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.
Infiniti EX35 ($31,300); EX35 AWD ($32,700)
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.
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
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.