The FX50 premium SUV from Nissan's luxury arm has lots going for it
Infiniti possibilities

If you haven't been to the gym in a while and you need a quick workout to firm up those biceps and triceps, drive the new Infiniti FX50.

The steering of this car is so hefty it reminds you of days when cars did not have power-assistance at the helm.

Infiniti has presumably tuned in a weighty steering to give the car a meaty, European feel and confident tracking at higher speeds. But it is unnecessarily so. And even if it did want high-speed assurance, it should have had a variable system that lightens the load at crawling speeds.

The stodgy steering also makes you think the FX50 weighs 5 tonnes. It is actually relatively light (thanks partly to its aluminium doors), with a curb weight of 2.12 tonnes, which may explain why the Japanese car outsprints the heavier Range Rover Sport, which has a similarly sized engine supercharged to put out more power and torque.

On the road, however, the FX50 does not feel like it clocks a 5.8-second 0-100kmh sprint. That said, it is a fairly swift car, with a big normally aspirated power plant pegged to a long-legged seventh gear that also allows it to cruise at 100kmh at a low engine speed of around 1,800rpm when not hurried.

Perhaps the test-car's titanic 21-inch wheels and fat tyres contribute to its arm-toning steering. They certainly contribute to its optically massive stature, as does its unusual bodywork, with bulging flanks and a bulbous bonnet.

The FX is actually between the size of the Lexus RX and the Audi Q7. However, it is lower slung than both, which is in line with Infiniti's main proposition: sporty performance in a luxury package.

On many fronts, it delivers. The car handles nearly as well as the Porsche Cayenne SUV. Its suspension boasts active damping, which adjusts to driving and road conditions instantaneously.

The system has two settings: Auto and Sport. But it works well enough when left in Auto, beefing up the dampers in a corner to keep the SUV on an admirably even keel.

Its overall ride is on the firm side, but far from thumping. This is definitely a plus point, given that most SUVs feel either too willowy or bouncy.

An all-wheel-drive system that varies torque distribution intelligently to suit the occasion, and a rear active steer system seem to work well to keep its cornering lines tidy.

At high speeds, the aforementioned stout steering comes to the fore. The FX certainly betrays not an iota of nervousness hurtling down an open road. Best of all, its brakes work beautifully to haul the freight train of a car to a halt with minimal fuss, although it is hard to execute jerk-free low-speed braking.

Ultimately, it would be the little things that show the Infiniti up. Its adaptive cruise control reacts a tad too slowly to the vehicle in front, and at times misinterprets a vehicle in the next lane to be in its way (especially round a curve).

Its 11-speaker Bose stereo system is crisp and stirring, but its speed-variable volume often overcompensates by going overboard even with the slightest increase in speed (this happens even if you dial in the lowest level of intervention).

Its keyless access system still requires you to press a little button on the door handle to unlock - which is exactly what you do for mass-market Nissan models.

The nice touches that work in its favour include an automatic tailgate which can be opened and closed via a button in the cockpit, its 14-way adjustable driver side memory seat (10-way for front passenger seat) and climate control with a filter system impregnated with grape seed polyphenol, which works to reduce allergens.

The FX also endears with its amazingly tight turning circle (for a car its size), a reasonably high level of build quality, smooth power delivery and a high degree of comfort for five as well as a sizeable stowage.

The biggest surprise, though, is the way the car appears in the metal - it looks much better than it does in pictures.

All said and done, Nissan needs to iron out the other minor kinks to firmly place Infiniti in the luxury league.

The massive SUV is the first of two models to herald the arrival of this Lexus-rivalling marque. The other is the M37 sedan, which goes against the Lexus GS range and Continental models such as the BMW 5-series and Audi A6.

If the FX50's engine is too overwhelming for you, there is the 3.7-litre V6 FX37, which retails at $289,000.

Infiniti agent Wearnes will open its brand-new showroom on Feb 11. You have about a month to beef up those arms if you want to drive the FX without feeling strained like me.

SPECS

INFINITI FX50

Price: $350,000 with COE

Engine: 5,026cc 32-valve V8

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with paddle shift

Power: 390bhp at 6,500rpm

Torque: 500Nm at 4,400rpm

0-100kmh: 5.8 seconds

Top speed: 250kmh (electronically limited)

Fuel consumption: 13.1 litres/100km

Agent: Wearnes Automotive