First drive: Infiniti FX and EX diesel
Infiniti and beyond is where Nissan's prestige range of cars and SUVs have sat for most of us since they were launched last year. Partly because these are premium-pitched cars whose prices start the wrong side of £30,000, and more vitally, because there's been no diesel option to make these models economically viable for buyers.
But that's changing now with the introduction of an impressive new 3.0 V6 turbo diesel.
It can now be found under the bonnets of Infiniti's mid-sized EX SUV, and the somewhat grander FX.
This new engine shovels out a mighty 406lb ft of torque, easily shading opposition that includes Audi's Q5, the BMW X3 and Volvo's XC60, and its power output of 235bhp is highly competitive too. What this means is 7.9sec to 62mph, 137mph and more importantly, 33.2mpg combined and a CO2 figure of 224g/km.
Emissions make this EX look rather less competitive however, the Volvo shading it with 184g/km, and all but one of these competitors coming below 200g/km. The Audi outsprints it too.
That's disappointing considering that this engine is new, although the EX itself is now three years old and we'd expect the next version, due in two to three years, to improve. Better news is the way it drives. This engine pulls hard, as you'd expect, and provides the EX with impressively surging bursts of acceleration. It's very smooth and the V6's willingness to rev is above average too.
This is not a silent engine but it's hardly noisy either, its subtle roar suiting the moderately sporting character of the EX well. As a package it works well, especially as it comes very well equipped, and though several of its competitors have the measure of it in some respects, it makes for a choice that's now more viable rather than just being unusual.
The diesel engine is exactly the same in the bigger FX as it is in the smaller car, so it's no surprise that the heavier FX is less accelerative, needing 8.3sec to reach 62mph. But that's still more than brisk for a four-wheel drive of this bulk, and sometimes it feels it. The suspension battles to keep the body and its big wheels under control on 'B' roads, and though both do a valiant job, the FX is less relaxed on challenging surfaces than the smaller EX.
It feels big too, not least because its bulbous front wings are very visible from the driver's seat. But it turns out to be defter through bends than you might expect, and as a long-distance cruiser it's very relaxing, especially as the interior is stylishly sculpted, well equipped and pretty quiet.
The FX is pitched against Audi's Q7 and BMW's X5, and while it doesn't appear much cheaper at first glance, it does come better equipped. As with the EX, the diesel option now makes the FX a more justifiable choice, even if it's not a class leader.