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My 90-year-old Mom was onboard for this scenic tour of Monterey, San Francisco and all points in between. With precious cargo like that, having a reliable vehicle with comfort and safety was high on the priority list.

No worries. The 2011 Infiniti FX50 provided quite the transportation as we cruised along the challenging, twisty coastal highway toward Big Sur, navigated amidst heavy traffic along multiple interstates, and climbed the incredibly steep streets of San Francisco that can be a nightmare for many drivers.

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It was nice to travel in luxury, which is exactly what the FX50 delivers. This midsize crossover was designed with an emphasis on style, technology, performance, utility, and last but not least – safety.

This FX50 is loaded with extras, which is saying a lot, because the standard features are abundant. Although the lane departure warning and prevention system’s frequent verbal cautions can be annoying at times, it kept me from being too much of a sightseer on a trip with far too many visual distractions. It’s a toss-up whether to include the lane warning system with any optional purchases because it will hike an already pricy vehicle ($57,600) even higher.

But a high sticker price is to be expected when shopping in this neighborhood. The FX50’s closest overall competition – BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne – are more expensive. Other rivals like the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 350 and Lincoln MKX are closer in price and provide more passenger and cargo space, yet don’t offer the same performance as the FX50, a robust 5.0-liter V8, that harnesses 390 horsepower. The FX50 gets there in a big hurry, going 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds.

Infiniti, which is Nissan’s luxury division, even provides competition of its own in the more scaled-back FX35. This model is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 303 horsepower and goes 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. The FX35 has many of the same characteristics of its faster, more upscale brother, yet the allure is it costs $15,000 less at $42,600.

Built on the same platform as the Infiniti G37 sedan, the FX models provide that enviable carlike ride that has many people choosing a crossover SUV. The FX50’s handling was superb along the many S-turn roads we traveled and provided a large degree of confidence. However, it’s a bit stiff in freeway driving situations.

It was tough to find fault with the FX50 in the comfort department. The leather seating can put one to sleep on a long drive (just ask my Mom), and the rich trim and numerous soft-touch materials give the cabin a touch of elegance. The head and leg room is ample in the front seat and the only complaint is the back seat can feel a bit cramped for larger folks. Trunk space is another minor drawback if several days of traveling involves four people and the required baggage for such a trip.

The FX50 is a tempting purchase if one doesn’t worry too much about sticker price. And if that is the case, the answer could be going with the less expensive FX35. Either way, the buyer is getting an attractive crossover SUV that offers great performance, safety and comfort.

2011 Infiniti FX50

Performance: 5.0-liter, V8, 390 horsepower
Mileage estimate: 14-20 mpg
Price: $57,600

Standard features include: all-wheel drive; eight-way power front seats; leather upholstery; privacy glass; rear defogger; roof rack; sunroof; rear power liftgate door; fog lights; automatic xenon headlights; stability and traction control; emergency braking assist; dual-zone automatic climate control; 11-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, six-CD changer, auxiliary audio/USB connections, Bluetooth; 360-degree parking camera system

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