2007 Infiniti M35 Sport (although without the latter's amazing voice-command interface), Bluetooth hands-free calling, a back-up camera, Intelligent Cruise Control, and a Lane Departure Warning system.
Test the tech: To Infiniti and beyond
Inspired by its space-age design and the myriad features of its navigation system, we decided to test the FX45's tech by taking it on an extraterrestrial adventure. Unable to get a permit from NASA to exit the Earth's atmosphere on short notice, we devised a modified interplanetary trek around the streets of San Francisco. With some help from Google Maps, we put together a list of destinations for our galactic goose chase: Neptune Street, Uranus Terrace, Mars Street, Saturn Street, the Vulcan Staircase, and Earth. (Well, OK, the Green Earth organic supermarket, but we're doing what we can do here.)
The plan was to enter the Green Earth as our final destination, with all the other locations programmed as way points. This way we figured that before even leaving the CNET garage, we could punch in all the information needed to get to our five locations. In practice, programming our multistop trip into the FX45's navigation system was straightforward. Unlike the M35 Sport we reviewed last year, the FX45 has no voice-command option for entering destinations verbally. Instead, we had to make use of the bank buttons and the rotary dial in the car's central stack.
Fortunately, Infiniti does away with the twiddly joystick control that Nissan uses in its cars, relying instead on a collection of buttons and a rotary dial as the main interface. Entering a destination can be done using one of a range of options including: street address, point of interest, address book, telephone number (for businesses), previous entries, and by using the onscreen cursor to pick a point on the map. When selecting by address, drivers use the buttons on the four-way control dial to pick letters from a virtual, onscreen keyboard. The system uses predictive entry, so only letters for available addresses are selectable. Ideally, we would like the processor to have been a bit more responsive, as some menu and input screens took a few seconds to refresh once a selection had been made. With the destination and all way points loaded, we set out with the intention of not touching the navigation system again until we had completed our adventure.
While we were unable to enter street destinations by voice on the FX45, the car itself was able to inform us of street names thanks to its text-to-voice capability, which enables the navigation system to read out individual street names during voice guidance. With this useful feature and the system's clear maps and timely suggestions--including extremely helpful guidance when getting on and off the freeway--we reached our initial destination (Neptune Street) without making a single wrong turn. We particularly like the inclusion of the "Voice" button on the dial for calling up voice guidance on demand and the "Where am I" function in the Route menu, which gives information on current location by giving distances to previous and upcoming roads.
In the cabin
The interior of the Infiniti FX45 is a mixture of classic fixtures and trim (rosewood trim and elliptical chrome-trimmed analog clock) and flowing, ergonomic design in keeping with the car's exterior. Forward visibility is excellent, as the cowl sits relatively low, giving the driver good sight lines over the FX45's wavy hood. Rearward visibility, on the other hand, is extremely limited due to a combination of the car's huge C-pillars and its narrow rear windshield. With the presence of an adult passenger in the center-rear seat, it is almost impossible to see behind. Another gripe we have with the interior design is the lack of legroom for back-seat passengers. For some reason, Infiniti decided to add large, protruding pads on the back of both of the front seats, which extend into the rear seating area, making an already tight space even tighter. As well as having to incur the ire of the blindsided driver, any passenger in the center-rear seat also will have to endure the discomfort of a raised platform in the footwell, which presumably acts as a conduit for the wiring to the rear-seat DVD console.