As you might have read earlier in the week, Nissan's luxury division Infiniti has made the bold move of entering the cut-throat premium car market in South Africa, initially as a low-volume operation.
Last week we drove the G, M and EX models in the UK and so the last one on our to-do-list was the FX crossover, which Denis Droppa of our sister publication Star Motoring drove in the Western Cape on Thursday.
The boldly-styled FX goes head-to-head with the BMW X5 and Mercedes ML-Class and it's no poor Japanese cousin, as Denis puts it: “I can comfortably say the vehicle can go toe-to-toe with any German in terms of performance, safety and sophistication.”
And to ensure that customers are spoiled for choice, Infiniti is selling the FX with a wide range of engines and trim levels.
Go the petrol route and you have a choice between petrol and diesel power, with a 3.7-litre V6 pushing 235kW at 7000rpm and 360Nm at 5200rpm and a 5-litre V8 that's good for 287kW at 6500rpm and 500Nm at 4400rpm.
The sole diesel option is a 3-litre V6 with 175kW on tap at 3750rpm and 550Nm from 1750rpm. For this engine, Infiniti claims combined fuel sipping of 9.0 litres per 100km, while the V6 and V8 petrols consume 12.1 and 13.1 l/100km respectively.
The V8 could get you into serious trouble
If we're talking performance, naturally the V8 is the sprinter in the range, with Denis exclaiming that it “feels very lively in a way that could get you into all sorts of trouble with the law and your petrol budget.” Infiniti claims a 5.8-second 0-100km/h time for this naturally aspirated V8, compared to 6.8 seconds for the V6 and 8.3 seconds for the V6 diesel.
The chassis, of course, is of the sophisticated car-based variety rather than being of the bundu-bashing persuasion. Suspension is independent at all corners and it even boasts Rear Active Steering (on certain models). Dynamically the FX gives the Germans a run for their money, as Denis puts it:
“The luxurious barge leans firmly towards the sportier side of the SUV scale, with road dynamics to rival the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, and has very taut handling for such a big vehicle (it weighs over two tons).”
For the interior, Infiniti aimed to combine the comfort and space of a large sedan with the appeal of a sports car. Here you'll find high-end materials like quilted leather, Maple wood trim, woollen carpets and solid metal fittings.
“Luxury and sophistication in the cockpit of the FX is right up there with the teutonic competitors. It's all well-finished and upmarket, and stuffed with all the requisite executive knick-knack,” says Denis.
The three trim levels offered are named GT, S and Premium but even the base GT models come with 10-way electric adjustment for the driver's seat, rear-view parking camera, electric glass sunroof, electric tailgate, keyless entry and start and a seven-speaker audio system with 2GB worth of storage space. This system is operated through a full colour central display system.
Upgrade to the S model and you get Rear Active Steering (on all but the 3.7 V6), while the base 20-inch wheels get upgraded to 21-inches, sports seats adorn the cabin and the driver now has 14-way seat adjustment.
But the real executive party's happening in models with Premium specification, where Infiniti throws in features like Lane Departure Prevention, Intelligent Cruise Control with Low Speed Following, Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Brake Assist, Around View Monitor with corner parking sensors as well as the Connectiviti+ Multimedia system.
The FX is a very desirable crossover vehicle then, but the only downside is that there is no significant price advantage over the competition.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH:
FX 37 GT - R676 000
FX 37 GT Premium - R 718 076
FX 37 S - R703 537
FX 37 S Premium - R745 613
FX 30d GT - R699 000
FX 30d GT Premium - R741 076
FX 30d S - R726 537
FX 30d S Premium - R768 613
FX 50 S Premium - R856 000
All models are sold with a 3 year/100 000km warranty and 5 year/100 000 maintenance plan.