When you look at the Infiniti EX35, what do you see? A low-slung, sporty crossover vehicle, or a tall-bodied hatchback sport sedan? During its yearlong stay at 120 East Liberty Street, our 2008 EX35 AWD Journey was perceived as both. Staffers who saw it as the former were for the most part confused and put off by the EX35, while those who viewed it as the latter were more accepting of Infiniti's niche-splitting entry.
One look at the rakish, swept-back styling, and it's clear that the EX35 is different from the burgeoning herd of luxury-brand crossovers. Infiniti calls it "the personal crossover." Assistant editor David Zenlea tells us why. "My traveling companion and I managed to fill most of the cargo hold with two suitcases and a cooler," he noted. "Clearly, the EX35 is not meant for taking the kids to Disney World."
Editors who grabbed the keys and then headed to the home-improvement store or even the nursery also were disappointed. "I love the compact dimensions and swoopy styling of the EX," said production editor Jennifer Misaros, who had trouble transporting a trio of three-foot tomato plants, "but those two elements definitely work against you when you're transporting large - and not so large - objects."
To be fair, the EX35 does have more cargo space than the G37 sedan, 18.6 cubic feet versus 13.5, and the EX35's rear seatbacks fold down to expand the space further. But the sloping roofline severely restricts the number of bulky items that can come along. Many of us had a hard time with the notion that a tallish, all-wheel-drive vehicle with a liftgate would offer so little utility. But copy editor Rusty Blackwell drew a parallel between the EX35 and its larger sibling, the FX35, and observed that "Infiniti does a great job of taking the 'utility' out of 'sport-utility vehicle.' "
The EX35's additional body height compared with a traditional passenger car may not create a huge cargo area, but it is just enough to make for perfect ingress and egress - no dropping down into the seat, no climbing up to get inside. But once there, many found the cabin cramped. Rear-seat legroom is short of the G37 sedan's measurement by an incredible 6.2 inches, and tall drivers found front-seat headroom at a premium as well. Compromised headroom was also an issue with our Four Seasons G37 coupe; maybe Infiniti should hire some taller engineers.
Those who saw the EX35 as closer to a sport sedan than an SUV seemed to have a higher opinion of the car. Contributor Ronald Ahrens was among them, calling the EX "a tall sedan with hatchback versatility." Ahrens was one of many who praised the car's chassis, saying the EX35 "strikes a lovely compromise between a supple ride and nimble handling." Ahrens was not at all confused by the car's mission. "This car might not be for everybody," he concluded after a trip to Kentucky, "but it could be for me."
The EX35 followed in the wake of a yearlong visit by a platform-mate, the Infiniti G37 coupe. (The G37 sedan, the FX crossover, and the Nissan 370Z are relatives as well.) The family resemblance in the cars' suspension tuning was evident. "Infiniti seems to get the ride-and-handling balance better than other Japanese brands," noted one driver. Added senior Web producer Phil Floraday, "On our trip east, we ditched the interstate and stuck with two-lane roads for an entire day through Vermont, New Hampshire, and up lovely Route 1 in Maine. I found the EX to be as tossable as anything else built on Nissan's FM platform."
As their nomenclature suggests, the G37 coupe and sedan use a slightly larger version of Nissan's VQ V-6, a 3.7-liter unit that boasts an additional 31 hp and 16 lb-ft of torque. The coupe and sedan also offer a choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic, while the EX35 comes only with a five-speed automatic. Frankly, we didn't miss the manual, as several drivers felt that the automatic is actually the better mate for this V-6. "It's remarkable how much more refined this engine feels when dampened by a torque converter," said Floraday. But why shouldn't the EX get the seven-speed version? Even with only five gears, though, the EX35 proved fairly economical, averaging 21 mpg, and it impressed several long-haul drivers with its highway cruising range.
If the EX35 didn't quite live up to the G37 as a sport sedan, though, the main reason was the steering, which is too light and lacks any effort build-up. It's wholly out of sync with the car's sporty character.
While opinions were divided on how to characterize the EX35, there was much about the car that nearly everyone agreed on. The EX was a champion long-distance cruiser, and during its year with us it went as far afield as Missouri, Virginia, Massachusetts, and far eastern Maine. In each case, drivers put in stints of eleven hours or more behind the wheel, and all remarked on the car's comfort. And the EX35's controls are very user-friendly; Infiniti's navigation/stereo interface, for instance, is far simpler than any of the German car companies' variations on BMW's iDrive.
