Review: Infiniti EX35 is one dashing crossover – Excerpt from OC Register

EX

Don’t think of the Infiniti EX35 as an SUV or even so much as a crossover. Rather, look at this vehicle as a lifted G37.

Perceive Infiniti’s compact luxury mover in this light, and you will be easily pleased at what it has to offer. Ask much more of it, though, and you’ll do better to look elsewhere. That’s the conclusion I came to after test-driving a 2010 EX35 Journey around Orange County for a week.

The Infiniti EX is among a crop of compact luxury vehicles that fall into the crossover category, meaning they have qualities of both a car and an SUV – agile handling and the smooth ride of the former, with a taller profile and added cargo capacity of the latter.

Others in this burgeoning segment are the Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX and Audi Q5, all of which start in the mid-$30,000 range and can easily climb. More such vehicles are expected in the coming years, including BMW’s baby X1 and the MINI Countryman.

The idea is to offer young executives, small families and empty nesters a vehicle with a compact footprint and less of an appetite for fuel, while not sacrificing power, comfort or the latest technological wizardry.

While these vehicles have a modicum of towing ability, can haul more cargo than sedans and are available with all-wheel-drive, they are not meant for tackling the dunes of Glamis or muscling in front of a large boat.

In other words, these vehicles are for the majority of buyers who will never take their vehicle on terrain any higher than a strip-mall speed bump or haul anything more than groceries and designer clothes. They are also not for large families. Even fitting five in these vehicles is a squeeze, and third-row seating is a no-go.

In this category, style trumps function and creature comforts take top priority. The Infiniti EX is a brilliant example of both.

It’s also a vehicle with flash and panache. At 182.3 inches in length, the EX is 9 inches smaller than its big brother, the FX, yet the smaller Infiniti packs the same engine found in the FX35 – Nissan’s highly capable 3.5-liter V6. In this application, Nissan’s luxury division has stroked the engine to make 297 horsepower and 253 lb.-ft. of torque, just a few less than the bigger FX35, which isn’t exactly a slouch.

Packing nearly 300 ponies in a vehicle this size makes for an exhilarating driving experience.

The EX35 is fast. Hitting that proverbial 60 mph from a standstill takes just over six seconds, and getting there and beyond is a smooth endeavor as the EX quietly ticks through its five forward gears (a sixth would have been appreciated for highway cruising, though).

See full specs on the 2010 Infiniti EX35

Along with its smooth speed, I also appreciated that the EX in its baser forms is rear-wheel drive, as a proper sports car should be.

As you might imagine, such a willing engine isn’t exactly thrifty on fuel. The vehicle is rated at 17/city and 24/highway on premium fuel, and one less in each if you go with an all-wheel-drive version. I averaged in the middle of those numbers.

While the transmission is smooth, it was the slightest bit hesitant to downshift at times in regular drive mode. A switch to sport mode is a remedy, as is taking the controls yourself in manual shift mode, in which the vehicle matches engine revs for jolt-free downshifts. That kind of technology is appreciated when your wife is trying to apply makeup in the passenger seat, lest the lipstick go beyond its target.

As great as the engine and speed and all that horsepower stuff is in the EX, it’s this car’s looks both outside and in that really stand out.

To my eye, the EX is one beautifully sculpted hunk of metal, with gracious exterior lines and a lack of gaudy emblems that tout the power within.

Step inside the car and it gets even better as your tush is coddled in standard leather, which also wraps around the steering wheel and gear shifter.

My gussied-up Journey edition (totaling $41,545) included features that made driving and living with this car not just easier, but made me feel downright spoiled.

One of the coolest options is a virtual 3-D display that guides you when backing up. It makes a rear-view camera feel almost primitive. The Around View system uses multiple cameras to create an image on the 7-inch touch-screen dash that makes it look as if you are peering at your vehicle from above as you back into a parking space. The last time I saw a system like this, I was test-driving a $245,000 Rolls-Royce Ghost. It’s great to see this type of technology being employed in such a vehicle as this.

Another nice feature is the power, split-folding rear seat, which magically move up or down via the touch of a button.

If you plan to haul any bigger loads, you’ll be needing to hit that button because cargo space is stingy in this vehicle. Remember those beautiful exterior curves I mentioned earlier? The consequence is diminished carrying ability in the interior.

Those rear curves also created some blind spots, and like the Infiniti M37 sedan I tested earlier this year and the Volvo XC60 last year, the lane-departure warning system in the EX35 was quite aggressive, beeping at me the second I started to roll over the lane reflectors. Better that than the other way around, at least?

While the dinging of the lane-departure warning was avoidable, what wasn’t was the road noise and highway drone I experienced at speed on some freeways in the EX, perhaps due to the bigger set of 18-inch wheels mine came equipped with.

This was apparent in one particular section of the usually smooth 5 freeway in Irvine while cruising at, shall we say, higher-than-permissible speeds, or as I like to call it, keeping up with traffic. Good thing the EX features a wonderful audio system to drown out such audible encroachments into an otherwise serene ride.

While the EX isn’t for everyone due to its price and seating and cargo limitations, for those who desire less of a car but not less when it comes to features, the vehicle is a prime example of having just that. The Infiniti EX is a delightful urban cruiser with beauty, brawn and brains.

Visit www.InfinitiMV.com for information about test driving the Infiniti EX.