler are building nicer cars with each redesign. Still, their scores are dragged down by several older designs that score low in Consumer Reports testing or have reliability issues," Champion said, "As more new products are introduced, their fortunes could change if they can improve their overall reliability."

Although Chrysler remains in last place, its overall score jumped eight points, making it the second most improved automaker. Chrysler's average road-test score also increased by eight points, the most of any automaker, and its overall reliability improved to average. The turnaround can be credited mostly to Chrysler's extensively freshened and redesigned vehicles.

Europe a mixed bag:

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Like Toyota and Honda, Volkswagen's redesigns of some of its best-selling models, including the Jetta and the Passat, dropped in Consumer Reports road-test scores. The Jetta once provided an upscale alternative to more common small cars, but its new interior is stingy and handling is lackluster, eroding that advantage. The Passat has evolved from a sportier midsized sedan to a larger, more mundane, less sophisticated car. The change has brought mixed results. Female Pink Viagra For Sale, On the other hand, the redesigned Audi A6 and A8 posted big gains in CR's road tests.

Despite having frustrating controls, BMW and Mercedes-Benz models are nicely finished and well-mannered on the road, and they get high scores in Consumer Reports road tests. And though reliability has climbed to average for both carmakers, they were hurt by the reliability of some popular models. Mercedes' flagship S-Class sedan joined the company's large GL SUV with subpar reliability. The reliability of some turbocharged Mini Coopers and the 5 Series hurt BMW's grade.

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Speed:Sport:Life SuperSized Speed Read Part 1: 2011 Infiniti M56

Stock photos courtesy of Nissan/Infiniti USA Media. "Do you know how fast you're going?" Her voice is coming from just about everywhere in the cabin. Or maybe just everywhere in my head. "Uhh... yeah," I respond, glancing around instinctively for police cars. We're on I-95, just south of Richmond. The speed limit is 60. We're besting that, but plenty short of VA's reckless driving threshold. "You're flying," she says again. Her lack of amusement comes through clearly on the Infiniti's bluetooth connection. It's at this point that I realize my phone is buried somewhere in the trunk. There doesn't seem to be a range issue. "OK?" I reply, not really knowing what to say. I just want to get back home. I've been up since around 5:00 a.m. and spent every minute of it either behind the wheel of one of our two press cars, or outside, in the twenty-something degree weather, chasing cones. It's almost 6:00. I'm spent. January auto-crosses: the start of the season before the season. "Just wanted to let you know." The call ends as the Lancer behind me fades further back into traffic. Apparently, her enthusiasm for eating up the ~180 miles between us and bed doesn't match mine. I back it off about five miles per hour and set the cruise again. Hey, at least I'm in the luxury car. And "luxury car" is right. There's a lot of "nice" baked into this car, in fact. The seats are comfortable and supportive; the materials are all top-notch; the Seven-speed automatic transmission is smooth and quick. The V8 displays none of the NVH issues present in the much-maligned (and often unjustly so) 3.7L V6. This is everything Nissan does right, all in one sleek package. Oh, and it's fast. Given its power and weight, it could just about go spec sheet-for-spec sheet with a 2010 Challenger SRT-8 (of which I'm also quite fond). It'll do 0-60 in about five ticks flat, and unlike its 3.7L siblings, makes undeniably beautiful noises in the process. Kill the traction control and bury the throttle from a dead stop and the rear end slithers menacingly before biting. It's a Japanese take on Europe's version of a muscle car, yet it feels deliciously American when you want it to. But the instant you dive into a decreasing-radius turn a bit hotter than you'd like, it sets in with unexpected poise, rotating brilliantly and aligning just the way you want for corner exit. The steering, which on first impression seems a bit distant and vague, suddenly feels spot-on. If it's American at the stop light, it's European on a two-lane. When, you might ask, is it Japanese? Whenever it falls to your senses. Gadgetry? Check. Ergonomics? Quirky but workable, just like you'd expect. And the styling? Oh, you bet. From the curvaceous front fenders to the swooping rear quarters, the exterior just oozes an organic excellence that can never for a moment be mistaken for a Western design. Inside, it's the same story. The controls on Infiniti's now-entrenched waterfall center stack are flanked by beautiful Japanese White Ash (with genuine silver accents). Yeah, that's right. The wood twinkles. It's fantastic. Our press tester came moderately equipped, boasting the Deluxe Touring and Technology packages, but neither of the Sport bundles. This netted us the Bose 5.1/16-speaker audio system, Infiniti's "Forest Air" active ventilation, a faux suede headliner, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, "Active Trace Control" (brake-assisted cornering) and scores of other doodads. Rounding it out was a set of accessory 18" wheels. Attractive, sure, but they didn't quite fill the M's massive wheel arches. For that, you'll need the Sport package and its 20", ride-punishing boat anchors. 18" wheels suit this car perfectly, providing a smooth ride without sacrificing feedback. It may not be as supple as an E-Class or as cleanly cut as a 5 Series, but it's sporty without leaving much to be desired, and that counts for a lot. When it comes time to use those gadgets, there are some minor quibbles. Infiniti's two-tiered center stack often leaves the driver searching for an out-of-place feature, and reaching from the touchscreen and its accompanying knob to radio controls at the base of the bottom tier can be confusing. A lot of this can be eliminated by spending time learning all of the voice commands and shortcuts, but sometimes you're sick of hearing a particular jingle and just want to change the G.D. station, and that may take a second or third glance the first dozen times you do it. And the "Eco Pedal," if you're curious, is simply a resistance modifier for the accelerator. Yeah, you read that correctly. It makes you push harder in order to listen to that delicious V8. Kill it with fire. [caption id="attachment_4039" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Japanese White Ash wood trim with genuine silver flake. Also visible is the button for the incredibly silly "Forest Air" ventilation system. Hint: It's the one with the trees on it. "][/caption]

