2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD Road Test

The 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD is the culmination of a sports car and an SUV having a baby.

What It Is
The 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD adds extra emphasis on the "sport" in "sport utility vehicle" for those who want to haul the family around in style.
Best Thing
The 5.0-liter V-8 engine makes you forget that the FX50's primary objective is to haul around people and goods.
Worst Thing
Cargo space is small for such a big vehicle.
Snap Judgment
Infiniti's sportiest SUV makes a strong run against its German competitors, but sacrifices utility in the process.


A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

What do you get when a sports car and an SUV fall in love? You get something like the 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD. Infiniti's sporty SUV traces its DNA from it's the same basic architecture as Infiniti's heavy-hitter sedans: the G, and the the M. In fact, Nissan's Z sportscar also uses the same basic underpinnings, which should spell trouble since the SUV and the sportscar have two wildly different missions.

But not this time.

The 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD is a solid SUV with an extra emphasis on the "sport," targeting the likes of similar utility vehicles from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. With a 5.0-liter V-8 engine hiding under the hood, a plush interior, and numerous techy features, the Infiniti makes a good case for itself. Pricing for the FX50 is also competitive when paired up against the likes of a similarly equipped BMW X5 and a Mercedes-Benz full-size ML550.

But does the FX50 S AWD deserve to be in the same conversation as its German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz though? We took possession of a 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD for a week just to see what it was all about.

What We Drove

The 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD starts at a base price of $59,350 excluding a destination fee of $895. This sticker may send a little shock to the system, but it's competitive when compared to similar vehicles like the BMW X5 xDrive50i. Standard equipment includes leather-wrapped seats, steering wheel, and shifter; power tilt/telescopic steering column; HID xenon headlights; aluminum pedals and roof rails; power rear tailgate; and an auto-dimming inside mirror. Our test vehicle also came equipped with a $2,900 technology package, which featured Lane Departure Warning, Distance Control Assist, and Intelligent Brake Assist. A $3,100 Sport Package was also included in our test vehicle, which featured sport style front seats, Continuous Damping Control, and solid magnesium paddle shifters positioned on the steering column. That was a smart move on Infiniti's part by placing the shifter paddles on the steering column since they will stay stationary when the steering wheel itself is being turned. Under the hood, a 5.0-liter V-8 engine responsible for a moving 390 horsepower, literally, and it mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The latest FX50 S AWD rolls along on 21-inch, six-spoke aluminum alloy wheels wrapped in 265/45R-21 all-season tires. As for the 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD that spent the week with us, after all the boxes were checked our test vehicle rang in at $66,545 including destination fees.

You'll be safe while riding in the latest FX50 S, as standard safety features include driver and front passenger seat-mounted side-impact air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental airbags with a rollover sensor for front and rear seat passenger head protection, and three-point Automatic Locking Retractor and Emergency Locking Retractor seat belts. The ELR is only employed on the driver's side seat belt. Other standard safety features include LATCH points, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, and stability and traction control.

The Commute

For the latest model year, the 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD is only available with an automatic transmission, but it does include a manual mode. It's no secret that an automatic transmission is usually preferred over a manual gearbox while battling heavy traffic, but the FX50's 390-horespower beg for a manual transmission. However, this sports-car-turned-SUV actually benefits from utilizing an automatic gearbox as it lets the driver focus on hauling cargo and passengers around quickly and in a way that will make you smile without having to search around for adequate torque on your own. The optimal torque level lives at 6,500 rpm which is more than enough to get the FX50's hefty 4,557 pound frame up and going.

The heated front seats feature multiple adjustments to fit virtually any frame, including lumbar support that can be adjusted in two different ways as well. Like everything about the FX50, the sporty front seats beg for you to throw the FX50 S AWD around corners so it can hold you tightly. Yet even if you're just cruising the parking lot at the mall or hauling kid 1 and kid 2 from home to soccer practice and back, they're comfortable and supportive.

Then again, the FX50's 5.0-liter V-8 engine shouldn't have much trouble motivating anything really. That engine provided more than enough power to propel the FX50 up to highway speeds in just under six seconds. Given the chance and a long straightaway free of any other vehicles, the FX50 feels like it could accelerate for days. The seven-speed automatic transmission makes accelerating at highway speeds enjoyable. Halting the sporty SUV quickly are the FX50's ventilated disk brakes and anti-lock brakes.

As for every other road that doesn't have an "interstate" or "route" designation, the FX50 S provided a spirited and stiff ride. Southern California roadways are lined with a steady mix of asphalt and cement, so we had a chance to test out the Continuous Damping Control that comes standard with the Sports Package our FX50. The CDC has an automatic and sport mode, giving the driver an option of either a comfortable ride (auto), or better handling at the expense of feeling every bump, crack, and crevice in the road with sport mode. Couple the sport mode with some aggressive driving and the beefy V-8 engine and you'll get a downright fun driving experience.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

The Grocery Run

Carrying anything more than a few grocery bags or even a baseball bat-bag or two may prove to be a hassle as the latest FX50 only has 24-cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are up. That's less space than some compact crossovers like Honda's CR-V. The rear seatbacks split at your normal 60/40 configuration which frees up some space, and of course more real estate opens up when the rear seats are folded completely down. On the other hand, maximizing the 62-cubic feet for cargo and goods means you're deleting three extra seats for passengers. Without question, the 2012 Infiniti FX50 S provides an exciting drive feel in bunches but cargo space is at a premium.

