2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Introduction
Compact luxury crossovers generally come in two classes: sedate and comfortable people movers with reasonable amounts of available cargo space available in a pinch, and performance-oriented tall wagons that are more focused on offering a thrilling driving experience than maximizing practicality. The 2013 Infiniti EX37 falls squarely in the latter category, a crossover that its manufacturer is unafraid to advertise as legitimately sporty and one that shares significant amounts of platform DNA with some of Infiniti's fun-to-drive passenger cars.
There are, of course, sacrifices that must be made in the pursuit of engaging driving dynamics - namely, the 'utility' that is represented by the letter 'U' in the acronym 'SUV.' For some buyers, the balancing act between work and play that is the EX37's lot in life is an acceptable compromise, while others won't be able to stomach the reduced feature set of the small crossover. With a number of competitors waiting out there to snag luxury buyers in the compact segment - such as the BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, and the Acura RDX - it helps to know which group you fall into before making the decision to purchase Infiniti's most affordable family vehicle.
The 2013 Infiniti EX37 represents an inexpensive entry point into the Japanese brand's range of premium crossover models. The Infiniti EX37 starts out at a very reasonable MSRP of $36,900 for the base model, and ranges up to $40,650 for the top-tier Journey AWD trim level.
The 2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD (featuring standard all-wheel drove) is what we had in our driveway for a week's time, and not only did it come with the base model's push button ignition, automatic headlights, and heated leather seats, but it also featured the moonroof and Bluetooth connectivity that are part and parcel of the crossover's Journey edition. Also included with our tester were the range of active safety features that come with the Technology package, the contents of the Deluxe Touring package (HID headlights, 19-inch rims, power folding and tilting side mirrors, memory seats) and the Premium package's upgraded stereo system, navigation system, around-view top-down camera system, and filtered climate control feature. Altogether, the sticker price on our EX37 test vehicle came out to a hefty $48,850.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Design
- The 2013 Infiniti EX37 is unchanged from a design perspective versus the 2012 EX35.
The 2013 Infiniti EX37 is very recognizably a member of the Infiniti family, albeit one that wears a less extroverted version of the automaker's now-familiar multi-banded grille and angular headlight front fascia. The EX37's long hood adds a muscular feel to the small crossover, and helps to distract from the fact that its roofline slopes abruptly to the rear, cutting off the cargo area just behind the C-pillar. The optional 19-inch rims on our test vehicle looked great inside the crossover's fender wells, but they introduced a couple of practical issues that we'll discuss later on. Overall, the vehicle doesn't stand out amongst its compact crossover rivals from a personality standpoint, but it does present perhaps the most conservatively attractive set of looks in the entire Infiniti lineup - particularly in the bland 'Asgard Grey' finish that the EX we were driving came in.
The passenger compartment of the Infiniti EX37 is replete with the small touches and high quality materials that have helped to define the luxury automaker's interiors for many years. The EX features many of the same leathers, plastics, and trim that can be found in larger, more expensive Infiniti models, and this willingness to keep the entry-level crossover 'in the family' rather than banishing it to the realm of cost-friendly accoutrements is commendable.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2013 EX37 introduces no significant differences in passenger comfort or cargo capacity.
The 2013 Infiniti EX37 wraps itself around the driver quite well, offer both forward occupants up-tall view of the road ahead that many crossover buyers are seeking without inducing vertigo or requiring a climb up and into the two front seats. The second row of accommodations didn’t provide an extensive amount of legroom, but none of the passengers we ferried around inside the crossover had any complaints.
Heated seats kept the driver and front passenger toasty during the sub-zero weather we endured while driving the EX, but we wish that the rear window defroster and wiper had been able to do a better job of keeping the back glass free of road grime - we often had trouble squinting through the hatch while reversing (something we were forced to do because the rearview camera was itself often obscured by salt and dirt - when will self-cleaning camera lenses become standard on luxury vehicles?). The vehicle also offered a pair of pull buttons to automatically raise the rear seatbacks to accommodate passengers after they had been folded forward to maximize storage space, which worked well providing that the front seats hadn't been reclined to the point where they interfered with the headsets of the row behind them.
This brings us to our single biggest complaint about the Infiniti EX37: its cargo capacity, or lack thereof. You will recall that during the introduction to this review we mentioned that some luxury crossovers ask buyers to make sacrifices when it comes to practicality, and that the EX was one of these vehicles. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes time to haul anything other than people inside the Infiniti's pinched confines.