Like I said though, minor quibbles. As it turns out, "nice" sums up the M56 quite neatly. For all of its muscle-car attributes and squat-and-go antics, the Infiniti is a very pleasant place from which to observe passing mile markers. At $67,775, our tester doesn't exactly represent the bargain end of the midsize lux segment, but the value proposition still gives it a slight edge over its direct competitors. An equivalent E550 or 550i will run you $70k. ~$2300 may not seem like a huge gap once you're adding on options like radar-guided cruise control or trying to decide whether you prefer real silver or carbon fiber in your dash trim, but it is what it is. And if you want a GS, well, you're sniffing up the wrong tree with any of the aforementioned cars, and it's outclassed in just about every way by the others in this segment. For many buyers, this segment represents a lot of subjective desires rather than objective qualities. Some people just want a Benz or a BMW (or a Jag or a Lexus), so they buy the badge and spec it out. Others are looking for the best lease deal. Still more just want the one that costs the most. The Infiniti may fit the mold for some of those buyers, but there are some buyers out there for whom the distinctly Japanese styling and delicious powertrain make all the difference, and it's refreshing to drive a Japanese luxury car with distinct, shameless character. The M can stand apart on any number of qualities, but it's as complete of a package as any competitor, and that makes it easy to like. Oh, and there's that V8 sound. That's easy to like, too.

The 2010 Infiniti FX35 — Why? Well, why not?

Photos by Byron Hurd (for once). 

Back in January, I was presented with an opportunity I simply couldn't pass up. Through a connection on The Car Lounge, I was put in touch with a woman selling a perfect Miata parts car in Dayton, Ohio. Ever since I picked up my 1.6, I've wanted to start overhauling the 212-thousand-mile-old drivetrain and suspension. This '94 was a perfect match. A deal was struck. 

At the time, we had Honda's Accord Crosstour for evaluation. It seemed like a no-brainer. What could possibly be a better chase car than a brand new crossover? As we got closer to go-time however, some logistical issues intervened on the seller's end, and the whole trip was put off for a week. The result? Well, obviously, the Crosstour ended up somewhat out of its element, and the trip was rescheduled smack-dab in the middle of our evaluation period for the FX35. 

So in typical Speed:Sport:Life fashion, we ended up with Honda's family hauler doing double-duty as a cone chaser, and Infiniti's sport sedan on stilts being loaded up for a ~1000-mile road trip. Why not, indeed? 


