Car Review

2003-2008 Infiniti FX: Used Car Review

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author photo by Joe Tralongo August 2012

The 2003-2008 Infiniti FX is more about athleticism than versatility. Up until the FX debuted, crossover SUVs were not noted for their adept handling, rapid acceleration or sleek good styling. But with the FX, Infiniti has turned conventional wisdom on its head, creating a low-slung crossover described by its designer as a "Bionic Cheetah." Available with a choice of a V6 (FX35) or V8 (FX45) engine, and with rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive (AWD), the FX offers a wide variety of models and choices. But, be forewarned, this is not a vehicle for those who need gobs of interior room, a massive cargo hold or the ability to tow heavy trailers. The FX is, first and foremost, a driving enthusiast's crossover, one that will surprise with its capable handling, athletic performance and luxurious appointments.

Why You Want It

The FX is the perfect crossover for those who like the idea of sitting up a bit higher than in a traditional sport wagon, and who also appreciate or need the sure-footed grip provided by all-wheel-drive. From a looks perspective, this vehicle can still turn heads with an exterior design that never seems to grow old or commonplace. From a performance standpoint, the FX35's V6 engine delivers impressive power and good fuel economy, while the V8-powered FX45 is a screamer that will paint a grin on your face every time you hit the gas pedal. The FX is also a great handling vehicle, with surprising cornering ability given its nearly 7-inches of ground clearance. It's true the FX's rear quarters are a bit cramped and the narrow rear window that makes it difficult to see clearly when backing up, but if you can live with these minor inconveniences, the 2003-2008 Infiniti FX can be quite enjoyable.

Notable Features & Options

True to its premium brand status, the FX comes fairly well equipped. Standard features for the FX35 include power functions for the front seats, windows, mirrors and door locks, driver's power lumbar support, dual-zone automatic temperature control, heated side mirrors, HID headlamps, fog lights, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels. The FX45 adds leather seating, 20-inch wheels, heated front seats, Bluetooth, AWD, driver's seat memory and a sport suspension. All 2003-2008 FX's include electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags covering both rows. Optional equipment includes a 10-speaker 300-watt Bose audio system with rear-view camera (standard on FX after 2006), AWD for the FX35, Lane Departure Warning System, radar guided cruise control, iPod interface for Bose audio, Intelligent Key keyless entry and start, DVD navigation, leather seats, rear seat DVD entertainment system, a power moonroof, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and automatic headlamps.

Model Milestones

2004 - An eight-way power passenger seat is added, as are revisions to the FX suspension intended to smooth the ride. AWD models gain a new Snow Mode function that maximizes traction in snow or mud.

2005 - The side curtain airbags are updated to include rollover detection while the Lane Departure Warning System is added to the options list.

2006 - Minor revisions are made to the FX's grille, front bumper and wheel designs. New standard features include the formerly optional Bose audio system, rear-view monitor, leather seats, heated front seats and a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel.

2007 - No major changes for 2007

2008 - Changes for 2008 are limited to some new colors and the addition of XM Satellite radio as standard.

Engines and Performance

A 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 280 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque powers the FX35, while a 4.5-liter V8 good for 320 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque motivates the FX45. EPA estimates for the FX35 are 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway for the rear drive model and 15/20 mpg for the AWD. The FX45 earns a meager 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway. The standard transmission is a five-speed automatic with manual shift mode.

On the road, the FX35 has plenty of power and strong acceleration, although when loaded with passengers, the engine does strain a bit to keep pace. Those who demand power at any cost (in this case the cost of gasoline) will be happier in the FX45, whose V8 is a dynamo that seems to know no limits. Both FX models handle beautifully, cornering with confidence while delivering excellent feedback via the nicely weighted steering wheel. The brakes are strong, but we did notice some faded after repeated hard stops. The five-speed automatic shifts quick and at just the right spots, but you can always switch to manual mode if you're not happy with the computer's shift point choices. If there is a weak spot to the FX's performance, it's the ride quality, which in the FX35 is decidedly stiff and on the FX45, with its larger 20-inch rims, qualifies as downright jarring.

Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2003-2008 Infiniti FX

2003-06 - A recall was issued for a possible crack in the fuel hose that could result in a loss of fuel and possible fire.

2005 - A recall was issued for improper placement of the child seat anchor on the LATCH system.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

As for safety, NHTSA gives the 2003-2008 Infiniti FX excellent marks in its front and side impact crash test, scoring five out of five stars. The FX scored four out of five stars in the government's roof strength test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gives the FX strong marks in its offset front crash test, but did not test for side impact or rollover protection.

The 2003-08 Infiniti FX35 and FX45 came with a 6-years/70,000 mile powertrain warranty and 4-years/60,000 mile basic warranty. Infiniti does offer a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program for low mileage late model cars, but the 2003-2008 vehicles will not qualify. Generally, used Infiniti cars with less than 60,000 and no more than 4 years old will qualify. CPO cars are given a thorough 150 point inspection that extends the original warranty to 6-years or 100,000 miles beginning from the date the car entered service (so, if a CPO car is 3 years old and has 50,000 miles, the warranty would add 3 more years and an additional 50,000 to the coverage.)

Word on the Web

The overall word from both consumers and consumer advocates is generally positive. The 2003-2008 Infiniti FX receive good marks from Consumer Reports and JD Power and Associates, and there is very little in the way of complaints regarding mechanical or quality issues, with the exception of squealing brakes which gets poor marks from Consumer Reports as well as some enthusiast sites. Overall, owners seem quite pleased with the performance and reliability aspects of the FX, with most complaints we found having to do with design (i.e. the small cargo space and tiny hatchback opening, blind spots and rough ride). Due to the tall rear and small windows, most owners recommend getting the rear-view camera.

Competitive Set (say something about each, strengths and weaknesses)

Acura MDX - The MDX is a larger SUV with more interior room and a third row seat. Its driving dynamics are equally as sporty, but its ride is considerably softer than in the FX.

Lexus RX - The RX350 delivers a much more comfortable ride and its interior feels more open and roomy. The RX350 also gets better fuel economy, especially on the hybrid RX400h model.

Cadillac SRX - Like the RX, the SRX offers a choice of V6 or V8 engines and rear or all-wheel drive. The SRX's exterior is not as distinctive as the FX, but it's edgier than the Lexus RX. There's also more rear seat and cargo room inside the SRX than in the FX.

Auto Trader Recommendations

We'd have to advise going for the FX35 in either 2WD or AWD, preferably a 2006 or newer model for the added standard equipment. While we love the power from the FX45's V8, the low fuel economy and harsh ride from the 20-inch wheels just isn't worth the added cost.

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2003-2008 Infiniti FX: Used Car Review - Autotrader