2008 Infiniti EX35
2008 Infiniti EX35 Expert Review:Autoblog
Infiniti first showed the world its new EX35 as a concept at last year's New York Auto Show and then put it on sale in fall essentially unchanged. Although the Acura RDX has been described as a sports car in CUV clothes, it's based on a fundamentally front-wheel-drive architecture. If Honda had instead taken the S2000 roadster, stretched it and jacked it up a bit, they would have come up with something more akin to the EX35. In fact, that's almost exactly what Nissan did.
The EX35 is based on the platform of the G35 sedan/G37 coupe and, of course, the fun loving 350Z. If you want a crossover with sports car genes, it would be hard to find something more suitable. Of course, wearing a badge from the Infiniti side of the family tree means getting a handsomely tailored suit and all the latest high-tech gizmos to go along with the go-fast hardware. It also means a few sacrifices to ultimate utility, but we'll get to that after the jump.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
One look at the EX35 and it's obvious that it shares the current Infiniti family DNA. From the gently curving contours over the wheel arches to the shape of the greenhouse, the look is that of a highly paid athlete coming out of the locker room after the game in a Saville Row suit. However, the sports car genes are most immediately apparent in the profile.
Most crossovers today are derived from front-wheel-drive platforms with transverse-mounted powertrains, and that's reflected in their relatively short hoods. Even the north-south inline six-powered BMW X3 and X5 share these proportions providing a somewhat more utilitarian look. Not so this Infiniti. The passenger compartment has been pushed well back giving the classic long hood sports car proportions, even with its taller-than-Z-car stance. It's an interesting look for this type of vehicle. Even compared to its big brother the FX, the proportions are amplified with a seemingly longer distance between the trailing edge of the wheel well and the leading edge of the door.
Pushing the wheels forward allowing for a front mid-engine layout helps the rear-drive EX achieve a weight distribution of 52/48, the same as the RDX. The all-wheel-drive version shifts that to 55/45. The sporting proportions, however, unfortunately sacrifice rear cabin space. Even though the Infiniti is two inches longer with an extra six inches of wheel base, it has nine inches less rear leg room than the Acura RDX. The back seat is definitely on the tight side. The Acura also has a 12 cubic foot advantage in cargo space behind the second row. Even in the front row, the EX has a decidedly snug cockpit-like layout. There's not a lot of stretch out room here.
Where the Infiniti interior shines is the quality of the materials. The EX35 has the look and feel of a luxury car with its "wheat" colored leather and swaths of dark maple on the door panels and center console. Just below the navigation controls is the typical elliptical Infiniti analog clock. The layout of the EX center stack and controls means that pretty much everything falls readily to hand.
Among the array of buttons just below the navigation screen is one labeled Camera. This is part of the $1,950 technology package. Like so many vehicles today, the EX has a tailgate mounted rear view camera to show you what's immediately behind the car. However, shifting the EX into reverse brings up a display on the nav screen with two views, the one behind and another showing what's on the right side of the car. This is part of the Around View Monitor. Several cars with rear cameras overlay guide lines on the image to aid backing into a parking space. The EX takes that one step further with additional guide lines that indicate where the vehicle will actually go based on the steering input.
In total, the EX has four outward facing cameras: one on the tailgate, one on the bottom of each side mirror and a fourth looking ahead through the windshield. Pressing that camera button when the vehicle is stationary brings up an overhead view of the car and the view all around the car from the cameras. Once you start moving, the camera view switches off. The cameras come back into play above 40 mph for the lane departure warning and prevention systems.
When the warning and prevention systems are switched on, the cameras look for the edge of the road or the lane markers. If the car starts to drift toward the edge of the lane, a warning beep goes off. If the prevention system is on, when the car reaches the edge of the lane the stability control applies a little bit of brake torque to the opposite side wheel, gently nudging the car back toward the center of the lane. It's actually kind of a spooky feeling when it happens. It's not abrupt and it's easily over-ridden if you actually wanted to pull off the road or change lanes. The system won't save a drunk driver weaving around, but someone who is momentarily distracted and drifting over will be assisted.
