In a crowded universe of large, fuel-hungry sport utility vehicles, I recently spent a week driving an Infiniti EX35 all-wheel-drive Journey, a small, entry-level “crossover,” a vehicle that combines the attributes of a car and a sport utility vehicle. Infiniti also offers larger crossover models with three rows of seats and more cargo room than the EX model, which is slightly over 15 feet long, stands five feet tall, and seats five. The design is sleek, coupe-like, and shares a similar design with its larger SUV siblings. Ground clearance of the EX model is low like a sedan.
Easing my six-foot profile behind the wheel requires ducking to clear the curving roofline. Once inside, I am surrounded by a warm and well-appointed cabin that belies the vehicle’s outside appearance. It’s also light-years away from the Spartan ambiance of my own aging SUV with a lesser pedigree.
The leather seating of the EX is supple and comfortable. The maple wood trim on the console and the memory system to automatically adjust driver seating for maximum comfort are options on my tester.
To maximize the cargo space for oversize objects, one or both of the rear seats fold down flat. Another clever and useful option—a retractable coat hanger on the back of the driver’s seat for my jacket or dry cleaning without blocking my view.
Let’s go for a ride. I needn’t remove the key from my pocket for the push-button ignition to quickly start the 3.5 liter, V-6 engine, rated at 297 horsepower and 253 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. The 5-speed automatic transmission senses my driving style and shifts accordingly. I can also shift gears manually if I prefer. The front suspension system is independent, double wishbone; the rear is independent, multi-link.
What’s that beeping sound? Is there a problem? No—it’s the Lane Departure Prevention system telling me I drifted out of my lane, and the system has gently applied braking and is guiding me back toward the center of the lane. I found it annoying at first, but realized how often I strayed slightly out of my lane, especially on narrow Hunt County roads. (The system can be turned off.)
I backed into the parking spot for lunch at the club easily. That’s because I had some help from the Around View Monitor system on my dash that gave me a 360-degree view of other cars and objects from four cameras around the EX. Infiniti claims that the system is “the industry’s first.”
Ah, yes, I did arrive earlier than expected with three sets of golf clubs in the back. Could it be that this puppy is really a sports car? The 297 horses under the hood can deliver exhilarating performance, galloping from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.
The clarity of the 11-speaker audio system with XM Satellite Radio is sweet, part of an upgrade that includes connectivity for my iPod and Bluetooth hands-free phone system.
A lot more technology is built into the EX35 than I imagined. The navigation system gives directions that are actively calculated based on my present—not preset—location. Miss a turn and it recalculates to get me back on track. I can also input my destination by voice recognition.
The EX model earned a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There are more than 50 standard safety features on the EX and every Infiniti model including electronic brake force distribution system to improve braking for various vehicle loads and Vehicle Dynamic Control to apply brake pressure to individual wheels to correct oversteer or understeer. In addition, “Snug Kids” offers an online guide to selecting and correctly installing a child restraint seat for Infiniti”s.
The EPA fuel rating of my EX35 tester is 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. I averaged 20 mpg during my week behind the wheel.
The base price of the EX35 is $36,250. My all-wheel-drive variant was kitted out with all available option packages, increasing the total to $45,015.