Our FX came dressed to impress. At nearly $55k, our tester was only modestly-equipped by Bill Gates' standards. As if the $42k base price weren't dear enough, our example tacked on the Tech Package ($2900), Deluxe Touring Package ($2650), Premium Package ($2000), Navigation Package ($2800) and some roof rail cross bars ($325) and an alarm system shock sensor upgrade ($135) just for giggles. 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="A nice place to be."][/caption]

Together, those packages include more options than an LSAT booklet. Quilted/perforated seating surfaces made from supple chocolate leather? Present. Hard-drive-based navigation and entertainment system? Uh-huh. Maple wood accents and piano black trim finish? Yep. Climate-controlled everything? You bet. How about a series of cameras that give you a top-down view from all angles to aid in parking, completely with sensors to alert you to objects (animal, vegetable or mineral) that pose a risk to your progress). Of course. And believe me, there's nothing in my automotive experience to date that prepared me for the moment when I looked down upon my own car as I backed out of my driveway. It's more Grand Theft Auto than MVA Driver's Exam. 

If there were ever any doubt that Infiniti's products come light on the luxury features, a perusal of the FX's window sticker will eliminate it real quick. 

And what do you do with all that equipment? Anything you damn please. Between the RADAR-guided cruise control (Infiniti calls it "Distance Control Assist"), Intelligent Brake Assist and Lane Departure Warning/Prevention systems, the car can essentially drive itself. No joke. With the cruise engaged on a relatively straight highway, the FX will maintain a lane without any real driver input. Sure, the Lane Departure Warning system will beep incessantly at you as 4200lbs of sheet metal and dead cattle wander gently from one side of the lane to the other, but as long as nothing unexpected arises (say, a curve, or for that matter, a curb), you'll meander along quite gracefully, outwardly no different from the hordes of cell-phone-addicted commuters heading the same direction. 

The features don't just sound impressive. The Infiniti's navigation system is fantastic. The GUI is attractive and functional, not nearly the also-ran of our Crosstour's, and the audio system, while not as acoustically impressive as the Honda's, is robust and intuitive. 

But the real beauty of the FX is not in its interior, but in its performance. Let's put this in perspective. Like the Crosstour, the FX weighs in just a tick above two tons. For those keeping track, that's the same as a Pontiac G8 or Chevy Camaro SS or BMW M3 Convertible. It's not light, but in context, it's not particularly heavy, either. It's tall, so the center of mass works against you, but the suspension tuning makes it feel very car-like. The optional 20" wheels add just a hint of an edge to the ride, but it's not so harsh that's bothersome. The cabin remains quiet and the steering, while boosted enough to help disguise the FX's heft, is very well-weighted and very direct for this segment. Despite the so-so frontal visibility,  the driver is never wanting for information when it comes to placing the car. 

It is, after all, a car. It's not a truck, not even close. And if you've driven a truck (and I mean a real truck, not something "truck-like" by virtue of weight or size), you'll understand. The FX hustles along better than plenty of well-regarded family sedans. This sucker is downright playful, especially the rear-wheel-drive example we were given. With the nannies set to "watch from afar" and the transmission moved down to "S" mode, the Infiniti offers a more engaging driving experience than plenty of cars you can get for the money. 

And speaking of "S" mode, the 7-Speed transmission is a gem. It's the same 'box you'll find in the FX's FM platform mates, though tuned somewhat less aggressively. We had the opportunity to drive a 370Z with the 7-Speed last year and I found it to be one of the best, if not in fact the best torque converter automatic in any affordable sports car. It has all of the sporty attitude of many dual-clutch boxes--rev-matched downshifts included--while maintaining the smoother operation and convenience of a torque converter. It's not quite as impressive here, constantly hunting for a more fuel-efficient ratio, but given the FX's softer-edged mission, it's neither unexpected nor unforgivable. And yes, the FX passes the Lord Byron "Will it hold this gear 'til the rev limiter?" test with flying colors. 