Another element of the technology package is the adaptive cruise control. A sensor in the bottom of the grille emblem detects the distance to the vehicle ahead and automatically maintains a safe distance. If the vehicle you're following slows down, the Infiniti's brakes apply reducing your speed. When things clear up, the EX automatically returns to the set speed.
Restoring that speed falls to perhaps the most important element of the EX, the engine. Here is where the EX holds its biggest advantage over the Acura. Like its lower slung siblings, the EX is propelled by Nissan's sweetheart VQ V6. As the model nomenclature implies, this one displaces 3.5L and puts out 297hp and 253lb-ft of torque. As in every other application, this free-revving six cylinder is a wonderful example of the breed. Squeezing the accelerator brings instant lag free response from the engine room.
The EX has a firm, sports sedan ride, but it doesn't beat you up. The bitterly cold winter weather that descended on us while the EX was here didn't allow for much back road thrashing, but we did get to exercise the traction control and stability control systems. The latter in particular was very well behaved, keeping the EX pointed where the steering wheel input intended without out any drama.
The big question that arises from driving the EX35 is what exactly is the point? Ideally this thing would have the same ride height as the G35 and be badged G35 Touring or something similar. The EX is most certainly not an off-road vehicle and the extra ride height doesn't really add any useful functionality. With it's attractive and sporting but snug-fitting interior, the EX doesn't add much utility to CUV equation.
Perhaps it's more of a marketing driven move in a world where American drivers remain enamored with looking down upon their fellow travelers. Lexus offered something similar to this with the wagon/hatch version of the first generation IS, and it wasn't a huge sales success. In that case, the EX35 offers much of the character of the sedan and coupe with a hint of the higher riding FX. For those that prefer the balance skewed a little more toward utility while retaining the sport, the FX offers another alternative though is also down on utility compared to some of its large CUV competitors. The EX35 starts at just over $31,000 in base RWD form with the AWD Journey model we tested coming in at over $45,000, so buyers will have to consider if good looks, trick technology and a sweet powertrain are worth sacrificing some practicality.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
A crossover that's more car than truck.
The 2008 Infiniti EX35 is a new crossover SUV slightly smaller than the Infiniti FX and is aimed more at luxury than sportiness. That doesn't mean it's not sporty, but it isn't as sporty as Infiniti's sports sedans or some of BMW's crossovers. The EX35 drives like a sports sedan and has the room of a small SUV, and that's what most people want.
Inside there is room for five, but it's much more comfortable with four. The cabin boasts rich, soft-touch materials and a stylish design. All of the controls are within easy reach.
The EX35 is brimming with new technologies. A hard drive radio has 9.3 gigabytes of storage space for music files, and an available Around View Monitor shows obstacles 360 degrees around the vehicle. Also offered is Infiniti's new Lane Departure Prevention system, which lightly applies the brakes on one side of the vehicle that steers the vehicle back into its lane should it start crossing lane lines.
Room up front is good, but taller drivers will want more head room, especially if the optional sunroof is ordered. The back seat also offers decent room, but things get a bit tight with the front seats all the way back. Both rows are easy to enter and exit, thanks to the EX35's ride height, which is higher than a sedan, but not as high as most SUVs.
The EX35's hatchback design means cargo room is plentiful, though many SUVs offer more space. An industry-first power-folding second row eases the process of loading items in the back. Oddly, from the driver's seat, the second-row seats can't be folded down, but they can be brought back up, handy when pulling up to the curb to pick up passengers.
Under the hood of the EX35 is Nissan's superb 3.5-liter V6. It makes 297 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that has a manual shiftgate but no paddle shifters. Drivers will be pleased by the EX35's ready power. It is fast from a stop and offers no-worries passing response at highway speeds. Fuel economy is only adequate, though. Expect about 20 mpg in a city/highway driving mix.
