THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2007 Infiniti FX45 premium SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: After a major overhaul last year, the FX45 gets standard power-folding sideview mirrors and an iPod accessory is available. The all-wheel-drive SUV offers a stiff, carlike ride and firm handling capabilities. Onlookers will be hard-pressed to miss the aggressive but graceful stance of an FX45 on the road or in a parking lot.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 4.5-liter V-8 engine pumps 320 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 335 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capabilities, the FX45 is equipped with a sport-tuned four-wheel independent suspension. A power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system affords good feedback. Sporting standard 20-inch tires, the 4,400-pound FX is outfitted with 12.6-inch vented front and 12.1-inch rear disc brakes that come into play every time there's a need to slow down or stop. A 38.7-foot turning diameter for the midsize SUV is praiseworthy, too.
LOOK & FEEL: The bold look of the FX is evident in the Infiniti signature grille, bi-xenon headlights that sweep to the corners, fog lamps, chrome window molding, dual exhaust pipes with chrome finishers and, of course, the wide track. A blend of aluminum and wood trim is splashed throughout the cabin. The leather seats with 10-way power driver's seat and eight-way power passenger seats create an opulent appearance. The analog clock under the simple-to-read but classy dashboard looks elegant. The 7-inch LCD screen, which houses navigation and audio controls, also displays a rearview monitor for convenient backup. The three-spoke, power-tilt/telescoping steering wheel moves in conjunction with the electroluminescent gauges for speedometer, tachometer, fuel and water temperature.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, front-seat active head restraints and rear head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system, front seat belts with pretensioners and front and rear crumple zones are some of the major standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $49,850, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Take the $4,200 technology package if you want a navigation system, lane departure warning system (which warns with beeps if you stray into another lane), intelligent cruise control (which keeps a distance between the vehicle in front of you) and XM satellite radio.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 265/50R20 all-season; wheelbase, 112.2 inches; length, 189.1 inches; weight, 4,345 pounds; fuel capacity, 23.8 gallons; highway 18 mpg; city 14 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: The FX45 is unlike most of the SUVs on the road. I admire its nearly intimidating posture, which is complemented quite adequately by a performance-oriented ride and numerous creature comforts. The Infiniti brand name makes it an appealing proposition for $50,000-plus SUV buyers.
Nitish S. Rele is an advertising staff writer for The Tampa Tribune.