At the heart of the FX is either a 3.5L VQ V6 (as in our tester) or a 5.0L V8. The optional extras between the vehicles vary only slightly (wheel-mounted shift paddles are available on the V8, for example, but not on the V6). And this is where perspective comes into play yet again. The V6 will easily rip off a mid-seven-second 0-60. That's quick enough to run with most V6-powered midsizers. 6.X second sprints aren't out of the question for the V8 model. To get that level of performance alongside the handling the Infiniti offers, your only other option is a BMW. Go ahead. Price one. 

The trade off? Even the "small" engine struggles to break 20 miles per gallon in any reasonable evaluation cycle, including 95%+ highway scenarios. Even Infiniti's instantaneous MPG display tops out at 30mpg, and you won't see that end of the scale unless you're using gravity to do the work. A steady 21-22mpg could be expected from genuinely flat highway cruising, but anything more would be a bit too optimistic. Contrast that (again) with the Crosstour, which pulled 25mpg in mixed driving with regularity--a 30% improvement in economy for only a 13% penalty in power, and our Honda tester drove twice as many wheels. 

The VQ is really a love-it-or-leave-it engine. On first impression, you get the feeling that Infiniti decided against dropping their new 3.7L variant into the FX due to its coarser, less luxury-oriented character compared to the 3.5L. But then again, they saw fit to introduce the FX to the European market with the larger engine. It stands to reason then that the 3.5L was considered enough engine, and that any potential hit to the fuel economy wasn't worth another 20 or 30 ponies. Fortunately for owners of first-gen FX35s looking for an excuse to upgrade, the 2010's 3.5L is of the "HR" variety, putting down 303hp, a 23hp improvement over the outgoing motor. 

The end result is a delicious highway cruiser. Between the pavement-devouring drivetrain and the gluteus-approved seating, the miles just disappear. I found it best to avoid watching the instantaneous MPG display whenever I cared to exploit any of the FX's more sporting talents. After all, 400 highway miles is 400 highway miles, whether you're in a Toyota Camry or an Ariel Atom. Sometimes you have to manufacture your own excitement. Fortunately, the FX provides the appropriate tools for the job. The long ribbon of Interstate between Annapolis and our stop-over at Schloss Baruth in Columbus went under our wheels with no unforeseen drama. 

But there is a catch. Long trip or short trip, you often have stuff you want to bring along. You know, like clothes. Or a set of spare wheels and tires for the clapped-out rustbox you're hell-bent on driving those same 500+ miles home. And maybe some tools just in case it breaks down. Oh, and a floor jack in case you need to do this stuff on the side of I-70 at 2:00 a.m. 

That kinda stuff. 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="Said stuff"][/caption]


No problem. We have what is essentially a midsize hatchback on our hands, after all. There should be room for that and plenty more, right? 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="Stuff in car. Well, some of it, anyway. "][/caption]


Maybe not. And therein lies said catch. With a box of tools on top of the wheels, the space was pretty much exhausted. Not visible is the FX's owner's manual, which occupies a pouch mounted to the passenger-side wheel well (too much tech; not enough glove box).  So our clothes and other travel necessities were forced to occupy the back seat. And it's a rather spacious back seat, but not quite spacious enough for your friends and your stuff. Choose wisely. 

Sorry, Jack. 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="483" caption="Back seat. Note the presence of stuff. Also note the absence of friends. Sorry, friends."][/caption]


Since there were only two of us on board for the majority of the trip, this didn't really prove to be an issue. But those with little ones or friends with whom they travel should take note. A trip to the airport or the beach house may prove more of a logistical puzzle than anticipated. 

Ultimately, the Infiniti is not just a luxury vehicle, but also a luxury in the more fundamental sense. This is a car you should purchase because you can, not because you need to. There are far better performance sedans and far better crossovers at this price point, so there has to be something about it that speaks to you. Don't buy it because you think you want a truck (believe me, if it appeals to you, you don't want a truck) and don't buy it thinking it'll be significantly more practical than an equivalent sedan. Neither applies. Buy it because you want a swanky crossover that will show up your neighbor in his 3 Series, even when the roads get twisty. At that, it excels. 