From behind the wheel, the EX35 drives like a sports sedan with a slightly elevated ride height. Rear- and all-wheel drive are offered, and the AWD system is meant for on-road use. The handling is responsive, if not sports car nimble, and the brakes and steering feel natural and inspire confidence. The EX35 best differentiates itself from Infiniti's own FX with a smoother ride. Even with the available 18-inch wheels, the EX35 smoothes out the bumps without jolting passengers.
With its carlike handling, powerful engine, and useful cargo room, the 2008 Infiniti EX35 is a fine alternative to larger, more cumbersome SUVs. The smooth ride and rich, classy interior add to the appeal. If you want a sporty, comfortable vehicle that drives like a car but has the cargo room of a wagon or SUV, make sure to put the EX35 on your shopping list.
The 2008 Infiniti EX35 is offered in two trim levels, base and Journey, each with rear- or all-wheel drive. Every EX35 is powered by a 297-hp 3.5-liter V6. The lone transmission is a five-speed automatic with a manual shiftgate.
The EX35 ($31,300) and EX35 AWD ($32,700) come standard with cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, eight-way power driver seat, four-way power passenger seat, 60/40 split second-row seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry and starting, trip computer, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack, XM Satellite Radio, and P225/60R17 all-season tires on aluminum wheels.
The Journey Package ($3,550) adds leather upholstery, power-folding second-row seats, sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass, universal garage door opener, and front and rear park assist.
The Premium Package ($2,150) adds 11-speaker Bose audio system with a six-disc changer and iPod interface; dual-zone automatic climate control; heated front seats and rear HVAC vent; heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature; Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link; a memory system for the driver's seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors; eight-way power passenger set, two-way power driver seat lumbar adjustment; and power tilt/telescoping steering column. The Luxe Elite Package ($1,650) has upgraded leather accents, driver seat headrest-mounted coat hanger, P225/55R18 tires with aluminum wheels, xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, and the Adaptive Front-lighting System, which points the headlights into a turn when the steering wheel is turned. The Navigation Package ($2,150) adds a hard-drive-based navigation system; voice recognition for the climate control, audio and navigation; XM NavTraffic with real-time traffic information; a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for music storage with a compact flash drive slot; single in-dash CD player; and a rearview monitor. The Technology Package ($1,950) adds the Around View Monitor, Lane Departure Prevention System with Lane Departure Warning System, and Intelligent Cruise Control. The Luxe Style Package ($1,250) has P225/55R18 tires with aluminum wheels, xenon headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System. Stand-alone options include maple Wood Trim on the center console and doors ($450) and aluminum Roof Rails ($200). (All New Car Test Drive prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices that do not include destination charges and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front airbags; torso-protecting, seat-mounted front side airbags; head-protecting curtain side airbags; LATCH child seat anchors; active front head restraints; antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brak-force distribution; traction control; and electronic stability control. Optional safety features include front and rear obstacle detection, the Around View Monitor, and the Lane Departure Warning system with Lane Departure Prevention.
If the typical crossover is 50 percent car and 50 percent SUV, the 2008 Infiniti EX35 is 75/25 skewed toward car. Infiniti says the styling is the convergence of sedan and coupe. We'd say it looks more like a coupe crossed with a station wagon. It sits lower than a typical crossover, and has a sporty, swept back appearance.
Up front, the EX features a chrome grille that is very similar to that of the G35 sedan. The cat's-eye headlights are similar, too. The major difference between the crossover and the sedan is found in the shapes of the air intakes in the front fascia. In the rearview mirror, it's hard to tell the two apart, with a slightly raised stance and larger side mirrors serving as two more indicators that the sporty vehicle behind is a crossover, not a sedan.
