The new DS3, customise every feature to suit your style
Let’s start with the spelling. It’s Infiniti with an “i” at the end, and not a “y” as is the tradition.
And as Lexus is the more luxurious face of Toyota, Infiniti is the same to Japanese carmaker Nissan – with the brand just recently being launched in sunny South Africa.
Strictly speaking, we did have a taste of Infiniti in the mid-’90s, but this time around it’s a serious and more concerted effort by Nissan to shake up the local car park – especially when you consider that at launch the manufacturer has brought in no fewer than five different model ranges.
I had the opportunity years back in Japan to spend an afternoon with a few Infinitis and remember wondering why we didn’t get the cars back home; it seemed like a no brainer – especially as the cars seemed to easily rival some of the more common German brands in both luxury and performance terms.
Last week was my first revisit to the brand since, and let me tell you, not much of that sentiment has changed. The first impression of Infiniti’s FX SUV is just how different it looks.
Where BMW’s X5 and Merc’s ML get straighter body lines and look like business suits ready for a board meeting, the FX has flowing curves and tasteful bits of bling adding a bit of adventure to the design. Park it next to larger SUVs out there and it will stand out, which I reckon is good for a new entry to the marketplace.
Infiniti offers three engines in the FX (5-litre V8, 3.7-litre V6, and the 3-litre turbodiesel V6 on test here), all mated to seven-speed auto ’boxes, and four spec levels. We had the range-topping Premium-spec which adds toys like touch-screen navigation, a bird’s eye-view parking aid, intelligent cruise control and lane-departure warning.
DIESEL MOTOR VERY DECENT
The 175kW/550Nm on offer from the turbodiesel is decent for the task (and weight) at hand, with all that torque shunting the large SUV along nicely. There’s a bit of turbo lag lowdown, and the torque band is a little on the narrow side, but once you get into a comfortable driving rhythm neither of these issues forms a real distraction.
The seven-speed auto ’box is also mostly on the same page as the engine, but I did find that the DS (sport setting) didn’t spice things up much. In performance terms the diesel FX managed a respectable 9.8 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash, and at 17 seconds for the quarter mile was virtually identical to competitors like Audi’s Q7 3.0 TDI and Merc’s ML320 CDI. The 12.8 litres/100km consumption wasn’t offside either.
MORE AT HOME ON TAR
Where it drops the ball is off-road, as we found out when putting the all-wheel drive system through its paces. Front and rear ground clearance is adequate. The all-wheel drive system is also more on the recreational side – let’s just say we got stuck, a few times.
So clearly the FX is more at home on tar than dirt. And I can safely say in handling terms it’s as capable as anything in its segment. Our test car had an active suspension allowing for hardening or softening, with hard generally the happier medium. But where the Infiniti badge really comes into play is with the ride quality, which is quite good.
And then there’s the cabin. There’s more Nissan 370Z switch-gear than I’d like to see in there, but the seats are comfy and there’s no shortage of heated this and cooled that. The cabin is one of the best in terms of insulation that I’ve yet experienced – it’s like a recording studio in there.
It’s not going to be easy for Infiniti to woo buyers away from the established German brands, but if the FX is anything to go by I’m sure an eyebrow or two will be raised by local buyers. At R768 613 (for the Premium spec) pricing is in line with competitors too. The FX is a new flavour in the SUV cookbook, and a tasty one at that too.
Welcome back Infiniti.
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Infiniti FX30d S Premium (175kW) - R768 613
Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro (180kW) - R692 000
BMW X5 xDrive30d (180kW) - R705 413
Range Rover Sport DSV6 SE (180kW) - R799 900
Lexus RX 450h SE (220kW) - R768 000
Mercedes ML350 TD (190kW) - R778 000
Porsche Cayenne diesel (180kW) - R763 000
VW Touareg V6 TDI (180kW) - R661 000