Texas®

After reviewing cars for over 25 years, it really takes a lot to make me stop and say, “Oh, now that is cool.” Recently, I found myself mesmerized by a gadget in Infiniti’s Crossover SUV’s; the FX and EX 350.

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen a lot of silly, over the top, doodads and gizmos on cars over the years. For example: Head’s Up “Fighter” displays on windshields and winking digital dashboards that look like a neon brothel, even. Massaging, heated seats that relax not just the back, but induce napping have been “hot” in the past. Even crash-avoidance alarms that twitch and beep, and night vision displays have all seen their time in the sun. But in the Infiniti the aw-shucks item in question is not just functional but, is a great innovation in safety.

When you’re parking, the center display (radio, GPS, information system) activates 4 overlapping cameras as you back up. The cameras, located in the front and rear bumpers, and port and starboard outboard mirrors, provide an almost perfect, 360 degree view of blind spots and other obstructions. The display combines the four images in a near seamless “overhead” display that honestly looks like there is a camera hovering around, 30 feet above the truck.

The principle reason this is such a good idea, oddly, is so the driver avoids backing up over children, pets and neighbors. Seems a little dumb if you think about it, but since the SUV and minivan replaced the wagon as suburban-soccer-mom-assault-vehicle, there’s been a significant up tick in said soccer moms running over things, as they “just didn’t see them” in the blind spots.

It’s also something that you can turn on with the push of a button when pulling into a parking spot so you can avoid obstructions as well. Given how many times I see people who have not mastered the fundamentals of pulling into a parking spot or parallel parking, I can’t help but think this is a remarkably good idea.

Cool gizmo’s aside; the vehicle still has to be worthy of the nifty bits. The EX & FX are both more sport wagons than they are true SUV’s, as they are weighted heavily to ON-road prowess, rather than anything involving going deep off-road, it’s just not part of the end use of the vehicle.

In town the very functional seating set up and ease of use makes this crossover a nearly perfect everyday vehicle with tons of get-up-and-go, lots of cargo hauling, and excellent maneuvering abilities. There’s not much you can’t toss into the back, and it has an upscale appeal that is still black-tie and valet-parking chic.

I had the chance to take the EX Journey on a run to Houston, and for under $40 in fuel and following a guy with 2 radar detectors in his car, I can tell you that the EX is remarkably stable at better-than-speed-limit-speeds. I loaded my camera gear and a kit bag in the back, turned on the Sirus/XM satellite radio and was in H-town in no-time. Upon arrival I was still fresh and didn’t feel like I usually do after a few hours on I-45.

The only grumble I have with the layout is a minor functional issue with the way the radio works, in order to change the stations. I found it a little cumbersome, but the GPS works very well and I didn’t sound like I was yelling from the bottom of a well while on the BlueTooth speaker phone.

The base on the EX is just north of $35k with an as-tested price of $42,000.00. The slightly larger FX ticked off a $41k base and an as-tested value of $49,950.00. Each was well-appointed with every option in the book; from high-output headlights to air conditioned and heated leather seats.

EPA ratings of 16 in the city and 24 on the highway are pretty much spot-on and are closer to reality than in most other EPA ratings I’ve seen, and overall, both are great ideas for folks who want to do most everything with one vehicle.

Given Nissan’s well deserved long-term reliability reputation and how well put together the Infiniti is as a package, both are great options that should be seriously considered by almost any consumer.

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