Like that of the G35 sedan, the EX35 front end has curvaceous, organic shapes that flow into body sides marked by prominent wheel bulges pushed to the corners. A graceful character line flows from front to rear, dipping in the middle and sweeping up at the back to give the EX35 a sporty rake. The greenhouse appears to be pushed back, and the roof line sweeps down at the rear in a coupe-like manner. This brings the top of the rear hatch forward to almost the rear edge of the rear doors. The EX35 looks most like an SUV from the rear, mostly due to the rear hatch and high-set taillights.
The EX35 looks like the G35 for good reason. Its platform (which Infiniti calls FM) is shared with the G35 sedan, as well as the G37 coupe, FX crossover and Nissan 350Z. (Note this is a rear-wheel-drive-based platform that shares nothing with the front-drive-based platform of the Nissan Murano and Altima.)
Compared to the FX, the EX is seven inches shorter on a two-inch shorter wheelbase. It is also lighter by 400-500 pounds. The EX35 is closer in size to the compact BMW X3, which is 2.6 inches shorter in length, 4.1 inches shorter in height, and rides on roughly the same size wheelbase.
Infiniti is also using the EX35 to introduce a new paint that it calls Scratch Shield. This paint has a clear coat that was developed to maintain the paint's luster longer. Infiniti says it is self-healing. The softer clear coat 'heals' scratches by flowing back to a smooth finish over time with the help of heat. It works quicker in the summer and in hotter climates.
Infiniti has made a concerted effort to improve its interiors in recent years and the EX is among the best yet. Rich, soft-touch materials abound, and there is a general feeling of quality and sophistication. The rounded shapes create a dual-cockpit design with flowing lines that are a natural extension of the exterior.
The instrument panel features a large tachometer and speedometer, flanked by the water temperature and fuel gauges. In the center is a digital display for the trip computer, which shows such information as outside temperature, the odometer and trip odometer, real-time mpg, average mpg, miles per hour, and fuel range.
The center stack juts out to make every control very easy to reach. Its central component is a seven-inch screen that comes standard with or without the optional navigation system. The screen has some touch-sensitive controls when ordered with the navigation system, but thankfully doesn't absorb the basic audio or climate controls. Large buttons are laid out below it to move between navigation and audio screens, among others. The unique layout takes some getting used to, but it works well. Infiniti's radio also has A, B and C presets instead of AM and FM presets, another trait that some may find a bit confusing. The good news is that you can quickly switch between favorite FM music, AM talk radio, and XM TV news stations with the press of a button; no need to first change modes.
Small items storage is only so-so. The center console is nicely sized and there are two cupholders in front of it, but there are no small cubbies to hold keys, cell phones, and other miscellaneous items.
The EX35 boasts several unusual technology features. The available navigation system is teamed with a hard drive with 9.3 gigabytes of space to store music files. Music can be ripped directly from CDs.
Infiniti's available Around View Monitor takes the idea of a rearview camera to a new level. It utilizes four cameras, one in the Infiniti logo up front, one in the tailgate and one in each outside mirror, to give a virtual 360 degree view of the vehicle. The cameras have fisheye lenses, but the EX35 uses software to flatten out the images. Those images are displayed on the right side of the dashboard screen in either an overhead full-vehicle view or in a right-side view. The system works fairly well, but the images aren't very large, so it is still necessary to survey your surroundings when parking or backing up. When the vehicle is put in reverse, a larger image of the rear is projected on the left side of the screen.
The EX35 also marks the debut of Infiniti's Lane Departure Prevention system (LDP), which goes one step beyond Infiniti's Lane Departure Warning system (LDW). LDW detects lane lines and emits a beep if you begin to cross those lines without using a turn signal. When the vehicle begins to drift out of its lane, LDP gently applies the brakes on the opposite side of the vehicle to steer it back on course. When we let the EX35 drift to the left, we could feel the system working to correct our path. The system didn't seem to work as well when we let the vehicle drift to the right.
Infiniti says customers will find the EX35 to be just the right size. That may be the case for those stepping up from a car, but buyers coming from other SUVs might find it small. Inside, it offers the room of a midsize station wagon.
