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Infiniti Launches FX45 Crossover Utility Vehicle - 2003-05-29


The latest trend among auto manufacturers is the so-called crossover vehicle. Some call it a sport wagon or crossover utility vehicle. It's a blend of qualities taken from sport utility vehicles (SUVs), sedans and/or minivans.

Think of it as a station wagon on steroids. The Infiniti FX45 is a tall, macho-looking sport wagon that features all-wheel drive, a high seating position for driver and passengers for a commanding view of the road and the sort of aggressive styling that grabs attention, down to the huge (50.8 centimeters), almost cartoonish wheels.

The FX45 is a mix of sports car and SUV. The 315 horsepower V-8 engine provides blistering performance. You'll be able to haul the groceries home from the supermarket in record time, probably with a squadron of police officers in pursuit, waving speeding tickets.

Performance comes at a price, though. The big V-8 sucks up a lot of fuel. You'll also be making frequent stops at the neighborhood gas station.

To go with the performance, the Infiniti wagon features a sports car firm suspension, with a ride that borders on the bone-jarring. However, handling does not come close to the sports car standard of agility and precision. This is a big vehicle and it drives like one.

Despite its size, though, the FX45 is surprisingly small when it comes to passenger space. Advertised as having room for five, the fifth passenger will have to squeeze into the back seat. That person better be pretty small or someone you don't much care for.

Visibility to the rear is restricted by a small back window and thick body pillars. To compensate, Infiniti has installed a rear-facing TV camera above the hatchback door. When the driver shifts to reverse, the camera's view pops up on the dash-mounted satellite navigation system screen, showing what's behind the vehicle. It's a useful safety device.

This odd blend of sports car and SUV bears a price tag of over $45,000, fully equipped. For that kind of money, why not buy a real sports car like a Porsche Boxster or BMW Z4? Or how about this? Parent company Nissan has its own sport wagon, the Murano. The styling is similar, but less extreme. It features better handling and ride, the V-6 engine is sufficient to the task and the Murano costs about $10,000 less.

In its amazing comeback from the brink of failure just over three years ago, Nissan has introduced one exciting product after another for its own brand and the Infiniti line. In baseball parlance, the company has hit a series of home runs. But, with the Infiniti FX45, score it as an error.