GRAND RIVERS, Ky. -- To test tire grip of the invigorated 2013 Infiniti EX37 crossover utility vehicle, we point one with all-wheel-drive traction down The Trace Road, Kentucky 453, which slithers over humpback hills in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
The compact-class CUV for 2013 acquires a powerful 3.7-liter V6 engine with 7-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, and it behaves itself superbly on The Trace Road with all wheels throwing huge torque muscle into each turn as the 245/45R19 all-season performance tires claw for traction on the blacktop.
Stretching more than 15 feet long and decorated with a raked face flashing a chrome-finned double-arch grille and speed-strafed headlamp clusters on front corners plus curvaceous fender blisters bulging over metallic-finish alloy wheels, EX37 resembles a streamlined sport utility vehicle yet it drives and handles more like a pavement-hugging sporty car.
Its rear-wheel-drive platform -- called FM, for Front Midship, which describes the motor's position on the chassis -- is the same one that underpins Infiniti's racy G37 sports sedan and G37 sports coupe.
On this platform the front wheels mount way forward and the engine is positioned so that its center of gravity falls behind the front axles. This placement results in a weight distribution biased slightly in favor of front wheels.
Yet the front wheels are slightly heavier by design of the suspension geometry to pre-load them with more weight when the wagon turns into a curve. Add acceleration coming out of that curve and the result translates to optimum weight balance which enables an aggressive driver to carve one corner after another with keen confidence.
The suspension on Ex37 is totally independent with lightweight aluminum components. Up front is a double wishbone mounted on a subframe and in back is a multi-link arrangement with stabilizer bars plus high-performance dual-flow path shock absorbers fore and aft.
Steering, through a quick-to-respond rack and pinion mechanism, feels firm despite the assist from a vehicle-speed-sensitive power boost.
A vented disc brake stands at every wheel and each ties by computerized links to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake assist (EBA) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
Further, all EX models carry Infiniti's vehicle dynamic control (VDC) device and traction control system (TCS) which automatically check lateral skidding on slippery pavement.
EX37 is available with either rear-wheel-drive (RWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) organization.
For 2013 the EX gains a VQ-series dual-cam 3.7-liter V6 engine mounted longitudinally and keyed to an electronically controlled drive-by-wire throttle. The plant uses ladder-frame construction for rigidity with molybdenum-coated pistons, symmetric twin air intake system and a tall rev limit (7500 rpm). It also employs a continuous valve timing controller.
The plant produces 325 hp at 7000 rpm, with torque pumping up to 267 lb-ft at 5200 rpm, all translated by the 7-speed automatic transmission featuring downshift rev matching (DRM) and manual shift mode (MSM).
Climb aboard the EX and you'll find a spacious cabin arranged in an artful design with premium leather trimming the form-fitting seats and textured aluminum or maple hardwood accents.
Up front, bucket seats flank a floor-mounted console.
On the second row a bench seats two comfortably but can hold three riders if necessary. The rear seatback splits 60/40 and folds flat to expand the cargo area, and convenient power controls to return the seatback upright appear as an optional feature.
The rear cargo area is generous at 18.6 cubic feet but with rear seatbacks folded it expands to 55.7 cubic feet.
EX37 RWD and EX35 AWD carry stock gear like leather upholstery and aluminum trim, dual-zone automatic climate controls, 8-way power for driver's seat and 4-way power for the passenger's seat, power for windows and door locks and exterior mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic headlights, RearView Monitor, remote keyless entry, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/USB stereo and SiriusXM satellite radio.
EX37 RWD Journey and EX37 AWD Journey models add a power glass moonroof, maple wood trim, auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, power tilt/telescopic steering column and heated front seats.
Optional equipment clusters in packages.
A Premium Package installs the Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System with NavTraffic, an advanced climate control system and 11-speaker Bose premium audio system.
The Deluxe Touring Package brings 19-inch alloy wheels with 245/45R19 all-season performance tires, high intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlights, adaptive front lighting system (AFS), 8-way power for the front passenger seat plus power folding rear seats.
And a Technology Package features lane departure warning (LDW), lane departure prevention (LDP), intelligent cruise control (ICC), distance control assist (DCA), intelligent brake assist (IBA) with forward collision warning (FCW), and blind spot warning (BSW) system.
Infiniti structures the MSRP chart for 2013 EX models upward from $36,900 for the EX37 RWD.