Our EX was loaded with a plethora of high-tech driver aids. The navigation system ($2150, bundled with a rearview camera and a 9.3-gigabyte music hard drive) received high marks, as did the Bluetooth phone system and the iPod interface (both part of a long list of equipment in the $2150 premium package). The most advanced gear came with the technology package ($1950), which brought intelligent cruise control, lane-departure prevention, and an around-view monitor. The last item was by far the favorite high-tech feature. "It may seem gimmicky at first," remarked one driver, "but it's very useful for backing into a driveway or a tight garage space."
There also was no debate as to the EX35's build quality or reliability, which were top-notch. "I had the pleasure of driving the EX during its last weekend with us," said Zenlea. "It has nearly 30,000 miles on it, but if someone dialed back the odometer and told me that the car was new, I probably wouldn't have suspected otherwise." Indeed, not only did the EX35 hold up well, it sailed through a year without a single problem. Visits to the dealer were only for routine maintenance, and out-of-pocket expenses were limited to a set of Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires.
So the EX worked well, but does the personal-crossover concept really make sense? Technical editor Don Sherman summed up the views of those who say no. "The EX is not convincing as an alternative to a G37, and it's too small to satisfy crossover fans," he said. "Vehicles attempting to bridge gaps in the market risk falling into obscurity." Floraday was more generous: "It's comfortable, stylish, and surprisingly fun to drive. Yes, more legroom in the back seat and extra cargo capacity would make it exponentially more practical," he allowed, before concluding, "I suppose it's an answer to a question nobody asked, but it's not a bad answer at all."
4-yr/60,000-mile roadside assistance
10,257 mi: $81.03
23,630 mi: $123.22
389 mi: Purchase, mount, and balance four Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25V winter tires, $764.41
9044 mi: Remount stock Dunlop SP Sport 7000 all-season tires, $117.14
28,544 mi: Remount winter tires, $107.21
Cost per mile
(Fuel, service, winter tires) $0.17
($1.08 including depreciation)
Prices & Equipment
Price as tested
ABS; traction and stability control; air-conditioning; keyless ignition; power windows, mirrors, locks, front-row seats, and sunroof; leather seats; cruise control; six-disc CD changer; XM satellite radio; front, side, and side curtain air bags
Premium package (Bose premium audio system, iPod interface, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, Bluetooth, eight-way power passenger seat, power tilting/telescoping steering column, rear A/C vent) $2150; luxe style package (eighteen-inch wheels, swiveling xenon headlamps), $1250; navigation package (nav system with voice recognition, 9.3-gig music hard drive, rearview monitor), $2150; technology package (around-view monitor, lane-departure prevention system, intelligent cruise control), $1950; wood trim, $450
*Estimate based on info from intellichoice.com
Pros + Cons
+ Stylish exterior
+ Well-sorted chassis
+ High-tech features
- Cramped back seat
- Small cargo hold
- Overboosted steering
|RATING||3.5 out of 5 Stars|
|body style||4-door crossover|
|Engine||24-valve DOHC V-6|
|Displacement||3.5 liters (213 cu in)|
|Horsepower||297 hp @ 6800 rpm|
|Torque||253 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm|
|Transmission type||5-speed automatic|
|turning circle||34.8 ft|
|Suspension, front||Control arms, coil springs|
|Suspension, rear||Multilink, coil springs|
|Brakes f/r||Vented discs/discs, ABS|
|Tires||Dunlop SP Sport 7000 A/S|
|headroom f/r||38.7/37.7 in|
|legroom f/r||44.3/28.5 in|
|shoulder room f/r||54.8/55.1 in|
|hip room f/r||52.9/50.0 in|
|L x W x H||182.3 x 71.0 x 62.6 in|
|Track f/r||62.7/64.6 in|
|weight dist. f/r||54.0/46.0%|
|cargo capacity||18.6 cu ft|
|fuel capacity||20.0 gal|
|est. fuel range||400 miles|
|fuel grade||91 octane|
|Our Test Results|
|0–60 mph||6.6 sec|
|0–100 mph||16.1 sec|
|1/4–mile||14.9 sec @ 96 mph|
|30–70 mph passing||7.6 sec|
|peak acceleration||0.54 g|
|speed in gears||1) 48; 2) 79; 3) 121; 4) 140;|
|5) 135 mph|
|cornering l/r||0.85/0.84 g|
|70–0 mph braking||178 ft|
|peak braking||0.97 g|