By E. Layton Dorey
And now, for something completely different
This week’s review will be a bit different than those I’ve done in the past. While I’m still your humble scribe, my betrothed (and beloved) husband, Tim, is actually the reviewer.
Why, fans will ask, have I ceded responsibility for passing judgment on this week’s subjects? Well, I am aware that not everyone has the same driving style, or asks the same things of their vehicle and so I thought I’d try and incorporate the impressions of someone a little less focused on performance than I sometimes am.
With the lease having expired on our “family car,” we needed to get something new. As Tim is the primary driver of this vehicle, I suggested he do the actual “test-driving,” since he’d be the one living with the results of the decision.
This actually turned out to be a learning experience for me. The first “learning” being how much Tim dislikes test-driving multiple vehicles back-to-back in one afternoon. I mention this because I expect it is not unique. Few, aside from the true enthusiasts, probably conduct actual test-drives to evaluate which vehicle in a certain class or segment best suits their needs.
Indeed, Tim was all set to just find the best deal we could on the cheapest acceptable vehicle (he is an accountant, after all). Having successfully dissuaded him from this course of action, he was then all set to search out the best deal on the vehicle he liked the best, based on exterior styling. I’d bet that a lot of people buy vehicles this way.
Our needs demanded that the vehicle be suitable for accommodating some (light) cargo, two or three friends, and our canine family (“Anxious” and step-sister “Troubled”). We liked many of the features of our departing SUV (a BMW X5) and thought that another SUV would be a good choice.
Tim has a great fondness for the exterior styling of the Infiniti FX35/45, so that was definitely on the list. I’d been driving BMW’s for a while, and appreciate their dynamic prowess. While we didn’t want another X5 (the 2005 being very similar to the 2001 we were disposing of), another BMW was definitely an option, so we included the new-for-04 X3 on our short list. Tim also wanted to look at the Lexus RX330, and I persuaded him to look at a Volvo XC90.
All four vehicles are similar in price and available with comparable specification (though only the BMW’s offer a heated steering wheel – a big deal feature in winter!)
I’d also been lobbying for the Volvo XC70, though Tim thought it too much like a station wagon. I argued that SUV’s are “not cool” anymore, and “wagons are hot,” but didn’t seem able to convince him! Fortunately, his “wagon-aversion” did not prevent inclusion of our fifth contender, Audi’s Allroad.
So to the “vehicle experience” (as reported by Tim). First up was the BMW X3. The driving experience is good, and the handling is very “car-like.” Available with either a 2.5 or 3.0 liter straight-six, we chose to drive the smaller engine; it being considerably less expensive than the 3.0 model. Even thusly equipped, the vehicle feels reasonably peppy and accelerated well uphill and on the freeway.
It is also surprisingly roomy. Having just spent three years with the larger X5, we were surprised to find that the “smaller” X3 accommodates about the same amount of cargo, and provides close to equivalent rear seat space.
Next up was the Infiniti FX35. Tim was eager to drive this (and almost ready to sign up for one based solely on the exterior appearance). It is a handsome vehicle, the rakish styling quite striking and sporty amidst a sea of boxy SUV’s. The price for all that style, however, is a cargo area that doesn’t look like it will accommodate much cargo. The load floor is quite high, and the rakish roof cuts into the ceiling height. We wondered whether there would be enough room for one dog and whether the other – older animal – would be able to manage the jump in and out.
For human passengers the conditions improve a lot. The Infiniti is awash in luxury. Great interior styling, thickly padded and comfy seats and lots of “content” as standard. From my position in the passenger seat, this vehicle is alone amongst all we tested that really creates a strong impression of “luxury.”
From Tim’s position in the driver’s seat the FX created an impression of “sportiness” much more so than of “luxury.” Again driving the lesser of the two available models, the FX35 felt fast (not just “peppy”) and handled quite aggressively. The ride is firm to the point of being uncomfortable to Tim, however, who is faced with a 45 minute commute each way along Detroit’s under-maintained freeways.
Check out the next edition of Spinning Wheels for part two of test drives as we experience the Lexus, Volvo and Audi models.