Wheels: Infiniti FX37S

TAKING THE ROAD LESS TAKEN. The exterior is wholly alluring, but does the driving deliver the same pleasure Renaldi Hutasoit explores on a three-day test drive the bits and pieces that make the Infiniti FX37S strikingly different among the bunch.

The perpetual trend in the Indonesian automotive market is that most buyers would play it safe by going through only the familiar routes. That translates into picking the few most recognizable manufacturers to even thinking about reselling a car before making the purchase. If any, the future reselling experience will determine the brand, model, color and equipment of the cars. Due to this mindset, it is a pity that the majority of Indonesian car consumers would never experience cars that are parked left field but are actually good. Such is the case of the Infiniti FX37S.

One thing is for sure, Infiniti does not pretend to be another brand. While others are playing catch-up with the latest trends in design, Infiniti stays firm in its design direction. As a result, the exterior design of the Infiniti FX37S might not appeal to everyone. Some admire the curvaceous look, and some don’t. What no one can deny is that it looks powerful and ready to pounce. This is due to the long nose that has been a signature for powerful front-engine cars like Chevrolet Corvettes or any Ferrari V12 grand tourer.

In an effort to be different, Infiniti focuses on the sportiness of the FX37S and less on the utility of this Sport-Utility-Vehicle (SUV). Theoretically, the closest rival—both in purpose and in price—for the FX37S would be the BMW X6 3.5 with its fastback layout. But to my eyes at least, the FX37S’ low and cab-rearward shape is decidedly sportier.

Sadly, this handsome long-nose configuration can only be achieved by carving out the interior space. While the front passengers would have zero complaint on comfort, space for rear seat dwellers and luggage is at a premium. Granted, two average-sized adults could sit in comfort for long journeys in the rear as the leg and headroom are decent, but the luggage area is rather limited. You could fold the 60/40-rear seat to increase the luggage area, but then no seating space for friends at the back. Also, due to the high shoulder line, my ten-year-old daughter sitting at the back could not see out the window, and she did not like this one bit.

As much as I like the exterior, the interior has some lackluster notes. The center console and doors are decorated with what appears to be a dull piano black plastic trim. Somehow I think a little burl wood accent would spruce up the interior without compromising the FX37S’ sportiness. Or perhaps had it been in a lighter or more exclusive tone, the interior would be as exciting as the exterior.

I also find the steering wheel buttons in awkward positions. Maybe it is just me, but I tend to use the audio volume button the most while driving, and in the FX37S, these are positioned on the left and quite small in size. On the right hand spoke of the steering wheel are buttons to adjust the cruise control.

The FX37S is actually a very fast car. It can reach 100kph in six seconds, with a top speed of just under 240kph. During normal driving you might not sense this, because the 3.7-liter doesn’t make its maximum 315 horsepower until 7000 rpm, and the 360nm of torque isn’t available until 5200 rpm. At lower rpm, say, around 2500rpm where most of your average driving speed is, a light prod of the throttle will provide you with swift acceleration but it will not lift up its skirt and sprint. It only does so when you utilize the upper range of the engine rpm. The 7-speed automatic transmission is quite responsive in shifting on its own. However, there is a bit of delay when asked to change gear manually via the paddle or the stick shifter.

On the plus side, despite the relatively large 3.7-liter engine capacity, fuel consumption is quite average for a car of this size, with around 5.5km travelled per liter during my three-day test drive. While this may not seem frugal, in Jakarta’s stop-and-go traffic, I have seen the same level of fuel consumption with 2.5-liter sedans. Like I have mentioned many times, blame the traffic, not the car.

By the way, the car will not allow you to forget that it is a sporty SUV. The suspension, even in the soft setting, is rather harsh. I tried the sport setting, but it only adds harshness to the mix by stiffening the shock absorbers without any real handling advantage unless you really push to the limit. Choosing the sport setting, though, will reduce the bounciness when you drive over speed bumps. Nevertheless, the FX37S actually drives more like a sport sedan than any “sporty” SUVs I have driven. The electronic-controlled AWD system is pushing power to the rear wheels most of the time. Furthermore, the long nose of the FX37S is not only a design exercise, but also contributes to the neutral handling trait as the engine could then be positioned more toward the center of the car. The standard 21-inch wheels with 265/45/21 performance tires could subsequently be pushed out to the corners as icing on the already delicious, great handling cake.

The supersized wheels also serve to affirm the sporting role of the FX37S. Behind those gigantic wheels are similarly gigantic brake calipers that ensure maximum braking effort. Unfortunately, the tire noise is more than what I expected from a luxury SUV. The growl from the engine and the burble of the exhaust are still in character with the sporty luxury theme, but the tire noise has no place in a luxury car. As with any luxury car or SUV on the market today with a price range of Rp.1 billion, the FX37S includes adaptive cruise, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive headlights (that will move with the direction your steering wheels are turned to), quilted leather upholstery, 14-way power driver’s seat and 8-way power front passenger seat—both heated and cooled—and Bose 11 speaker system with an eight-inch touch-screen display, rearview monitor with parking sensors, and electric steering-column adjustment. You will also get a sunroof, motorized opening and closing of the rear hatch and bluetooth connection for your cellphone. So on this part, Infiniti has ticked all the right boxes.

I really want to love the sporty FX37S because on its own it is very good. I love the bold exterior look. I love the fact that it offers sporty handling in an elevated SUV platform, which is perfect for Jakarta. I love the power of the engine and its delivery through the responsive 7-speed transmission. I love the engine and exhaust note, which are decidedly sporty. I also love the exclusivity of the FX37S, as you might not see another one even after weeks of driving. However, when you start comparing with its competitors, admittedly it still has some catching up to do.