Vehicle: 2010 Infiniti FX35 RWD 3.5L V6 - 303hp/262lb-ft 7-Speed automatic w/ manual shift and downshift rev-matching Price as tested: $54,975  

 What we liked:   

  • Acceleration
  • Sporty transmission
  • Smooth ride
  • Great handling
  • Wonderful interior execution
  • Fun gadgets
What we didn't:  
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Limited practicality/storage space
  • Wasn't a V8
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="Spoils of victory. Believe it or not, it made it home. "][/caption]

Road Tested: 2009 Infiniti FX50

The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is a crossover SUV that thinks (and acts) like a sports car.
The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is a crossover SUV that thinks (and acts) like a sports car.
Close your eyes and stick out your hand. I am going to put a set of keys in your palm and give you some quick stats about which car they belong to. A seven-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and downshift rev matching. This is linked to a 5.0L DOHC V8 engine pushing out 390 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque to an Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system. Dual stainless steel exhaust pipes bellow out a raucous symphony and large brakes to bring the large wheels and tires to a stop. What kind of car is this? Trick question, it's not a car; it is the 2009 Infiniti FX50 - a luxury crossover SUV. 2009-infiniti-fx50s-030 The keyless-entry fob is in my pocket so I step on the brake and hit the button marked START. The engine sounds like that of a V8 sports car. I put the seven-speed transmission into SPORT mode and the gear selector shows I am in first. I leave the parking lot - and feed it some throttle... I flick the right paddle, marked with a + sign, and the transmission responds quickly, like a sports car. The suspension is firm, like a sports car and keeps the FX50 flat as I take my first corner. The seat does a good job as it is heavily bolstered but still quite comfortable, like a good sports car. I have to stop the Infiniti so I pull over and step out - and that is the only time I realize I am not driving a sports car. [caption id="attachment_1784" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="This paddle makes good things happen – quickly."]This paddle makes good things happen – quickly.[/caption] The style is not for everyone, but I am a big fan. The exterior lines are more aggressive than the past generation of FX vehicles, and this new one has been called everything from a fast shoe to a bionic cheetah. I would simply call it sleek, stylish and a shape that lets anyone who look at it realize it is not going off-road anytime soon. From the 21" wheels to the quilted-leather interior, this car is built to entertain on-road, and it does so quite well. 2009-infiniti-fx50s-040 The interior is very comfortable with powered-bolsters and manual thigh support. The FX50 is also loaded down with plenty of tech goodies, some great - some I found intrusive. The11 speaker + 2 sub-woofer Bose sound system sounds crisp at both the high and low ends. The adaptive front lighting system provides a great view at night, and the headlights are auto-leveling so they are always pointing where you want them to. On the flip side of things, the Lane Departure Prevention system (LDP) is a bit odd for my liking. It senses when you are crossing over a lane that you shouldn't be and applies slight brake pressure to the wheels on the correct side of the vehicle to gently move you back into your lane. The system sounds great in theory but just felt odd in the real-world application.  The nice part however, was that the LDP defaults to off when you start the FX50. Another odd feature is the pre-crash seat belts which squeeze you into place when your first start up the FX. I am glad I didn't fully test this system but I could do without the reminder that it is there. Even if I wanted to crash, the rest of the advanced safety features would make it hard to do so. This Infiniti is fitted with a system that warns me about a pending front-end collision, it has another system that warns me if I am heading out of my lane when I shouldn't be, and it has an intelligent cruise control system which monitors vehicles ahead of me to adjust my speed. All of these are welcome systems but if I wanted to turn them off, Infiniti gives me that option. 2009-infiniti-fx50s-022 The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is filled with the same luxury and technology as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. It has very impressive power and love-it or hate-it standout styling. Accordingly, it has a price to match. The base price for the AWD model as tested here is $56,700.00. The FX50 I reviewed was fitted with the Sport Package, Technology Package, and the Mobile Entertainment System which bring the price to $65,015.00. Not a cheap vehicle by any means but right in line with the lesser-powered 2009 BMW X5, cheaper than the lesser-powered 2009 Audi Q7, and has a slight power edge over the similarly priced 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The 2009 Infiniti FX50 is a true contender in the performance luxury crossover SUV market and a real pleasure when behind the wheel.