One spouse prefers SUVs; the other craves classic sport-sedan driving delights. While satisfying both prerogatives sounds like a job for Dr. Phil, walking the perilous line between sport and utility is precisely what the Infiniti EX35 accomplishes.
Infiniti has staked out a microscopic site of unclaimed turf in the gridlocked crossover segment. Sizewise, the new EX is a low-riding BMW X3. Stylewise, it's an Infiniti G35 sedan with a bobbed tail and a hatch. Philosophically, it's a machine with the uncanny ability to maintain garage goodwill.
Mechanically, this is another shuffle of the Nissan/Infiniti FM-platform components deck. Take a front suspension from the G, bolt on a rear suspension from the FX, stir in a fourth-generation 3.5-liter V-6, and add a smart five-speed manu-matic. Keep the curb weight below two tons, whip the energy supply toward 300 hp, and avoid the severe FX suspension settings that intimidate the weak of spirit. Season liberally with electronic goodies for the gadget-afflicted.
Tidy dimensions keep the EX35 from being the jack of all SUV skills. There is no macho off-road pretense. The back seat is roomy enough for two, although adult-size shoes must be twisted to clear the narrow door openings. While power-folding rear seats make the most of the cargo hold, the 16.8 cubic feet available (with all seats in use) falls short of a sprawling family's needs. This is an SUV for two camps: those wishing to curb a supersize habit and car folks dipping a toe in crossover waters.
Utility sacrifices are well-rewarded. The EX's speed-sensitive steering maintains a truthful dialogue with the road, especially when the optional all-wheel drive is eschewed. Thanks to a reasonably low center of gravity, firm dampers, and ample roll resistance, the body never flops like a fish out of water. The automatic transmission offers well-spaced ratios, crisp shifts, an authoritative sport mode, and rev matching on downshifts. The engine loves every unbridled run to its 7500-rpm redline. Driving the optional eighteen-inch, V-rated Dunlop SP Sport tires through their grip limit, it's easy to forget that you're wearing crossover attire.
Four interior hues are available with black-lacquered plastic and textured aluminum or real maple trim. The optional navigation system includes a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for music storage. An eleven-speaker Bose sound system offers iPod connectivity via a USB port. Two innovations are an Around View Monitor that mixes four video-camera feeds into one bird's-eye look at your immediate surroundings and a Lane Departure Prevention system that nudges the brakes to curtail unintended lane changes.
With the long-running sport versus utility dispute solved by Infiniti's EX35, modern couples may now focus their energy on other pressing issues, such as who's actually responsible for the laundry.