Infiniti FX45

Crossing Over

The hottest new vehicles are high-performance SUVs made out of car-not truck-parts. And these high-bred models make perfect sense for drivers more interested in medium-duty towing and a luxurious interior than off-road bush bashing in a utilitarian cabin.

Infiniti's new FX45 blends chassis parts from Nissan's 350Z sports car with the engine and transmission of Infiniti's flagship QX45 sedan. The 4.5-liter V-8 pumps a potent 315 hp, more than enough oomph to tow a 3,500-pound load.

The FX45 has a distinctive profile: an in-your-face front end, low roofline, and colossal 20" chariot wheels. The interior has high seats made of leather that look, smell, and feel as if they were stitched at a cost-is-no-object saddle shop. There's room for five, but four is more comfortable.

We hooked up a 2,500-pound Checkmate runabout to the FX45 and hustled to 60 mph in 10.7 seconds and halted from 60 mph to 0 mph in 174' without help from trailer brakes. At the launch ramp, the full-time all-wheel drive pulled out the loaded trailer with no slippage. The FX45's firm chassis calibrations are excellent at resisting tugs and shoves from behind, and side winds, winding roads, and rough pavement are taken in stride. The steering is confidence inspiring, and the cabin mood is serene with little or no wind or engine noise disturbance. However, when this crossover runs bareback, its tight shocks and stiff springs rattle occupants over bumps and expansion joints. The sports car genes of the Nissan 350Z are great for speed, handling, and boat towing but make for a rough ride when you're more in the mood for cruising.

Opt for the technology package ($9,400) for a DVD entertainment system, GPS navigation, tire-pressure monitor, and a reversing camera that lets you back your hitch ball under the trailer tongue with military precision.

MODEL Infiniti FX45
Engine 4.5-liter DOHC V-8
Net hp/rpm 315/6400
Net torque (ft-lb/rpm) 329/4000
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Suspension Front strut type, coil springs
Suspension Rear multilink, coil springs
Brakes (front/rear) disc/disc, standard ABS
Tires Goodyear Eagle, P265/50VR-20
Wheelbase (in.) 112.2
Length (in.) 189.1
Width (in.) 75.8
Height (in.) 65.9
Curb weight (lbs.) 4,480
Towing capacity (lbs., max.) 3,500
Cargo capacity (max. cu. ft.) 64.5
Fuel capacity (gal.) 23.8
0-60 mph acceleration (without/with 2,500-lb. towed load, sec.) 7.0/10.7
60-0 mph stopping distance (without/with 2,500-lb.towed load, ft.) 120/174
Observed towing fuel economy (avg. mpg) 14
Price (as tested) $52,670

LAST WORD. The FX45 is the Cigarette of crossover SUVs.