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Motoring: Comparing the Infiniti FX35 to the BMW X3

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 26th, 2012

If you are in the market for a stylish, luxurious SUV that won't actually be used to go through a ravine or cut its way through a forest, then the new BMW X3 and updated Infiniti FX35 will be on your shopping list.

But which is best? To find out, we will look at the three-P's: Practicality, Performance and Price.

Practicality: Both vehicles are capable of carrying five people in relative comfort, but neither is what you'd call spacious. The X3 has more headroom in both the front and back, but the FX35 seems to have more shoulder room. However, if you are interested in carrying luggage, the X3 has a much more spacious trunk than the FX35. It is quite incredible to find such a small trunk space in a vehicle the size of the FX35, but this vehicle is all about style, so practicality had to take a back seat.

So if it's practicality you're looking for, the X3 is the winner in this category. However, from an aesthetics point of view, the FX35's interior looks a lot more up-class compared to the X3. If its style you're after, the FX35 wins.

If you're looking for gadgets, the FX35 has Infiniti's wonderful around-view camera system, which turns parking into a video game. BMW offers such a system on the X5, but not on the X3. Advantage FX35 again.

Performance: Now onto the fun stuff: which one of these is better to drive? To begin, I'd like to point out that both of these are very stiffly sprung, so ride comfort is not their forte. They are not uncomfortable or harsh but they feel a bit bouncy because of their suspension setup. It's something you can get used to quite quickly, although children with weak stomachs will regurgitate their meal in the back seat quite quickly (as I was recently told by owners of such vehicles).

But SUVs like these are less about ride quality and more about speed and handling. On that front, neither of these disappoints. My X3 was the xDrive35i model, which means it had the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder motor with a twinscroll turbo-charger. This results in 300 hp and 295 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to all wheels via a silky smooth new eight-speed automatic gearbox. However, due to the bulk of this vehicle, it doesn't feel as quick as it should. On the plus side, a week's average fuel-economy of 12.2 litres/100km is quite good for a vehicle of this size and power.

The FX35 is thirstier. It averaged 14.0 litres/100km, but then its motor is naturally aspirated and it feels a lot quicker. The FX35 has a 3.5-litre V6 that produces 303 hp and 262 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to all wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. While both the X3 and the FX35 have active allwheel drive systems, it's the system in the FX35 that feels more tuned for sporty driving. Trust me, you can take off-ramps at silly speeds in the FX35 and it won't even flinch. I have driven many sports cars that I wish handled as well as the FX35.

So if you're a bit of a keen driver, the FX35 will put a bigger smile on your face than the X3, so despite its thirst, the FX35 wins this category.

Price: The FX35 starts at $53,250. My “Limited Edition” model, however would set you back $61,900. That is a lot, but you also do get a lot of equipment for that outlay. The X3s are cheaper to begin with. You can get the X3 with a smaller engine — the xDrive28i model — from just $41,900. The xDrive35i model starts at $46,900. My tester, which came with the M-sport package and lots of optional extras, was over $60,000. So, in short, both these vehicles end up costing you about the same, but you have the potential to spend less at the BMW showroom, so advantage BMW here.

Verdict: So, which one would I actually have if I had to choose between these two? This is a tough one as both vehicles have plenty of strengths and weaknesses, but after spending a week with both these vehicles, I am leaning more towards the FX35. At the end of the day, it felt a bit more special and unique, and sometimes that is enough to swing the vote. However, if you've got kids taking up soccer or hockey, the X3 will be the more practical choice. So take a look at your own lifestyle and choose accordingly. In either case, you won't be disappointed.
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