published Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Test Drive: Infiniti FX37 provides power to the people

The Infiniti FX 37 is a luxury cross-over that features high performance and class leading styling.
Photo by Mark Kennedy
The Infiniti FX 37 is a luxury cross-over that features high performance and class leading styling. Photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2013 FX37 AWD

* Exterior color: Moonlight White

* Interior color: Wheat

* Engine: 3.7 liter V-6

* Horsepower: 325

* Transmission: seven-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 22 mpg highway, 18 mpg city

* Dealer: Infiniti Chattanooga, 7648 Lee Highway

* Price (as tested): $51,825

The Infiniti FX37 is a poor man's Porsche Cayenne.

No. No. No. Strike that. Aside from abusing a cliché -- which is frowned on in my business -- the FX37 is also not a poor man's anything.

More accurately it is an upper-middle-class man's (or woman's) performance machine, with 325 horsepower and enough all-wheel drive vigor to make the drive home an adventure.

Infiniti Chattanooga is now part of the Furrow Automotive Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche dealership at 7648 Lee Highway, and soon will have its own free-standing showroom there.

Hank Brown of the Infiniti dealership said the typical buyer of a FX37 is a 30- to 50-year-old male with a taste for performance. That's not your typical "soccer mom" luxury crossover customer, which is precisely the point -- the FX37 has its own niche.

"It's really sort of a muscle car," Brown said.

And indeed it is. On my overnight test drive, our FX37 loaner served as a family hauler (carrying two boys and a pile of lacrosse gear), a mountain climber and a commuter vehicle.

And it excelled in every role.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The FX37 has been around for 10 years, yet its catlike styling still looks fresh and aggressive. The FX took over Infiniti's midsize SUV slot in 2003, replacing the boxy QX4.

The FX37 sits back on its haunches, like a cougar ready to pounce, and comes in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive configurations. Because of the swept-back roof-line, rear visibility is somewhat restricted, but that problem is cured by oversized side mirrors that retract themselves automatically when entering a tight garage space.

Our test ride came with attractive five-spoke alloy wheels, power sunroof and fog lights.

Inside, the FX37 has standard leather-covered seat surfaces -- our test car was outfitted in a classy wheat color. The heated front seats are some of the most comfortable in the midsize luxury class, very suitable for long-haul cruising.

The interior also features a prominent center-stack and 8-inch color vehicle info display, which is home to our tester's hard-drive navigation system, part of a $4,300 premium option package that also includes memory seats, lane guidance functions, power telescoping steering wheel and attractive aluminum roof rails.

I like the way the electronic controls on the dash are arranged on a little shelf below the display screen. Like keys on a piano, they are easy to reach.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

For many SUV owners, driving dynamics are secondary. But this is where the FX37 really shows its personality.

The 37 designation stands for a 3.7 liter engine that pumps out 325 horsepower, enough power to propel the FX37 from 0-60 mph in about 7 seconds. The transmission is a smooth, seven-speed unit that never hunted for the right gears on my test drive up Signal Mountain.

The FX37 is a playful car to drive, with spirited tuning and tight, responsive steering.

BOTTOM LINE

Our FX37 test car, outfitted with a host of electronic and safety options, stickers for $51,825.

When we arrived home from lacrosse, the car got two thumbs-up from the boys in the back seat.

I'm a bit older than the demographic sweet spot for FX37 sales, but I'd say Brown got it right when he said this car is for those who don't want to compromise styling and performance when looking for a practical mid-size SUV.

Let's call it the "lacrosse dad" niche.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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