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Hot Infiniti SUV for production

Frankfurter: Newly crowned double world champion Sebastian Vettel with ‘his’ FX at the Frankfurt motor show.

Sebastian Vettel Infiniti FX on Australian wish list as production run is confirmed

Infiniti logo19 Oct 2011

INFINITI has decided to go ahead with the Sebastian Vettel-badged FX that appeared as a concept at the Frankfurt motor show in September – and it could be headed to Australia late next year.

With Vettel having just clinched his second successive World Formula 1 Championship for the Red Bull team, the Nissan-owned brand is capitalising on its association with the team and the German driver, who is also an Infiniti ‘global brand ambassador’.

Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell said he is “absolutely” interested in getting the vehicle to Australia when the luxury brand re-launches here in about September 2012.

“It’s an exciting car we’d love to have to launch the brand here,” Mr Snell told GoAuto today.

“But at this stage there’s no indication about right-hand drive availability and production numbers, but it’s going to be a pretty limited run.”

The regular FX will be one of three models from launch in Australia, the others being the M executive sedan range and a BMW 3 Series-rivaling G line-up that comprises sedan, coupe and convertible variants.

The hotted-up SUV is the result of a conversation between Sebastian Vettel, who already drove an FX as part of the Red Bull tie-up, and Infiniti chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura at the Geneva show earlier this year.

It was created as a toe in the water exercise with a view to establishing a hot car division comparable to BMW’s M Division and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG.

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“Doing the FX Sebastian Vettel version for Frankfurt was fun, but it’s also a kind of pilot,” said Infiniti executive vice-president Andy Palmer.

“It’s about our equivalent of (Mercedes-Benz) AMG or (BMW) M Cars. We wanted to test the organisation and see if it could cope with this type of special version.

“Sebastian’s FX demonstrates we are able to do low-volume specials and the FX Sebastian Vettel version is one of the first that will go to market.”

Infiniti has yet to confirm details of the production version, including availability, volumes and prices.

Both Vettel and his Red Bull team are said to have been involved in the design, engineering and high-downforce aerodynamics upgrades applied to the FX to create what Infiniti claims is “the most focused and exclusive sports crossover ever built”.

The goal of a 300km/h top speed for the FX was achieved by removing the 250km/h electronic speed limiter and increasing the 5.0-litre V8’s output from 287kW to 309kW by fitting a sports exhaust and reprogramming the engine’s electronics.

The second stage was to install a longer final-drive ratio to enable cruising at 300km/h without the engine revving at an unrefined level. The longer ratio has the side-effect of reducing acceleration, but the hot FX still manages to hit 100km/h from rest two-tenths quicker – in 5.6 seconds.

Red Bull Racing and its acclaimed designer Adrian Newey are arguably the world leaders when it comes to aerodynamics and the FX gets a workover to keep it on the ground at its new top speed, with a new F1-style front splitter, grille, side skirts, rear diffuser, rear wing, and door mirror housings.

As well as increasing downforce, the carbon-fibre aero pack is said to reduce the SUV’s drag coefficient by five per cent.

Infiniti claims that lightweight 21-inch wheels and the carbon-fibre accoutrements result in a 46kg weight saving over a standard FX50 in S Premium trim.

Suspension modifications include stiffer springs and uprated dampers, while the ride height has been lowered by 20mm.

Vettel badges on the front guards replace the side indicator lights.

Earlier this week, Infiniti announced an extension of its Red Bull Racing partnership for the 2012 F1 season – when Australian driver Mark Webber will again drive alongside Vettel.

The company said its branding will be more prominent on the two team cars and drivers next year, and the company was also looking at expanding its technical collaboration with the top team in F1.

“When we announced the partnership back in March, our single objective was to boost global brand awareness for Infiniti,” said Mr Palmer.

“In just seven months, the results have exceeded even our most ambitious targets, leading to us to becoming the most highly exposed automotive brand in Formula One this season.

“As we look ahead to the second year of our partnership with Red Bull Racing, we are now extending into exciting new areas of technical and product collaboration.”

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