For some manufacturers, flagship models are just an expensive and rarely seen symbol used to promote a brand image.
Yet the FX has been leading Infiniti’s sales charge in Europe. The luxury 4x4 has struck a chord with buyers, and it’s carved out a niche in a class dominated by rivals like the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne.
Those two models – especially their performance versions – have the market sewn up when it comes to sporty off-roaders, and it was no surprise to see the FX beaten by both in Issue 1,128. However, the Infiniti has now been given a makeover that aims to promote it to the top of the class.
If it was judged on style alone, the sleek FX would win hands-down. The Range Rover Sport is imposing, but you’ll draw more looks in the striking Infiniti. Its swoopy curves and high shoulder lines remain, but there’s now a bolder chrome grille inspired by the Essence concept car. The front bumper and foglights have also been tweaked, while the GT model pictured gets a new set of 20-inch wheels; the S version tested keeps its 21-inch rims. A low-slung stance hints strongly at the car’s limited off-road ability: the FX30d is built for the road.
The interior has been designed with a similar sporting intent, and the FX feels very different to most 4x4s from behind the wheel. You sit low down and the curving dashboard wraps around you. Magnesium shift paddles and quilted leather seats add a sense of luxury, but no other changes have been made to the cabin, which seems like a missed opportunity.
While the Range Rover uses some parts that will be familiar to any Jaguar driver, it still feels special. The FX features too much Nissan switchgear and some of the materials aren’t up to scratch.Still, there’s loads of standard kit. S Premium matches the Range Rover Sport in every department – with heated and ventilated front seats, cornering headlights, all-round parking cameras and a sat-nav that’s much more user-friendly than its rival’s.
But interior space is at a premium. With the rear seats in place, the boot is smaller than in most saloons: the capacity is a disappointing 410 litres. And with the seats flat, this grows to 1,305 litres – the same as a VW Golf and 708 litres less than the Range Rover. Plus, practicality is further blunted by the FX’s fiddly parcel shelf design.
On the road, the FX30d has the tools to deliver a sharp drive: Rear Active Steering for quicker turn-in and Continuous Damping Control for a smoother ride. Yet even with these gadgets – and a 400kg weight advantage – it didn’t feel as agile as the Range Rover.
The Infiniti’s 235bhp 3.0-litre V6 lacks the urgency of the Sport’s diesel, and it sounds coarse above 3,500rpm. What’s more, the seven-speed auto kicks down too readily, even under gentle acceleration, so manual mode quickly becomes the default setting. The FX also feels jerky at low speed, while the firm ride and weighty steering make it hard work around town. On faster roads, it flows smoothly from bend to bend, but push harder and the body leans heavily in corners. And although the ride is comfortable most of the time, it crashes and jitters over rough surfaces.
Yet the biggest problem with the Infiniti is still its running costs. We managed 18.9mpg on test – 7mpg worse than the Range Rover – and weak residuals mean the FX will suffer heavier depreciation. The rest of the package fails to make up for these disappointing numbers.
Chart position: 2
Why? Last time we tested the FX, we called it a ‘quirky alternative’ rather than a true competitor. And the same is still true of this revised model. Compelling styling and a (comparatively) low price make it a tempting option, but it lacks the Range Rover Sport’s depth of talent. High running costs are a given with cars like this, but even in that context, the FX is an extremely pricey ownership prospect.