Getting in and out is a breeze because the EX35 sits higher than a sedan but lower than most SUVs. With the available sunroof, head room up front is tight for anyone over 6-foot. Leg room, on the other hand, is plentiful. The front seats are comfortable, with nice bolstering that may pinch the love handles of larger passengers.
The EX's large exterior mirrors provide good visibility to the rear. That's especially important because the shape of the rear pillar and the position of the headrest on the passenger side rear seat creates a large blind s.
More than just about any other crossover, the 2008 Infiniti EX35 drives like a car. In fact, the EX drives like a sports sedan, and a pretty good one at that. That's not surprising because the EX traces its roots to the G35 sedan's architecture.
Compared to Infiniti's other crossover, the FX, the EX35 is aimed a little more toward luxury than sportiness. The difference mostly manifests itself in ride quality. With the base 17-inch wheels, the EX35 offers a smooth ride that is far better than in the larger FX and even better than most versions of the G35 sedan. Sharp bumps never jolt, even with the available 18-inch wheels. The ride does become a bit busier with the 18s, but it is still comfortable.
With a taller ride height than the G35 sedan and softer suspension settings than the FX, the EX35 isn't quite as sporty as its Infiniti siblings. Nonetheless, it leans little in turns and is fairly nimble in quick changes of direction. The steering feels natural and direct, and is quick for a crossover, though not as fast as in a sports car.
Braking is confidence-inspiring, with good pedal feel.
Adding to the fun is one of the best engines available today, a 297-hp, 3.5-liter version of Nissan's VQ V6. It is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual shiftgate. The duo works in tandem to provide willing power in any situation. Infiniti wouldn't give a 0-60 mph time, but we'd estimate it at around 6.0 seconds. The EX35 leaps from a stop and is even more impressive in passing situations at highway speeds. The five-speed automatic is quick to kick down to a lower gear when extra power is needed, and drivers can use the manual shift mode to enhance the fun in the twisties. Oddly, steering wheel paddles aren't provided. We think the EX35 would be even more fun with them.
While power is ample, fuel economy is just so-so. With rear-wheel drive, the EX is EPA-estimated at 17 mpg City and 24 Highway. With all-wheel drive, the numbers are 16/23 mpg. Infiniti recommends but does not require premium-grade fuel for the EX.
The engine roars under heavy acceleration, but it is docile the rest of the time. Otherwise, the cabin is impressively quiet, with wind noise well controlled at highway speed and very little tire noise.
The 2008 Infiniti EX35 represents a new direction for crossover SUVs, one that is more car-like than previous versions. That means the EX35 offers a pleasant driving experience and sporty looks to go with useful cargo space. Add in a powerful engine, a classy interior, and some cool tech features and the EX35 is another fine alternative to clunky SUVs and boring station wagons.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report after a test drive of the EX35.
Infiniti EX35 ($31,300); EX35 AWD ($32,700).
Options As Tested
Journey Package ($3,550) includes leather seating surfaces, power moonroof, power folding rear bench seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror w/compass, HomeLink universal garage door opener, front and rear sonar system; Premium Package ($2,150) includes dual zone automatic temperature control, 11-Speaker Bose premium audio system w digital audio converter, 6CD changer, iPod interface, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors w/reverse tilt-down feature, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, memory system for steering wheel, driver's seat and mirrors, 8-way power passenger seat, 2-way driver's seat power lumbar, tilt/telescoping steering wheel; Navigation Package ($2,150) includes hard-drive navigation system, voice recognition for the climate control, audio and navigation, XM NavTraffic with real-time traffic, 9.3-gigabyte hard drive with compact flash drive slot, rearview monitor; Technology Package ($1,950) includes Around View Monitor, Lane Departure Prevention System with Lane Departure Warning System, Intelligent Cruise Control.
Infiniti EX35 AWD ($32,700).
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