Infiniti FX is an SUV with a funky appearance that oozes style, comfort and a host of safety features
Infinitely stylish and sporty Music lovers will like the luxurious 11-speaker Bose hi-fi system -- PHOTO: YANG

The acronym SUV is short for sport utility vehicle, but in the case of the Infiniti FX, it could well stand for Spock utility vehicle.

It is not exactly a Star Trek Vulcan wagon, of course, but the FX has styling that is seemingly extraterrestrial. The sheet metal bulges and curves like the muscles of a heavyweight bodybuilder (it weighs more than 1.9 tonnes) and the front end looks fierce enough to make road hoggers move over in a hurry - including the occasional lorry.

Behind that epic grille dripping with chrome is a 3.7-litre V6 engine, taken from the Nissan 370Z sports coupe but tweaked for this 4x4 application. With an enthusiastic 320bhp put through a responsive seven-speed automatic, the FX37 is nearly as quick as the VW Golf GTI from zero to 100kmh.

Floor the throttle pedal in a U-turn and the tyres even chirp a little. The Infiniti is dramatic too, when accelerating, or stopping, aggressively in a straight line because it is big, wide and alien-like.

Compared to the mothership that is the 5-litre V8-powered FX50, which has a mountain-moving 500Nm of torque, the FX37 can only shift a hill with its 360Nm. And you need to work that V6 pretty hard to get the performance promised in the specs sheet, but the free-revving engine is happy to oblige.

Playing along are the paddle-shifters mounted on the steering column. Tall, ergonomically located, made of leather- trimmed magnesium and with a positive action, these paddles are a pleasure to use. They are effective too, with the manually controlled gear changes all effected promptly and smoothly.

Not quite as smooth, however, is the ride quality. Over well-paved tarmac, the FX37 cruises comfortably, but its firm suspension seems unsettled when traversing expansion joints and rough patches of asphalt.

Those 20-inch alloy wheels with 50-profile tyres may be partly responsible for this characteristic. But they look good under the FX fenders, so downsizing to smaller wheels just to smoothen the ride slightly is probably not worth the trouble.

Despite its size and weight, you do not need to manhandle this car when changing direction. It steers neatly, strongly resists body roll and obeys every driving command, and its brakes are powerful.

But ultimately, the laws of vehicular physics dictate that the FX37 cannot possibly be as nimble as a large executive saloon.

The Infiniti cabin is as comfortable as one, though. There is plenty of room on board for four people, who will also appreciate the plush leather and perfectly climate-controlled air-conditioning.

Even their ears will enjoy the journey, thanks to an 11-speaker Bose hi-fi system that turns the FX into a mobile concert hall, even when it is just the radio playing.

Giving protection are all-round airbags. Active driving aids do their best to keep the driver safe on the road by monitoring his blind spots, the traffic in front (Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning), the car's tyre pressure and even his tendency to 'drift' (Lane Departure Warning).

Carpark safety has been considered too, with a 360-degree camera array helping the driver to park his FX without hitting anything.

The more observant owner may notice that Infiniti's promise of Inspired Performance does not preclude the FX37 from sharing a few items with lesser Nissan SUVs. For instance, the remote key fob looks suspiciously like a rebadged Nissan device, some of the switches are similar to those on a Murano dashboard and the 'step on/off' parking brake is not exactly a premium feature. These are mere niggles unlikely to affect a car buyer's final decision, though.

In the $250,000 to $300,000 price range, the closest rivals of the Infiniti FX37 come from the Lexus camp - the RX350 and RX450h. Both cars have a faithful following and are genuinely upmarket, but the FX37 offers greater design character and a sportier drive.

This is funky, chunky luxury, Infiniti-style.

SPECS

INFINITI FX37 3.7

Price with COE: $289,000

Engine: 3,696cc 24-valve V6

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 320bhp at 7,000rpm

Torque: 360Nm at 5,200rpm

0-100kmh: 6.8 seconds

Top speed: 233kmh

Fuel consumption: 12.1 litres/100km city-highway)

Agent: Wearnes Automotive