Appearance: How's this for a technical description: In profile, the FX50 reminds us of a shoe. (Peter also thought it looked like a bulked-up Porsche Cayenne, with its bulging fender wells.) The rear tapers elegantly, much like other Infiniti/Nissan SUVs. The contemporary headlight design and wavy, braided grille give it a custom look.
Performance: The seven-speed transmission shifts smoothly, especially when using the large, aluminum paddle shifters in manual mode, where Nissan's excellent rev-matching kicks in on downshifts. The AWD, which adapts to driving conditions, is further smoothed out by continuous damping, which adjusts the suspension (in sport mode, it can be a bit rough for rear passengers). The cornering is carlike for a heavy vehicle. Then there's the acceleration, which hurdles the 4,556-pounder from 0 to 60 in a reported 5.2 seconds. Somehow, it all feels like there is more than 390 horsepower under the hood.
Interior: Plush and comfortable. The heated front seats have multiple adjustments, including a thigh-support extension. Peter loved them during the recent morning freezes. And here's a great feature: the Advanced Climate Control, which filters air coming into the cabin, closing the vents if exhaust fumes are detected. The rear seats recline, and the remote release in the trunk makes folding them easy. We were surprised there wasn't an electronic lift-gate opener; Lyra found it heavy and difficult to close.
Gadgetry: If cars will soon operate themselves, then the FX50 has a good start. Along with the more common backup camera, there are front and side cameras to show the distance to an object and an overhead view. Lane Departure Warning is helpful in theory; in reality, its beeps are annoying. The cruise control automatically slows the car as traffic slows, and there is forward collision warning. The nav system is one of the most loaded we've seen: hard-drive storage, Bluetooth audio streaming, traffic and weather alerts, restaurant guide. Its controls are more horizontal on the dash and easy to navigate. And an old idea that is new again: The headlights turn as you turn.
The bottom line: We pretty much summed up the FX50 in our introduction. Does it get great gas mileage? No. Do you really need a "crossover" with V-8 power for the school car line? No. Is it plush and fun to drive? Yes.
Infiniti calls the FX50 a performance crossover. That's being coy. Sorry, Infiniti, it's a muscle car. It masquerades as an SUV, but that's because the FX50 has to fill the bill as the perfect compromise car. Having a midlife crisis? Do you still need room for the family, yet want to feel and hear some horsepower? Then this is the hauler that hauls.
Our 3 favorites
Gadgets: Geeks rejoice: nav system, driving assist programs, safety alerts and much more.
Design: The front wavy grille and the front headlights are sharp.
Horsepower: It really launches this big crossover.
Cameras: Pick your view and never fear tight parking spaces again.
Exhaust note: Step on it and forget you are in a "crossover."
Seats: Heated, comfy and oh, so adjustable.