Infiniti Fx30d FT Premium
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who know who Sebastian Vettel is, and those who don’t. Those who are familiar with this world champion Formula 1 racing driver tend to hail from places such as the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and yes, the southern tip of Africa. Places where cocky young men who can pilot fast cars through tight bends are regarded as gods. Those who have never heard of Vettel, however, hail from a strange continent called North America – a place where racing is watched more for its spectacular crashes than the driving prowess of its competitors, and where the ability to make a right turn in a race car is oddly useless.
Of course, North America is also the land of Infiniti. To be sure, Infiniti is a Japanese brand, but it was created by parent company Nissan in the late 1980s as a way of competing at the top-end of the US vehicle market. So considering that Infiniti is a brand closely associated with the US, it is surprising to discover that the company recently employed Sebastian Vettel as a brand ambassador. Vettel even helped to design a special edition of the FX that was seen at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. Why is this ostensibly “American” brand aligning itself with a German F1 driver? Because Infiniti is going global. Infiniti entered the Russian market in 2006 and the Chinese scene in 2007. In 2008, the brand was launched in Western and Central Europe. And now, after recent launches in Indonesia, Panama and Malaysia, it has arrived in SA.
Features and Equipment (4)
The vehicle leading Infiniti’s charge into the South African market is the opulent and eye-catching FX, an SUV that will be forced to compete with plush German barges such as the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X6 (and X5), Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Audi Q7. Does the FX have what it takes to compete with these well-established vehicles? Yes, it does. The FX boasts all the features one would expect to find in a luxury German SUV.
For example, standard features on all FX models include speed-sensitive power steering, six airbags, rain and light sensors, follow-me-home lighting, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, rear-view camera and parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and cruise control. The GT Premium and S Premium models also have impressive added features such as Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Brake Assist and Intelligent Cruise Control. Interior upgrades include a touchscreen with satellite navigation, a DVD player and 11-speaker Bose sound system.
The FX S and S Premium models also boast two innovative added systems. The first is the Rear Active Steering system, which allows the rear wheels to be turned by up to one degree for improved handling. The second system, Continuous Damping Control, delivers continuously altered damping forces to provide the best possible ride on any given surface. Overall, the features and specifications provided by the entire FX range are on a par with what one would expect to find in similar German SUVs. The only feature that is sorely absent is a spare wheel (the vehicle has a tyre repair kit!). The FX’s most important attribute, though, is its novelty.
Not only is the FX a completely new vehicle on South African roads, which in itself causes other motorists to take notice, but it has an exterior design that is unlike any other SUV. With its long bonnet and shiny grille, it is an attractive vehicle that suggests a high level of sportiness. Given Infiniti’s origins, one would be inclined to view Lexus as the company’s closest competitor, but that would be a mistake, especially when it comes to the FX. The FX is a fun and flashy SUV that has its sights set on vehicles such as the X6 and Cayenne.
This is a vehicle for someone who wants a luxurious and sporty SUV that sets him or her apart from the rest – someone, in other words, who wants a whole lot of attention. SUVs such as the familiar X5 and M-Class don’t attract glances these days. That’s not a problem that the FX will have.
Infiniti South Africa is eager to be seen as a stand-alone luxury brand, and not simply as a division of Nissan. Accomplishing this, however, will be difficult when the interior of an Infiniti looks and feels a lot like that of Nissan, albeit a very plush one. Many of the switches, buttons and knobs inside the FX will be instantly recognised by those familiar with vehicles such as the Pathfinder. Is this a problem? Not really, since these items don’t lessen the overall feeling of quality. A few knobs have been adopted from Nissan vehicles, but this is still a very luxurious SUV.
Comfortable leather seats, plenty of soft touch surfaces and high-quality finishes all conspire to create a sense of opulence. There is no shortage of comfort and entertainment features. Standard items include climate control, Bluetooth connectivity for phones and audio streaming, steering-mounted controls, USB and iPod connectivity, electric glass sunroof, seven speaker audio system and MP3 CD player. The GT Premium model that we tested had a DVD player and 11-speaker Bose sound system (standard on GT Premium and S Premium models) that gave a predictably impressive performance. where you are seated.
