It’s understandable to be in awe of what Infiniti has accomplished over the past decade, as it is no mean feat. The G-series sedan and coupe are arguably the first cars to stand toe to toe with the Gold Standard of the sport sedan, the mighty, and feared BMW 3-series. Over the years, Infiniti has broadened the G-series line, giving buyers the option of rear or all-wheel drive, and more recently, a convertible. But for the buyer seeking a satisfying driving experience who also needs some extra space, the BMW 3-series Sports Wagon (or Cadillac CTS Sportswagon) was the only game in town.
Until this year. Infiniti likely recognized North American’s strong preference for crossovers, and resisted the temptation to cobble together a G37 Sport Wagon of their own. The challenge for the EX35 is twofold-retain the sporty character of the G-series cars on which it is based, while offering the space and utility the crossover buyer expects. Did Infiniti manage to serve two masters? Read on.
Starting with appearance, the EX stands apart from other crossovers. Far curvier, sportier and aggressive than the traditional boxy style normally expected (think Acura RDX or Mercedes-Benz GLK). Our car’s optional 18″ wheels filled the wheel wells nicely, and there is just enough visual jewelry on the car to let passersby know the buyer treated themselves to something special. Infiniti stylists should be congratulated for keeping it classy. Overwrought, the EX35 is not.
The interior of the EX35 is simply gorgeous. Beautifully designed, with quality materials and workmanship to back up the promise of sporty luxury promised by the exterior. Ã‚Â The front seats are superbly comfortable. Finding a comfortable driving position is quick and easy (if you can’t, it’s time to call your chiropractor). Our EX35 packed a boatload of high-tech features, yet was not at all intimidating to use, thank to straightforward controls on the center console.
It’s hard to imagine a nicer cabin in a small luxury crossover-for the two front passengers. The story is different when sitting in the rear. The back seat is cramped, with limited shoulder room, and not much in the way of legroom if you are taller than 6 ‘, while you simmer over the abundant space your buddies up front are enjoying. Loaded with a car seat and two adults, the EX35 was inexcusably tight on space, a mortal sin in this class of vehicle.
Dynamically, it is hard to fault the EX35. Infiniti offers the EX in rear or all-wheel drive. Power comes via a 3.5L V-6 rated at 297hp, mated to a 5-speed automatic. Power delivery is smooth and seamless, with just enough commotion emanating from the engine room to remind the driver the EX35 doesn’t simply exist for soccer practice runs. Some critics may carp about the lack of a six or seven speed transmission, but the EX seems no worse for it, with smooth shifting, and always willing to drop a couple gears when you need it without much hesitation.
Ride and handling are first rate. The EX35 offers a firm, sporty ride, but is never harsh. Infiniti showed restraint in wheel sizes, the 18″ wheels our car wore are the largest available. Attractive, but reasonable in size so you are not crashing over the slightest change in the pavement beneath you. From a performance standpoint, the EX35 is at or near the top of its class.
Our test car was the top-spec Journey all-wheel drive model. With a base sticker of $37,400USD it is competitively priced for the small luxury crossover market. Our well optioned test car included the Bose and Around View Monitor Package, Premium Package and Navigation Package. The 11 speaker, 2 subwoofer Bose stereo provides excellent, high quality sound. Other features included a 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, XM Nav Traffic, XM Nav Weather and Zagat Restaurant guide. But perhaps the most impressive feature was the Around View Monitor. Friends, this is no ordinary back-up camera. Slip the car into reverse, and the display screen spits in two-one half the view from the rear, the other a superimposed image of the car, with four cameras giving a near panoramic view of-you guessed it-around the car. Clearly, the best this auto journalist has experienced to date. Our as-tested price came to $42, 945-hardly inexpensive, but pretty fair compared to how quickly the price of a BMW X3 or M-B GLK350 escalates when added with similar options.
Yet, this car is a rolling conundrum. The EX35 is handsome, luxurious, performs very well, and priced reasonably for all the content you get. When you consider the cramped rear seat, and the fact the more traditionally styled competition offer more cargo room, you being to wonder, “What’s the point?” Infiniti warned buyers years ago with the larger FX crossover they were willing to sacrifice some utility in the name of style, and that’s acceptable to many buyers. But in the case of the EX35, as great as it drives, a crossover that leaves one uncertain if it can handle a family of four and all their gear for a week’s vacation seems frivolous.