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Infiniti FX and M35h 2012 Review

The FX all-wheel drive SUVs are expected to account for more than 80 per cent Infiniti cars for the first 12-18 months.

Money talks. but Infiniti won't reveal prices or spec details until closer to the late-August launch of Australia's newest luxury brand.

That makes rating it in the prestige hierarchy — Lexus, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz — all but impossible.

Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell says he won't chase volume by making it a "budget prestige" brand. "That just defeats the purpose of being in this market. People buy these types on vehicles on value and image, not price," he says.

"The younger Gen Y buyers are looking for something different. In many cases they see European prestige cars as representing their parents' values."

So Infiniti wants to be different, right down to the design of its cars with the signature bulging front guars pushing up in to the bonnet. Snell knows the look won't suit the conservative crowd — and is happy about it.

THE RANGE

The FX all-wheel drive SUVs are expected to account for more than 80 per cent Infiniti cars for the first 12-18 months, headlined by the V8-powered FX50S.

The M35h hybrid will be the only sedan in the line-up at launch but will be followed by the small-sized G Coupe and G Convertible towards the end of the year and the next-generation G sedan is due in late 2013.

Infiniti can tap the resources of Nissan and Renault and has grabbed two of the best engines in the alliance's inventory in the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel from Renault and the 3.7-litre petrol V6 that is best known in Nissan's sporty 370Z.

PRICING

With no news from the Australian arm, a look at the British Infiniti website shows the FX range has four basic spec levels, GT, GT Premium, S and S Premium. Prices start around $74,000 for the base FX37, with the diesel engined FX30d just $135 more. At the top of the tree, the FX50S Premium sells for $92,500. 

In comparison, BMW's X6 range — the closest in terms of looks to the FX — starts at $74,200 in the UK for the xDrive30d, steps up to $75,500 for the xDrive35i and costs $92,000 for the xDrive50i. The range-topping, turbodiesel xDrive50d adds another $8000. Expect local prices to be more than the UK figures but still on a par with Infiniti's Euro rivals.

DRIVING

The focus on performance is obvious in all the cars during a brief drive in New Zealand this week. They go hard and hold the road better than a high-riding 2.1-tonne vehicle should be able to.

FX37 normally rolls on 20-inch rims but the test vehicles were S variants with stiffer suspension and 21-inch wheels covered with 265/45 rubber. Tyre noise on the coarse chip surfaces around Queenstown was noticeable from 80km/h up, but it was made more obvious by the lack of wind noise coming off the A-pillars and chunky side mirrors.

The FX37 officially uses a litre less fuel over 100km than the V8, but that ain't the case when it's trying to catch its bigger brother. The six-cylinder's fuel use of 14.6L/100km was above the 13.1 Carsguide in the FX50.

That was largely due to the transmission kicking down a couple of gears on when attacking hills to keep the 3.7-litre engine revving. The V8 was generally happy to cover the same ground in a higher cog.

The BMW X6 has the edge in on-paper performance but in the real world there won't be much between the two vehicles. The heated and ventilated front leather seats in the Infinitis are snug, supportive and stylish and the FX doesn't want for standard kit.

It also has the safety software to suit this class, from adaptive cruise control to lane departure warning and a tyre pressure monitoring system. And the sloping roofline that helps give the car its stand-out shape doesn't limit headroom for 180cm-plus rear passengers.

VERDICT

Infiniti has the vehicles to compete on the road. Now we need to know the value equation to see how the newest prestige player will compete in showrooms. Don't expect the other brands to sit back and watch, though, which can only be good for all potential prestige buyers. .

Infiniti FX

Prices: TBA
Warranty: TBA
Resale: NA
Service intervals: TBA
Engines: 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6, 175kW/550Nm (FX30d); 3.7-litre V6, 135kW/360Nm (FX37); 5.0-litre V8, 287kW/500Nm (FX50S)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body: 4.86m (L), 2.13m (W), 1.68m height
Weight: NA
Thirst: 9.0L/100km, 238g/km CO2 (FX30d); 12.1L/100km, 282g/km CO2 (FX37); 13.1L/100km, 307g/km CO2 (FX50S)

Infiniti M35h

Prices: TBA
Warranty: TBA
Resale: NA
Service intervals: TBA
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric hybrid, 268kW/620Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive Body: 4.95m (L), 2.06m (W), 1.5m (H)
Weight: NA Thirst: 6.9L/100km, 158g/km CO2

Pricing guides

$26,170
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$22,200
Highest Price
$30,140

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT Premium Hybrid 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, 7 SP AUTO $22,200 – 30,140 2012 Infiniti M35h 2012 GT Premium Hybrid Pricing and Specs