The original purpose behind the crossover SUV was to offer a vehicle that had as much interior space and ride height as a typical SUV but uses the smoother chassis and more efficient powertrain as a car. When it comes to luxury crossovers, almost all the offerings deliver plush interiors and graceful designs, but a select few use the underpinnings of sport sedans to add one element missing from most utility vehicles: fun. One such crossover is the Infiniti EX35 that blends the luxurious vehicle qualities expected from an Infiniti with the sportiness associated with a Nissan. To put it another way, the EX35 is just as much a sport crossover as it is a luxury crossover.
As a part of one of the fastest growing vehicle segments, the 2009 Infiniti EX competes against a wide number of luxury crossovers including the Lexus RX, Cadillac SRX, Volvo XC60 and BMW X3. For 2009, the EX35 is available in two trim levels (base and Journey) with pricing starting at $33,800. Stepping up to the more luxurious EX35 Journey raises the base price to an even $36,000, but with a slew of high-tech goodies for which Nissan and Infiniti vehicles are known, the as-tested price of the model we sampled jumped up to $41,635. With most of the EX's competition having a starting price closer to our top-of-the-line Journey model, clearly the Infiniti adds value to its luxurious and sporty attributes.
2009 Infiniti EX35 Exterior
Slotting in beneath the aggressively designed Infiniti FX, the EX is more toned down and can probably be best described as the station wagon version of the G sedan. Backing up this assessment, the EPA and CAFE both categorize the EX as a small station wagon. Although all the components are there to qualify as a crossover, the EX35's design stays very true to the attractive G37 sedan including the swept fender lines, L-shaped headlights and chrome-tipped dual exhaust outlets. Even the greenhouse looks strikingly familiar when compared to the G37 sedan, but the roofline extends further back to squeeze in as much cargo space and rear passenger room as possible. Accentuating the sloped roofline, Infiniti added aluminum roof rails atop the EX, while the small but effective rear liftgate spoiler and slim LED taillights helped alleviate some of the rounded shape of the D -pillar. Finishing off the elegant, sporty look of the 2009 Infiniti EX35, our test model came in a brownish burgundy hue called Dark Currant and added an optional ($500) set of 18-inch, eights-poke alloy wheels wrapped in all-season Dunlop rubber.
2009 Infiniti EX35 Interior
In base form, the EX offers one of the plushest cabins in its class, but the Journey trim level definitely takes things up a notch. While almost every surface inside the EX is either soft or leather-bound, it's the layout and design that really give it the warm, inviting atmosphere. Our test vehicle came with a two-tone layout that featured saddle-brown leather on the seats, instrument panel and center console with chestnut wood trim accenting the doors and center stack. For those looking for even more luxury than the EX35 Journey offers standard, we recommend opting for the optional ($1,750) Premium Package that adds an eight-way power driver's seat with two-way lumbar support, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power folding 60/40 split rear seat and premium stitching on the seats, shift lever and instrument gauge hood. After test driving the EX35, we are certain that Infiniti offers one of the best interiors from fit and finish to look and feel.
We were surprised to learn that the EX actually offers more interior volume than the FX, but interior space is still toward the bottom of the barrel when in comparison to competing luxury crossovers. Only worse than the EX35's rear seat accommodations is the cargo space available under the sloped roofline. In fact, cargo space is so limited that Infiniti doesn't even list seat-down cargo capacity, but with the rear seats up the EX only holds a dismal 18.6 cubic feet of cargo. That being said, the sporty EX35 is likely to be the vehicle of choice for a small family or just someone looking to stand out more that the popular G coupe and sedan would ever allow rather than someone looking for a bulkier crossover.
Like most of our test vehicles, the Infiniti sent its EX35 to us with just about every gadget it offers including the highly acclaimed Around View Monitor. Consisting of four cameras mounted on each side of the EX, when put in reverse the large navigation screen displays a standard rear view monitor but also adds a smaller bird's eye view of the vehicles and its surroundings. With cameras mounted in the front and rear Infiniti logos and underneath each side mirror, the AVM makes backing up or parallel parking an easier task. To avoid parking too far away from the curb or, even worse, scraping the wheels on the curb, the AVM is also able to display the right-side only to show proximity to the curb when parallel parking. Finally, our test model was finished off with the $2,000 Bose Navigation package that included a Bose 11-speaker audio system, a hard drive based navigation system with 9.3 gigabytes available for music storage and Bluetooth connectivity. Tucked away under the center console lid, Infiniti also includes an iPod adapter, power outlet and standard RCA jacks.
2009 Infiniti EX35 Performance & Handling
As much as the EX stands out in terms of exterior styling and interior luxury, its sport sedan underpinnings really help punctuate Infiniti's entry-level crossover. Using the same VQ35HR engine as found in the Nissan 350Z and Infiniti G35, the 2009 EX35's 3.5-liter engine produces 297 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. Similar to the Z cars we've test driven lately, the only thing better than the feeling of the EX35 accelerating is the sound emitted from the aforementioned dual exhaust outlets. Shifting duties on all EX35 models are performed by Infiniti's five-speed automatic that features sport and manual-shift modes. Like the sedan, all-wheel drive is available on the EX, but our test model came with standard rear-wheel drive. In the end, this drivetrain configuration resulted in EPA fuel economy estimates of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
As far as road manners are considered, the EX feels more like a sport sedan than some of the top-heavy and lethargic crossovers it competes against. While the EX is one of many crossovers not intended for rugged, off-road terrain, we were pleasantly surprised when we measured consistent runs from 0-60 miles per hour in the mid-6-second range from the 4,861-pound vehicle. Straight line acceleration was impressive, but taking the EX into tight corners are where the smiles are sure to emanate thanks to its confident four-wheel independent suspension and the precise speed-sensitive power steering.
2009 Infiniti EX35 Safety
The 2009 Infiniti EX35 received a perfect assessment from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and was named a 2009 IIHS Top Safety Pick. Despite this safety recognition, the safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are less impressive. In a time where five-star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are a commonality, the EX's four-star star rating for frontal-impact protection stands out. The EX did get a perfect five-star rating for side-impact protection and also received a four-star rollover rating. The EX35 comes with the full battery of standard safety features including six airbags, front active head restraints, vehicle dynamic control, traction control and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
In just its second year on the market, the Infiniti EX35 has quickly become one of the most competitive vehicles in its segment in terms of styling, luxury and performance. Not only is the EX one of the best-looking crossovers for 2009, but thanks to its sports-car inspired engine and suspension set up, it is also one of the top performers when it comes to acceleration and handling. The 2009 Infiniti EX35 would be a great crossover for any small family, but it is also fun to drive and offers some of the most innovative, high-tech features in its class.
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross