Infiniti EX35 — A near luxury CUV that acts like a sports sedan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Nearly every time we slipped behind the wheel of the 2009 Infiniti EX35 we thought this is the way a small sports sedan is supposed to feel.

We hit the starter button and head to the street loving the taut feel, definitely reminding us of a sports car. In our driving experience, no matter what kind of car, the vehicle should have that taut and confident feel and the EX crossover unabashedly delivers this sensation to the driver. It drives small — and it is quick and light – just like a small sports sedan.

Hit the throttle and performance is lusty, confidence-inspiring and smile-inducing. Find a stretch of road with a few tight curves, throw caution to the wind, and ram through the twists at twice the posted limit. This crossover, you will soon discover, hugs the road like few in the segment this side of the Porsche Cayenne.

The cockpit is as snug as a sports car or a true sports sedan with controls right at hand. Notice we said snug, not tight like a Mazda Miata or a BMW 1-Series, but cockpit-like all the same. And all this driving excitement comes with 107 cubic feet of potential cargo capacity behind the front seats.

None of these attributes comes as much of a surprise when you discover that the EX35 is built on Infiniti’s rear-wheel G platform that has yielded one of the best compact sports sedans and sports coupes in the world.

Of course there’s a flip side to this idyllic portrait. Some critics say the passenger space is too tight. Others say the cargo space falls short of many vehicles in the segment. They also say that rear-seat legroom is in short supply and getting comfortable depends on how cooperative the guys in the front seats feel about moving forward a bit. Really, if space is of paramount concern purchase something else.  There’s plenty to pick from in the ever-increasing luxury compact crossover segment.


But to get more than 100 cubic feet of hauling capacity in a vehicle that has the attributes of a sport sedan is a rich reward in our book.

And to answer the rear-seat passenger concerns, we hauled four people on several occasions and we polled our rear passengers several times as to their comfort. There was little complaint but we did notice some squirming and a bit of sitting on the hip, especially for the long of leg.

One more thing — if you carry a full complement of passengers, there’s still nearly 19 cubic feet of storage behind the seats; certainly not the best in class but about the same space as the trunk of a large sedan – not as deep, but higher.

Let’s look at some things that make the EX35 a performance beast: First, of course, is the engine. The EX is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 making 297 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. The power is dished out through a 5-speed automatic with manual shift control. Considering the engine is asked to pull nearly 4,000 pounds, it acquits itself very nicely with measured 0-to-60 times just a tick or two over 6 seconds with a healthy climb to 96 mph in about 14-and-a- half seconds in the quarter mile.

While these numbers won’t stop you in your tracks with amazement, the performance experience is best felt behind the wheel. It belies what shows up on paper. And if you need to come down from speed in a big hurry, the EX will oblige with the ability to stop from 60 mph in 118 feet.

Perhaps falling into the “pay to play” category is the EX gas mileage, which falls a bit short of other major players in the segment. It’s rated at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway in two-wheel mode and 16/23 with all-wheel drive on premium gas. Infiniti says it is OK to use 87-octane, but performance will be cut about 3 percent.

All this performance is good — in fact great — says our SUV-loving friend, but what about towing? Unfortunately, for those people who need to tow, even small trailers, they may be better off looking elsewhere. Infiniti does not recommend towing with the EX, and nowhere can we find an official towing capacity.

Those onuses put the EX in the “station wagon” class, but, hey, when it’s this good and this much fun, call it anything you want.

The interior is almost as exciting as the performance features, very attractive, warm and inviting. Our all-wheel drive up-level Journey test vehicle came with high-quality leather with attractive maple wood accents. Controls are intuitive and finding the right driving position with the combination of power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and eight-way power seat is guaranteed.

There's some useful cargo features including power-operated 60/40 - folding rear seatbacks that can be triggered from the rear. Buttons between the front seats allow the driver to flip them up again.

The EX starts at $34,665 including destination charge for a well- equipped rear-wheel drive base model. Add $1,400 for all-wheel drive. The Journey edition sells for $36,865 in rear-wheel and $38,265 for all-wheel.

Options are not needed, but there are numerous extras available — some rather desirable and some with cutting-edge technology — that will push the price up toward 50 grand.

There are some technology-driven options in addition to the usual extras such as navigation bundled with an 11-speaker, two-subwoofer Bose audio system with 9.3 gigabit hard drive for $2,000.
The technology package going for $2,250 will bring state-of-the-art driving aids into the cockpit. It includes a Lane Departure Prevention system, Lane Departure Warning System, adaptive cruise control, Distance Control Assist, and Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning.

There is also a Premium Package that gives the passenger an 8-way power seat; the Homelink system; Xenon headlamps and the previously mentioned power folding rear seat.

Have we finally entered the automotive Nanny state?

Lane prevention warning — a first for an automotive manufacturer — does more than sound a warning chirp when the computer detects the car is moving too far to the left or right. Braking and the stability control system are activated to get you back on the proper path.

Lane departure warning, used by several manufacturers, simply sounds an annoying beep whenever you touch one of the painted lines with your wheels. It can be disabled, but when the car is restarted it automatically activates.

That’s not to say these features do not have some benefit, but drivers for 100 years have done without getting beeped every time they touch the center line.

More helpful in our opinion is an around view monitoring system, which through the use of four cameras shows the sides and ends of the car in the navigation screen allowing you to see close-in objects that might prevent you from making a move. If you purchase the navigation package, it comes at no extra charge.

Our AWD Journey test vehicle came with the navigation, premium and technology packages plus roof rails and 18” wheels bringing the bottom line to $45,005.

We very much like the EX35. It drives like a sports sedan, has plenty of luxury and enough outrageous technology to make you think ‘big brother’ has moved in but has the tenacity to be a compact wagon/crossover. Makes for a pretty good combo!

Base price: $34,665; as driven, $45,005
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 297 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 253 foot-pounds @ 4,800 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
Length: 182.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,975 pounds
Turning circle: 36 feet
Towing capacity: none listed
Luggage capacity: 18.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 107 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 23 mpg highway, 16 mpg city
0-60: 6.2 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Volvo XC60, Mercedes GLK, Acura RDX

The Good:
• Performs like a sports sedan
• First-class interior appointments
• Attractive styling

The Bad:
• Fuel economy below average

The Ugly:
• Tight accommodations, small cargo area