Car reviews - Infiniti - FX - 30d
Comfort, ride quality, secure handling, smooth and silent turbo-diesel, seat cooling and heating
Room for improvement
Road noise, intrusive ESC, foot-operated park brake, no brake function on cruise control
4 Sep 2012
INFINITI may have been around in Australia in the 1990s, when it followed Lexus into the local luxury car battle without the same commitment from parent company Nissan as Toyota gave its newcomer, but with only 132 Q45 saloons sold you would be hard-pressed finding one on the road two decades later.
The Japanese luxury car brand will be hoping to make a bigger impact this time around with the M Sedan (a BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS competitor) and the FX crossover, an SUV that has vehicles such as the BMW X5 and Lexus RX in its sights.
Infiniti Australia has relatively high expectations for the FX, though numbers will be modest given there will only be three dealers nationally (one each in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) until at least the end of 2013, when outlets in Adelaide and Perth are planned to be added.
Diesel engines are the mainstay of the medium and large SUV market segments as the fuel-saving benefits are keenly felt there and the FX30d will surely be a popular choice among Infiniti buyers, even though the company anticipates strong early demand for the V8-engined FX50 petrol flagship.
After a brief drive of the M Sedan – which we found to be most impressive, with strong dynamics and a comfortable interior – we spent some quality time at the wheel of the FX30d and were similarly impressed with its overall feeling of quality and dynamic prowess.
The Renault-based 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel is very good, providing a smooth flow of power across the rev range, though the weight of the vehicle (2051kg in S Premium spec as driven, plus three passengers and luggage) naturally stifled lowdown response.
However, the diesel is extremely quiet. In fact, there is so little diesel rattle that your passengers will not even realise it’s an oil-burner.
With very little engine noise intruding into the cabin, the only disturbance comes from road noise (especially on coarse surfaces such as those found in Queensland, where the launch took place) via the low-profile tyres fitted to the massive 21-inch alloy wheels, which are some 9.5 inches wide.
Tyres with a 45 aspect ratio on an SUV, which accentuate the low ride height, are clearly not designed for off-road use and they allow some of the sharper road imperfections to be felt, but overall the FX30d’s ride was commendably smooth and comfortable.
Those big tyres make their presence felt in the twisty stuff as well, of course, providing a high level of rear-biased all-wheel-drive grip that belies the vehicle’s size.
The FX30d’s agility is no doubt assisted by the electric-powered four-wheel steering system, which works seamlessly.
Unfortunately, like most modern cars, the nanny electronics intervene inappropriately at times, such as accelerating out of a T-intersection, leaving you cursing and waiting for the power to be released.
We had been impressed with the steering on the M Sedan, which we found to have one of the best electric-powered systems we’ve driven, but the FX seemed slightly heavier and a bit ‘dead’, providing less feedback than the smaller sedan.
We were also disappointed that the cruise control did not have a braking function to keep the speed cameras at bay, and could do without the archaic foot-operated parking brake. An electric park brake should be expected at this price point.
Driving the FX was a delight, though, being very comfortable in a solid if uninspiring cabin with its high-quality leather upholstery, supportive seats and greatly appreciated seat cooling (and heating when required) function.
Infiniti expects the curvaceous long-bonnet styling – which is our estimation looks better on the road than in photos – will appeal to younger buyers looking for something distinctive.
Certainly those wanting a sporty inclination from their SUV would do well to look at this well-engineered and accomplished newcomer.
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