Even at low speeds while trying to find a parking spot at the mall or supermarket, the FX50 S is easy to control. The throttle isn't too jumpy like some other SUV with an extra serving of "sporty," and the brakes bite down quickly after you jet into that last-minute spot that just opened up. Snaking through a tight and crowded parking lot can be nerve-racking thanks to the FX50's elongated hood, which combines with the huge blind spots to make the FX50 feels bigger than it actually is. The handling can help you compensate for that though, as the FX50 can carve out a path from whatever space waits in front of it. Swinging into a parking lot space proved to be easy thanks to the FX50's sharp steering and ability to creep at low speeds without a herky-jerky motion.

The Weekend Fun

Thanks to the 2012 Infiniti FX50's limited cargo space with the rear seats up, you and yours can pack a weekend bag and are guaranteed to have a nice ride to and from your favorite weekend getaway spot. If your kids are coming for the ride as well, they'll need to pack light too if they want a spot in the FX50. If the kids have been dropped off at your in-laws for the weekend, folding the rear seats down provides some extra space for your golf bag, or the overstuffed "tote bag" that's splitting at the seams. Infiniti gave the FX50 the ability to pull up to 3,500 pounds, although, we wouldn't recommend tugging along more than a pop-up camper or something even smaller to prevent additional strain on the engine.

The Infiniti FX50's sporty nature practically demanded a spirited cruise up Pacific Coast highway after leaving Automotive.com's Southern California HQ on a Friday afternoon, followed by a drive up into canyon country north of Los Angeles. PCH was just what the doctor ordered for myself and the FX50 S, as we just sailed over the open road. I left the suspension in automatic mode for the duration of open-road cruising, but switched it over to the dark (sport) side once the road twisted above sea level. Sport mode enabled the FX50 S to stiffen up its suspension, providing a lively ride in and out of corners. The exhaust note noticeably changed when switching between the two suspension settings, as the FX50 conquered continuous inclines with ease.

The only real problem when cruising down the road is the Lane Departure Warning system and its voracious need to remind you that you just passed over a line in the road. This system is helpful in theory, but there are some instances where it proved to be more of an annoyance. As one of our fellow staffers noted in the log book, the Lane Departure Warning system was a hindrance and chirped incessantly as he passed by cars parked on the street. Other staffers noted that the FX50's LDW system felt like it would alert them every time the lane ahead of them began to curve. While the second claim wasn't exactly true, I did find the LDW system would alert the driver when they passed over a solid line without the turning signal engaged. To disarm the LDW system, the turning signal needs to be activated so the FX50's computer can understand you're intentionally switching lanes.

Summary

After spending a week with the 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD our original opinions were solidified; this is one fast and fun SUV. It's priced competitively, has a comfortable ride both on and off the highway, it comes stock with a cornucopia of features, a sexy exhaust note, and it just looks good going down the road. While the last remark can be (and has been) argued, it's undeniable that the 2012 Infiniti FX50 has styling cues unlike anything else seen in the luxury SUV segment.

The 5.0-liter V-8 engine hooked to the seven-speed automatic transmission provides endless torque and speed, uncommon among vehicles that weigh a shade more than 4,500 pounds. Two points of concern however are the Lane Departure Warning system and the FX's 23.8 gallon fuel tank. The LDW system appears to be a tad anxious to prove its worth and often goes overboard on warning the driver of surrounding and approaching obstacles. The size of the fuel tank combined with ever-rising gas prices also promises the owner will be at least $100 poorer each time you fill up. Then again, if you can drop over $60,000 on a vehicle, gas prices may not concern you.

So, the verdict. During its week-long stay with us, we felt the 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD warranted a serious look from those in the market for an SUV with a flair for sportiness. While the lack of cargo space and poor fuel economy figures may be its biggest drawbacks, we felt the latest FX50 could take our money. The 2012 Infiniti FX50 S AWD is a luxurious and sporty people mover for families and empty-nesters alike.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $66,545
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 14 mpg
EPA Highway: 20 mpg
EPA Combined: 16 mpg
Estimated Combined Range: 380.8
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Average

Notebook Quotes

"The FX50's beltline is quite high, giving the greenhouse a cozy feel. This is especially true for the rear row. Visibility was surprisingly better than expected: the rearview mirrors are large to compensate the expected large blind spots." -Joel Arellano, Associate Editor
"I like the exterior styling, the leather seats, and the overall build and craftsmanship are excellent. There's just enough room for rear seat passengers and some cargo too. However, every time the lane curved the sensors would go off to let me know, and I couldn't find the button while driving to shut it off." -Matt Askari, Associate Editor
"The FX50's exhaust note sounds awesome, handles pretty decently in Sport mode and grips like no one's business too. I spent a lot of time playing with adaptive cruise control, which is a lifesaver in traffic. I've never been in a car that beeps more though. You could take all the electronic beeps and other tones and start a pretty decent indie noise pop band with it." - Blake Z. Rong, Associate Editor

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