The rear is spacious and the front passenger seat is electrically adjustable in eight directions, but it is the driver who will enjoy the experience most. Piloting the FX is fun. It has a high, commanding driving position but still manages to feel sporty. The long, arching bonnet is reminiscent of a sports car. The chunky steering wheel feels good to grasp. The aluminium pedals encourage you to put your foot down. Yes, the FX certainly feels sporty, but does it deliver the goods?
A brash vehicle such as the FX seems to demand a roaring V8 engine. And indeed, a five-litre V8 petrol powerplant that offers 287 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque is available for the FX. But that is not the model that most potential buyers will be looking at. SA buyers will be far more interested in the frugal three-litre diesel model. This three-litre V6 is the first oilburner to see the inside of an Infiniti engine bay, and is the same V9X engine that is used in the Nissan Navara and Pathfinder. It produces 175 kW of power and 550 Nm of torque.
Unfortunately, the engine can’t quite live up to the looks of the FX. The vehicle is so dramatic and eye-catching that the rather ordinary diesel engine inevitably disappoints. The engine isn’t terrible by any means, but it is a bit unremarkable. The FX, after all, is a luxurious and sporty high-end SUV, and the V9X engine can seem a bit unrefined and agricultural for a vehicle in this class. The rumble of the oilburner is just a bit too noticeable.
That said, the engine performs respectably enough if you ignore the sportiness of the FX’s other attributes. It accelerates nicely and never struggles to scoot the bulky FX along. Its seven-speed automatic transmission also works well with the engine, swapping cogs effectively. The only noticeable niggle is a slight reluctance to accelerate. The lag isn’t terrible, but it is noticeable. The throttle isn’t as instantly responsive as one would want in a sporty vehicle.
The FX30d’s fuel consumption was very impressive, though. It managed an average of 9,9 l/100km during our test. A combined cycle of 9 l/100km should be achievable with a bit of careful driving.
The FX handles impeccably, managing the difficult trick of being both sporty and comfortable. It flattens out bumps and lumps on ugly tracks, but is also capable of zipping effectively through corners. Yes, it is still a high-riding SUV, but it is tremendous fun to drive, especially on gravel roads. It doesn’t mind being chucked into corners, and it won’t punish you harshly when your skill runs out. Its movements always feel composed and predictable.
This is also true on poor dirt roads. Very few of the SUVs that we have taken on our regular test route have inspired so much confidence and remained so surefooted on bad sections. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels remained low throughout the test, despite the FX’s large 20-inch wheels. It is worth noting that the GT Premium model that we tested was not equipped with Infiniti’s Rear Active Steering and Continuous Damping Control systems, making its performance even more impressive.
The FX30d is an excellent vehicle. It is luxurious, provides a superb driving experience and offers a very respectable collection of standard features. It is also competitively priced, especially if you consider the number of standard features. The question remains, however: Does the FX offer enough to coax drivers out of their German SUVs? This is doubtful, largely because local buyers have a weakness for German vehicles.
Yes, the FX is on a par with SUVs from companies such as Audi and BMW, but when the local market is obsessed with German vehicles, simply being on a par with them is not enough. That said, the FX boasts striking good looks that should help it establish itself as a funky and flashy alternative to the established brands. It won’t sell in massive numbers but should generate a devoted following.
Type: Six-cylinder, turbocharged
Valve train: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore x stroke: 84 x 90mm
Max power: 175 kW @ 3750 r/min
Max torque; 550 Nm @ 1750 r/min
Fuel supply: Common-rail direct diesel injection
CHASSIS AND BODY
Layout: Front engine, four-wheel drive
Frame: Monocoque design
Brakes: Front Ventilated discs
Brakes: Rear Ventilated discs
Tyres: 265/50 R20
Spare tyre: None (repair kit only)
Steering: Power assisted
Turning circle: 11,2m
Front: Independent, double wishbone with coil springs over shock absorbers, stabiliser bar
Rear: Independent, multi-link suspension, dual flow path, shock absorbers, stabiliser bar
Transmission type: Seven-speed auto
Traction/stability control: Yes/Yes
Limited slip diff: No
Differential lock: No
Full-time 4WD: Yes
Vehicle weight: 2121kg
Width: 2134mm (with mirrors)
Track front: 1635mm
Track rear: 1640mm
Cargo Capacity: 410 litres
Cargo (seats down) : 1305 litres
Ground clearance: 188mm
Top speed: 212 km/h (claimed)
Overall fuel consumption: 9,9 l/100km
Fule tank size: 90 litres
Estimated tank range: 909km