The year is 2003. Concorde took its last flight, we’ve invaded Iraq, The Arnold is California’s new governator, and Infiniti introduced its FX45.
A new car introduction – unless it was a new little-red Corvette – wouldn’t typically stand-out on a “highlights of the year” list.
But when it was launched, this coupe-bodied FX was a true ground-breaker, a real design breakthrough. I loved it 20 years ago. Still love it now.
These days we’re used to coupe-shaped, slanted-back SUVs. BMW, Mercedes and Porsche crank them out like there’s no tomorrow. Most still look pretty weird.
But the FX was the first, and to me, a true design masterpiece. That lovely raked roofline, the high waist, the gentle curves, and those huge – for the time – 20-inch rims.
And it had added “cool” by being based on the chassis of Nissan’s Z sportscar and having a satin-smooth 4.5-liter V8 under the hood.
Fast forward 19 years and Infiniti has finally gotten around to re-igniting the original FX flame with the introduction of its sleek and swoopy 2022 QX55.
This time around, Infiniti took an easier approach by simply giving its strong-selling QX50 compact SUV a ski-slope, fastback rear end.
Alas, under the skin, there’s no muscley V8 or Teflon-smooth V6. Just the QX50’s 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and lackluster CVT transmission, though all-wheel drive comes standard in place of the 50’s standard front-drive.
But to my eyes, this new 55 is a true thing of beauty, and a worthy successor, and homage, to the FX.
Just feast your eyes on the oh-so-rakish sweep of the roofline, the gorgeous crease that runs through the doors, and the ring of chrome that highlights the side windows. Very cool rear lights too.
And the quality is awesome. The Sunstone Red paint of our 55 Sensory-trim test car positively glows like molten lava when the sun hits it, the gaps between the body panels are wafer-thin, and the hefty “thunk” you hear as the doors close oozes luxury.
It’s the same when you climb aboard. It’s wall-to-wall perforated, hand-stitched semi-Aniline leather, open-pore black maple wood and satin-finished metal trim. The are Bentleys less fancy than this.
Those front seats are super-supportive and have lots of power adjustment. In the back, there’s plenty of legroom. And even with that lower, more-angled roofline, there’s no shortage of headroom.
As you’d expect, that swoopy roof reduces load-carrying in the back. Cargo volume drops from 31 cubic feet you get with the QX50, to 27 cubic feet with this 55.
So great, so far. But sadly this new racy-looking Infiniti just doesn’t drive with as much passion as you’d expect from a crossover that looks the way it does.
As with the regular QX50, that 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo never delivers its 268 horsepower with much smoothness and refinement. It gets loud and raucous when revved hard and has overly-aggressive throttle response off the line.
But it’s biggest disappointment comes with that standard, variable-ratio CVT transmission. Hit the gas and it has the whiny, high-pitched roar of an outboard motor on wide-open throttle.
That said, the QX scoots along nicely, zips away from the stoplight like Usain Bolt out of the blocks, has good oomph for freeway merging and passing, and cruises at 75mph on I-75 like the luxury ute it is.
While it’s no FX when it comes to handling, it carves curves nicely and with minimal body lean, and has precise, well-weighted steering.
As for pricing, while the QX55 looks like a million bucks, it kicks off at just $46,500 for the nicely-equipped Luxe model. Step up to the Essential trim for $51,600, or go all-out with the top-of-the -line Sensory from $57,050.
That’s one heckuva lot of cool for the cash.