The last time I drove an EX35 was in summer of 2008 when my mother was shopping for a car to replace her 2006 Lexus RX400h. She wanted to keep the usability of an SUV but wanted something that drove more like a car. Enter the EX -- essentially a G35 hatchback (and is sold as much in Japan). On paper, it was the perfect fit. Sadly, an already-outdated infotainment system, tight interior accommodations, and an unrefined five-speed automatic scuttled the deal.
Four years later, the EX still suffers many of the same problems. 2011 brought a new, seven-speed automatic; however, that transmission is strangely calibrated here. The EX is powered by the same engine it has been using since it has been using since the launch five years ago: a delicious-sounding 3.5-liter V-6, and engine that Infiniti has phased out of its other cars in favor of the more powerful and more refined 3.7-liter V-6.
There is a good chance that a redesign will be coming soon for the EX. Let's hope Infiniti can finally address the car's remaining issues.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
We spent a year with the Infiniti EX35 when it first hit the streets and it puzzled our staff. How does a four-door crossover have less rear legroom than a G37 coupe? What would make someone buy this tall hatchback over an AWD G37 sedan? We never really answered those questions. The EX35 remains a mystery to me.
Even if you can't make sense of the EX35, it's a pleasant vehicle to drive. The seating position is quite comfortable, power is surprisingly good for a crossover, and the AWD system gives snowbelt shoppers a warm feeling inside. In the 2012 Infiniti EX35, Infiniti has the best-driving premium compact crossover on the market, which probably has more to do with its surprisingly low center of gravity than anything else (the EX35 is only 4.7" taller than a G37 sedan). As always, there are compromises to be made in order to make the EX35 drive so well, mainly very limited room behind the front seats. Rear seat passengers will be happiest if their age is still a single digit and it's not likely you'll fit a whole lot more than a couple of overnight bags in the hatch. Perhaps that's not an issue for empty nesters.
Aside from the lack of space, the EX35's interior is very well done. Infiniti has the perfect balance between touch-screen technology and old fashioned knobs and buttons. Every control is easy to figure out and you're never fumbling around looking for a way to change the fan speed. All the materials you touch are high quality and would look appropriate in a vehicle costing about a third more than the EX.
Infiniti has an interesting product here. I can easily see the EX35 being too small for a lot of people's needs. If you can live with the cramped rear seat and relatively small cargo capacity, the EX is worth a look.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Well, Phil Floraday (and the eavesdropping Internet public), let me enlighten you. I recently sat through an Infiniti presentation that explained where each of the brand's four utility vehicles fits in the lineup. The truck-based QX56 is for families that tow, the new seven-passenger JX35 is for families with smaller toys, the FX50 and FX35 are for couples, and the EX35 is for singles. Basically, the EX35 is more of a style statement than an appeal to practicality.
The EX35 is a delight to drive quickly. The handling and steering are superb, but that's not enough to make the EX35 a standout in this very competitive segment. If you're looking for a luxury crossover with high fun-to-drive factor, you should be shopping for an Audi Q5 or a BMW X3. If you compare the six-cylinder models across all three brands, Infiniti's EX35 starts at a price $6000 lower than either of the Germans, but BMW and Audi both offer turbocharged four-cylinders that keep the price in check and deliver lively performance. No matter what you choose -- BMW or Audi; four-cylinder or six-cylinder -- you'll be buying a vehicle with a much smoother engine and a much more refined transmission. Both German competitors also offer interiors that are just as upscale, functional, and stylish as what you get in the Infiniti and they deliver at least six additional inches of rear-seat legroom. The Infiniti EX35 is good to drive, but Audi and BMW deliver equivalent or better dynamics in more practical packages.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
The Infiniti EX35 is a lot more appealing to me than the larger FX crossover. I think the smaller EX is more attractive and free of overly aggressive flares and vents and arches. The EX also drives less like an SUV and more like a tall G37, with weighty steering and firm suspension. Overall, I found the EX35 a very pleasant compact luxury crossover.
Though I quite like the EX35, there's no doubt that it has some peculiarities. For instance, it still uses the 3.5-liter VQ-series V-6 engine even though most other Nissan/Infiniti vehicles have adopted the smoother 3.7-liter V-6. The leather-bound owner's manual and accompanying pen are strapped to the side of the cargo area. Finally, the rear seats offer enough leg- and headroom for someone of my height, but the rear legroom is notably less than in an Infiniti G37 sedan.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Although it looks like a crossover, the Infiniti EX35 has more in common with a luxury sport sedan than a utility vehicle. In fact, its near-perfect ride and handling balance, communicative and nicely weighted steering, and stylish, comfortable, and beautifully trimmed interior are almost exactly what you'd find in Infiniti's entertaining G37 sedan. Its parlor trick is that it pulls this off while also offering the visibility, entry and egress, and cargo-loading advantages that come with the additional ground clearance over its sedan counterpart.
The EX35's negatives are few and mostly subjective -- larger people may feel a bit confined by the cozy interior and the sharply angled rear hatch restrict the ability to carry bulky objects -- but in my opinion, it offers an extremely appealing combination of the dynamic goodness and compact footprint of a sport sedan and the elevated ride height and increased utility of a crossover.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Someone needs to reprogram this seven-speed transmission. It takes forever to respond to throttle inputs with a downshift, to the point that most of the time you're halfway through a passing maneuver by the time you get the power you wanted. That's a shame since the EX35's main selling point should be its responsiveness compared to bigger, bulkier crossovers. It lives up to that billing in terms of steering and handling, at least. I remember keeping up with a Cadillac CTS on some Massachusetts back roads in our departed four seasons EX. It also has one of the nicer interiors you'll find in a vehicle costing less than $40,000, with impeccable materials and snug seats that remain comfortable over a long trip. If you think of the EX as a luxury sport sedan with a rear hatch and a bit of ground clearance it actually makes some amount of sense. But please, Infiniti, fix the transmission.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The EX35 hasn't been a big seller, since it's really just a small all-wheel-drive hatchback sedan with an elevated ride height and little utility. But it works for me: It's all the vehicle I would ever need 98% of the time. There is sufficient room to comfortably carry four people to go out for an evening or other excursion, if not a trip. It's certainly a sporty thing, and it's a reasonable luxury urban runabout. If I lived, say, in Los Angeles and had a long commute, I'd be quite happy to have this car, because you've got some ride height to see around traffic, a responsive powertrain, and compact dimensions for parking and for dashing in and out of traffic. Clearly, this is not the crossover for everyone; in fact, it's not the crossover for most people. That said, it's certainly a nice vehicle for a certain subsegment of buyers.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor