By BJ Killeen
Those who can afford vehicles that cost more than many people’s annual salary are tough shoppers. They demand everything, and for the price they pay, they should get it. Top-notch design, amazing performance, outstanding materials and exclusive technology are the norm rather than the exception. Both Porsche with its Cayenne S SUV and Infiniti with its FX50 crossover, go above and beyond to please the discriminating buyer.
Making a Design Statement
When you have more money to spend on a vehicle, you can take the design in any direction. Porsche did a better job than anyone thought it could to make a hulking sport ute look like a fire-breathing sports car. While not overly muscular in shape, the large tires, broad rear beam, gaping front intakes and sculpted hood give it a definite presence. Throw in the Porsche badge, and other drivers instinctively move out of the way.
Infiniti with its FX series vehicles had a goal to bring a much more modern shape to its large crossover. It features a long hood, lots of sculpting and shaping up front, a high greenhouse arch, and a tapered rear window that is pinched for a squattier rear finish. It’s bold, aggressive, and is unique in the segment. While we had a tough time in this category making a decision because they both represent their brands so well, we have to give it to Infiniti by virtue of stretching the envelope.
It’s really sad when the interior of a luxury SUV is nicer than the interior of your house. In this case, it’s true. The quality of the leather, the beautiful wood finishes and the answer to every whim is what we find behind the wheel of both these rides.
The 2013 Infiniti FX50 has an amazing list of standard features: quilted leather seats, with 10-way power for the driver and 8 way for the front passenger, power moonroof, maple accents, sequential welcome lighting, power rear liftgate, memory seat, steering wheel and sideview mirrors, auto on/off headlamps, and more. That’s just some of the luxury items.
The 2013 Porsche Cayenne S is no slouch, either. The two-tone leather is delicious, the seats are comfortable and supportive, there are grab handles on the center console for ease of use, the gauges are large and easy to read, and there’s also a driver’s memory system as in the Infiniti. However, Porsche tends to offer more features a la carte, which moves the price from somewhat affordable to slightly painful on the bottom line. For instance, on the Porsche, a convenience package that adds heated seats, HID headlamps, and auto-dimming mirrors will set you back and additional $4,500, whereas the premium package costs $7,800 and includes 14-way power seats, front and rear park assist, heated steering wheel and some handling features. The high-end package is just over $11 grand, and gives you everything from the premium package plus reverse camera, heated seats front and rear, vented front seats, air suspension, and some other technologies.
The FX50 comes standard with items that are extra on the Porsche, like a rear camera, but in the Infiniti it’s called an Around View Monitor that gives you a 360-degree view of the vehicle: it’s awesome. Reverse tilt mirrors are standard here, as is a lane-guidance feature that’s optional on the Porsche.
When it comes down to where we’d like to spend our driving time if money were no object, the Cayenne is the selection by virtue of it’s choice of materials, instrument layout, great ergonomics, and something truly important, visibility. While we like the design of the FX, the rear slope creates a small rear window that makes it more difficult to see out of and receive information.
If it’s technology you’re after, Porsche’s tends to lean toward performance and sound quality, while Infiniti’s veers toward safety and practicality. The FX50 offers an optional Technology Package that includes items like adaptive front lighting, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Distance Control Assist, and Intelligent Cruise Control, all of which are designed to keep you heading safely down your intended path.
Porsche is going to charge you extra for the active suspension management system (PASM), Dynamic Chassis Control, ceramic composite brakes and torque vectoring plus. You’ll also shell out another $5,600 if you want the Burmester high-end audio system.
With all the seats folded, both vehicles have about 62 cubic feet of cargo volume, but once the seats are up and the three rear-seat passengers are comfy, the Infiniti’s cargo drops to about 25 cubic feet of space, while the Porsche’s dips slightly below that at 23 cubic feet. If you like a lot of features but can’t afford a king’s ransom, go with the Infiniti. Truth is, you won’t know what you’re missing if you never had it.
Blistering the Pavement
Let’s not make anyone look foolish here. The Infiniti FX50 is fun to drive. Really fun. It comes with the FX’s top end 5.0-liter V8 engine that cranks out an impressive 390 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. But it’s not a Porsche. You can’t fault Infiniti here. It’s darn near impossible to compete with a brand that hangs its hat on serious driving performance. And the Cayenne S does not disappoint. It also features a 4.8-liter V8 engine that makes 400 horsepower and an equal 369 lb-ft of torque, but it’s how that power is put to the ground that makes a difference. Porsche understands serious handling dynamics, and can tune the suspension to corner as flat in the SUV as it can in a 911 race car. The Porsche features an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission that shifts smoothly and effortlessly. The Infiniti’s engine is well matched to its new 7-speed transmission with downshift rev matching that makes you sound and feel as if you’re a much better driver than you probably are.
Another feature in the FX50’s favor is the available Rear Active Steer as part of the Technology Package. Rear steering moves the wheels a minute degree to help with stability and response when pushing the vehicle hard in corners. And it works really well. But overall the Infiniti is better suited to cruising the highway most of the time with some curves thrown in here and there. The Porsche is suited for anything you throw at it.
Both our test cars had all-wheel drive, which, while we don’t live in snowy climes, also comes in handy in regular driving on dry pavement for an added benefit of extra grip. Also, we know that fuel economy is an afterthought on both models, if you really must know, the FX50 gets 14 mpg city and 20 mpg on the highway. The Porsche fairs only slightly better at 16 and 22.
We like the Infiniti’s performance, but we just love driving the Porsche Cayenne S. Just when you think it can’t get better, for 2014, there’s a Cayenne Turbo S with 550 horsepower from a twin turbo 4.8-liter V8. Stay tuned and we’ll see if we can get one to share with you here at AutoComparison.com.
If You Have to Ask…
The Infiniti FX Series starts with an smaller-engined FX37, or the FX50, as our tester was equipped. The FX50 AWD bases at $61,500. Add the optional Sport Technology Package for $6,250 and destination charges at $995, and it’s going to take $68,745 to drive it home. Porsche’s Cayenne comes in a wide variety of flavors, including a diesel, a hybrid a V6 and a Turbo model. If you want to start small with the plain Cayenne, it’s $49,825 with destination. The Cayenne S starts at $65,850, and climbs steeply from there. With the options on our test model, the final total came to just over $86,000, or what we like to call ouch territory. So for those on a somewhat tight budget, the 2013 Infiniti FX50 offers a lot for a better value. But for so many in this class, price is not the deciding factor, so the Porsche is the answer if you like to show off.
For the most part, it’s really hard to beat Porsche at its own game. When the pure sports car company announced that it was going to play in the lucrative SUV game, purists scoffed at the idea and said it would never work. Luckily for Porsche, they were proved wrong, as the Cayenne is probably the brand’s best-selling model line. For Infiniti, the FX has proved to be a little bit harder for customers to understand as there are other SUV/crossover choices in the stable, such as the all-new JX, QX, and even smaller EX options. Keep in mind that Infiniti’s names will be changing, so the FX will be renamed with a Q moniker soon. In the end, neither vehicle will leave you disappointed. But we have to give a nod to the 2013 Porsche Cayenne S over the Infiniti FX50. It just does everything a little bit better, albeit at a higher price.