Quick Drive: 2012 Infiniti FX50S AWD

By Brandon Turkus

July 05, 2012

—Lake Orion, Michigan
Imagine the shyest, most introverted person you know. What kind of car do they drive? Probably something low-key and discreet, right? Well, the Infiniti FX50S is the complete and total opposite of whatever you just thought of.
This is arguably one of the most extroverted vehicles on sale today, from its Predator front fascia, to its twenty-one-inch alloys, to the stonking 5.0-liter V-8 sitting under its curvaceous hood, there is nothing about the Infiniti FX50S that’s not loud and in your face, all the time.
In some ways, this is great. In other ways, it’s really rather annoying. As usual, we’ll start with the good stuff.
[Click here to read our review of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec]
This 5.0-liter V-8 is a really wonderful powerplant. From a standstill, it revs fast and free, delivering more than enough shove in the low and mid range, without feeling breathless when it strives for redline. Torque peaks at 303 pound-feet at 6800 rpm, while all 390 horsepower come out to play at an equally lofty 6500 rpm. Despite these high power figures, delivery is rather broad and predictable, with a high degree of usable power on offer. Stomp the throttle at speed, and the six-speed automatic (with a properly good manual mode) obediently swaps into the most effective cog, delivering more V-8 thrust and a ear-pleasing exhaust note that has no business on what is, for all intents and purposes, a refined, four-place SUV.
Notice how we say four-place. The FX is pretty strict on what goes in it. While it has five seatbelts, this is realistically a four-passenger vehicle. Because of the way the transmission tunnel cuts through the second row, any middle seat passengers would be stuck sitting either spread-eagled or with their knees at their chest. Neither solution is ideal, so it’s best to only invite three friends along for the fun.
Four passengers securely belted in, the Infiniti FX50 belies its 4500-plus-pound curb weight with a striking level of agility. Push hard and it’ll understeer, but driven with control, it comes across as balanced and poised. Body roll is progressive and predictable, and is part of what gives the FX such great feedback for an SUV. Squat and dive are present, but aren’t at the disruptive levels we expect from bigger vehicles.Driven: 2012 Infiniti FX50S AWD
The steering is fast and well weighted, allowing for a rather sharp, pointed turn in. Directional changes can and do happen quickly, which is part of what makes the FX feel like such a solid dancer. No doubt the low-profile rubber and twenty-one-inch tires play a role in this pointiness.
The downside to this combination of handling and big wheels is a ride that can honestly be described as “harsh” relative to the luxury SUV competitors of today. You’ll be feeling each crease and ripple that the FX50 passes over as you are tossed left to right as the suspension tries to cope with the impacts.
That poor ride is the FX50s biggest comfort demerit. If you happen to live in a world where the roads are smoother than velvet, then you’ll likely dig the FX. There’s truly a fair bit to recommend on the comfort scale, with supportive, nicely bolstered seats, and a well-sorted interior that still looks good despite the current FX’s advanced age. Available tech in the Infiniti is quite good, with advanced features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and a killer air-conditioned seat setup (sidebar: the temperatures in southeastern Michigan during our loan hovered somewhere between Satan’s sitting room and center of the Sun, so these things were lifesavers).
All told, if you’ve got $59,000 ($66,000 for our Sport- and Tech-packaged tester) laying around and are in the market for an SUV that puts a lot more emphasis on “sport” than “utility,” the FX might be the vehicle for you.
2012 Infiniti FX50S AWD
Engine: V-8, 5.0 liters, 32v
Output: 390 hp/303 lb-ft
Weight: 4557 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 14/20 mpg
0-60 MPH: 5.2 sec (est)
Base Price: $59,350