The Infiniti EX35 is the most attractive vehicle in its class, but that's partly because it's difficult to determine how to classify the stylish hatchback.
The EPA calls it a small station wagon, and we wouldn't disagree, though most will compare it with compact luxury SUVs like the Acura RDX, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class. You really must appreciate the EX35's design to consider buying it. Otherwise, this car...station wagon...err, crossover makes little sense from a practical standpoint.
Then again, for not much more than a base G37 sedan, Infiniti will sell you a rear-wheel drive EX35 with a 297-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Steering is quick and a bit light, yet the suspension tuning helps make the EX35 fun on winding roads. Seats are decent, and, Infiniti says, inspired by the fit of a finely tailored kimono, but could be more supportive with thicker side bolsters. There's minimal body roll when you throw the Infiniti into a curve, but take it on the highway and you might find yourself wondering where the "luxury" in this "luxury crossover" went.
Noise levels at higher speeds are noticeable, and we hope the new seven-speed automatic transmission coming for the 2011 model year corrects this. Since the EX35's debut in the 2008 model year, the sole engine option has been paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Seventeen-inch wheels are standard on 2010 models but, like our tester, all 2011 EX35's will have 18-inch wheels. On smooth roads, the crossover was plenty comfortable, but drive over rough roads or highway expansion joints and this might be the only instance in which an EX35 driver wishes he choose a Lexus RX 350.
The EX35 may not get the G37's newer 328-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, but the 3.5-liter unit does just fine. Throttle tip-in is easy to control, but, while the power will adequately serve nearly all situations with ease, pairing the engine with the new transmission could make the vehicle quicker and increase efficiency. The 2010 EX35 is rated 17/24 mpg city/highway for RWD models and 16/23 for AWD, which is a $1400 option on 2010 models.
When you judge the EX35's dimensions against other compact luxury crossovers, the Infiniti falls behind. Rear seat legroom is worse than the G37 and probably (can we be definitive?) every crossover with which one might compare the Infiniti. Kudos to Infiniti for carving leg cut-outs in the back of the front seats for more room, but we wonder why these trim pieces are made of such a hard material.
Thanks to the drivetrain hump, there's almost no room for the center rear-seat passenger, which gives us an idea for the next-generation Infiniti EX: Why not make this a four-seat-only crossover like the BMW X6? That would give Infiniti the opportunity to make the rear seats more spacious and comfortable. Through the first six months of 2010, the EX35 has been the automaker's lowest-selling vehicle -- what does it have to lose?
If a potential buyer is deciding between an EX35 or G37, salespeople can point to the crossover's additional 5.1 cu.-ft. over the sedan. Loading cargo behind the second-row seats is easy, thanks to the low load floor, but you'll need to pack smartly if you're loading lots of gear. The EX35 has 18.6 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the rear seats, compared to 23.3 cu.-ft. for the Mercedes-Benz GLK and 27.8 cu.-ft. for the Acura RDX.
Neither of those little utes, however, have Infiniti's cool Around View Monitor, which uses cameras on every side of the EX35 to make parking and maneuvering into tight spaces easier. It's not difficult to get accustomed to the technology and, as a bonus, it also helps you figure out whether the car is parked against a red-painted curb solidly in a space.
Below the navigation display, in which the Around View Monitor's camera's images are shown, is one of the best details on the EX35: a compartment underneath the front cupholders that can be used either to hold very tall cups or hide small belongings. Overall, the EX35's interior is nicely finished, though the 2011 model's revised electroluminescent instrument cluster coloring should provide a good boost in brightness during the day.
Our tester, finished in a beautiful color called Dark Currant, stickered for $41,545; base 2010 EX35's are $34,665. As part of various packages, the car featured a Bose sound system, the Around View Monitor, a navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen, adaptive HID headlights, aluminum roof rails, and more. If that's not enough, a $2250 package is available, offering technology including lane departure warning and prevention systems plus intelligent cruise control.
Except for the 2010 Infiniti EX35's highway ride, the crossover is a good value. It's a refreshingly unique offering in the market and has its niche all to itself (Acura ZDX is in this segment)--that is, until the BMW X1 arrives in early 2011.
|2010 Infiniti EX35|
|Price as Tested||$41,545|
|Vehicle Layout||Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||3.5L/297-hp 253 lb-ft/ DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Curb Weight (dist f/r)||3783 lb (52/48%)|
|Length x Width x Height||182.3 x 71.0 x 62.6 in|
|Cargo Capacity (2nd row up/down)||18.6/47.4 cu-ft|
|0-60 mph||5.8 sec|
|EPA City/Hwy fuel econ||17/24 mpg|
|CO2 Emissions||0.99 lb/mile|