Frank S. Washington, Fri, 13 Nov 2009 06:41:50 PST
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Nissan's luxury division is about to make some more waves on these shores with its all-new Infiniti EX35. We test drove the crossover utility vehicle here and found it to be a pocket rocket.
The Infiniti EX35 is a smaller version of the Infiniti FX which from a design standpoint proved that utility vehicles need not be clunky boxes on wheels. With the EX35, Infiniti continues to prove that amongst Asian luxury brands it is the most aggressive when it comes to style and performance.
The EX35 had a sloping roof line, long hood, a swerving curving belt line and short overhangs. It looked like a low slung, agile, quick and versatile cross between a sport sedan and sport utility vehicle.
Infiniti continues to upgrade the interiors of all of its vehicles. The EX35's interior was plush. All of the test vehicles here were outfitted with the optional leather and maple wood trim and what is becoming Infiniti's signature two-tiered center stack.
The interior of the EX35 just made us feel good. We really did feel like we were in a luxury vehicle. It was comfortable; there was plenty of head and hip room. We found the same to be true of the back seat. Despite its sloping roof, we had plenty of head room and leg room was sufficient. What's more, the door opening was wide enough so we could get into the back seat without becoming a contortionist.
There was also a good deal of cargo space behind the back seat. It seemed to us that the EX35 could carry as much stuff as the trunk of the average mid-size sedan with the back seat deployed. With the second row seats folded flat, the EX35 could haul a lot of cargo just like any other utility vehicle.
The EX 35 was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that made 297 horsepower and 253 pounds-feet of torque. It was mated to a five speed automatic transmission. Our test vehicle was all-wheel drive but the EX35 also comes in rear wheel drive configuration.
The engine was smooth as it pulled us up Sunset Blvd. from the Pacific Coast Highway. The powerplant didn't seem to be working hard at all as we gained altitude and the transmission was sure in its gear selection. There was no hesitation.
Steering was easy, the car tracked well, stayed flat in the curves and dampening was good enough to keep the EX35's mass from bouncing. We really don't see how anybody would have any problems with the way the EX35 handled.
There was enough street driving on Burbank and Ventura Boulevards to let us know that the EX35's street manners weren't bad. And when we got on I-405 North, we knew that the EX35 had the right stuff under the hood to run on the freeway. In fact, at times the EX35 proved to be quicker than we expected which required braking.
Infiniti's EX35 also had some breakthrough technology. A lane departure prevention system will sound an alarm and then bring the vehicle back into the lane, if it drifts over the line. Soft shield paint will "heal" light scratches. The puddle lamps and interior lights will sequentially illuminate as the driver approaches. And though we're not going to explain how it works, the Infiniti EX35 will give a top down view of itself for parking.
If Infiniti can market the EX35 correctly, it will make an immediate impact in the luxury crossover segment. Prices have not been announced but the EX35 will be base priced at about $35,000 when it goes on sale in late December.