When Infiniti announced it was launching a Sebastian Vettel edition of the FX SUV, it sounded like an idea from the marketing department. But when we heard the double F1 world champion was involved in the development process, our ears pricked up.
Apparently, Vettel already has an FX50 as his personal car (Infiniti is Red Bull Racing’s principal sponsor), so he knew precisely what he wanted. Top priority was binning the 155mph limiter, so he could stretch its legs on the Autobahn. And Infiniti was confident a 186mph top speed was possible.
Firstly, a new bodykit was developed to reduce drag, then the V8’s ECU was tweaked, which, with a freer-flowing exhaust, helps produce an extra 29bhp. Finally, plenty of carbon bodywork was added, which includes an all-new front grille, a very swoopy front apron, extended sills and a rear diffuser, complete with an F1-style central foglight. Oddly, the two-piece roof spoiler is not standard and costs £4,800 extra.
Other changes include new wheels (still 21-inch, but 3.5kg lighter) and the removal of the roof rails. The overall effect is that the white-only Vettel edition is imposing rather than beautiful, but then the standard car was never pretty in the first place.
Inside, you get re-trimmed leather and Alcantara upholstery, finished off with purple stitching (Infiniti’s signature colour), as well as neat-looking matt carbon fibre panels for the doors and centre console.
Fire up the beefy 414bhp V8 and a rumble erupts from the bespoke exhaust system. An overly sensitive throttle doesn’t make smooth progress very easy, but the ride is reasonable. The Vettel also has the same adaptive dampers as the regular FX50, but the springs are 20mm lower.
On the motorway, the engine soon whips round to the red line, just below 7,000rpm, but the resulting punch doesn’t feel as strong as we hoped it would, especially given the top speed claim. After a while we pulled on to some quiet rural roads, hoping the FX Vettel would shine.
You can leave the seven-speed gearbox in auto, or select Sport, or choose full manual mode (operated via paddles behind the steering wheel). We found Sport mode suits the car best; it adds a well judged throttle blip on downshifts as well as speeding up the shifts themselves.
But no matter how hard we pushed, we struggled to find the Vettel’s sportier edge. The steering feels vague on turn-in and doesn’t inspire confidence. Push the car hard, and it isn’t long before the brake pedal goes soft as the pads overheat.
After a day with the Vettel, we came away feeling a lot of effort has gone into creating something not all that different from the standard car. The spec sheet reveals that the tyres, wheel size, brakes and suspension stiffness are all identical.
The only real improvement, apart from the sound, is top speed, but even that isn’t as high as Infiniti hoped. With no limiter, the car didn’t go much quicker and, although homologation isn’t complete, Infiniti reckons the top speed will be closer to 170mph.