To begin with, the EX37's cargo space between the rear seatback and the hatch is extremely shallow, with most of the crossover's floor being taken up by the full-size spare that sits underneath a lift-off cover. Spare tires are great, and with 19-inch rims on the vehicle it would be difficult to use a space saver, but the resulting lack of room for grocery or gym bags is glaring. We used the Infiniti EX to drive from Montreal out into the countryside while visiting family for the holidays, and we were forced to remove the vehicle's sliding cargo cover and fold half of the 60/40 split rear seat forward simply to accommodate the presents, luggage, and litter box that were coming with us. In fact, there was barely any room for our kitty companion's small carrier once the crossover was completely loaded, but we finally found him a spot on the remaining rear seat where he was surrounded by bags that had been crammed into each and every available space.
Put it this way: with roughly 47 cubic feet of total cargo space, the Infiniti EX37 falls short of some compact wagons when it comes to interior room for transporting gear from point A to point B. Add a full complement of passengers to the equation and you will run into real problems if anyone is bringing more than a single overnight bag with them.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Features and Controls
- The 2013 EX does not introduce any significant new features or controls.
Infiniti is exceptionally good at putting together dashboards, consoles, and steering wheel control sets that simply work, without the need to learn a complex workflow to do something as basic as changing a satellite radio station. The hard buttons used to interact with Infiniti's navigation and entertainment system were well-labeled and performed as advertised, and the touchscreen itself was also a joy to use. Many of Infiniti's competitors should be taking notes the next time they ride in one of its products.
As good as Infiniti is at human/vehicle interfaces, we were disappointed that the electronic stability control feature was buried under the dash to the left of the steering wheel where it was almost impossible to find. In fact, it took us a couple of days to locate the button after a run-in with an unplowed parking area made its use necessary. We also would have preferred if the buttons for interacting with the LCD screen perched between the speedometer and tachometer weren't located on the gauge cowl but instead found on the center stack or possibly even the steering wheel, obviating the need to lean forward awkwardly while driving.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2013 Infiniti EX37 introduces no new safety features.
The 2013 Infiniti EX Journey AWD model that we drove was stuffed chock full of the options packages required to experience the brand's full range of safety features. The EX comes with seat-mounted side airbags up front, dual forward airbags, and side curtain airbags. Active safety equipment found in our test vehicle included blind sport and lane departure warning and intervention, and adaptive cruise control with distance control assist, forward collision warning, and intelligent brake assist.
The first two systems can be set to provide a visual and auditory alert that one is drifting out of the assigned lane or that a vehicle is lurking in the EX's blind spot, or they can be taken a step further and programmed to pull the vehicle out of harm's way by braking one side of the crossover's wheels. We would have preferred a system that engaged the steering wheel instead of the brakes while intervening, as we found that the EX wasn't pulled strongly enough to actually stay safe without the driver getting involved. Truth be told, we left these systems in 'warning' mode rather than 'intervention' mode for most of our time with the crossover.
The adaptive cruise control system's ability to automatically slow down or accelerate the crossover so as to keep pace with traffic ahead worked well, but when it came to maintaining a steady speed on the highway while sitting behind another vehicle it began to display quirky behavior that we had never before encountered in any other Infiniti model with this feature. Instead of picking a single speed, the EX would apply and release the throttle rapidly, creating a subtle jerk that could be felt through the steering wheel and the seat of one's pants. The effect was so distracting that several times we were forced to turn off the adaptive cruise control feature and use our right feet instead.
We thought that perhaps the issue was a dirty forward sensor, but then during a severe snowstorm the system actually shut itself down when it detected that the receptor at the front of the vehicle was completely covered. If the vehicle's intelligent brake assist feature is rendered inoperative by road dirt, by the way, then cruise control is completely unavailable - it doesn't default to a traditional method of simply maintaining forward velocity, but rather shuts down the entire system.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Crash-Test Ratings: The 2013 EX has yet to be rated by the NHTSA or IIHS in standard crash testing.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2013 Infiniti EX37 gains a new V-6 engine whose increase displacement is reflected in the vehicle's name.
The 2013 Infiniti EX37 comes exclusively with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that is all-new for the current model year. A variation of the power plant that is found under the hood of the G sedan and coupe, the motor can be relied on to produce 325 ponies and 267 lb-ft of torque, which is a considerable boost over the output of the now-departed model. Infiniti has managed to attain these new horsepower heights without sacrificing fuel economy, as the rear-wheel drive version of the vehicle turns in 17-mpg city and 25-mpg highway (a one mile per gallon improvement during steady-state cruising). All-wheel drive editions of the crossover match last year's 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway ratings. During our time with the vehicle fuel mileage came in somewhat lower than the factory advertised figures, due largely to the amount of snow, ice, and wheel spin that the Infiniti had to deal with. A standard seven-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties for the EX37.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Driving Impressions
We are now at the part of the review where it is revealed that the sacrifices that the 2013 Infiniti EX37 asks buyers to make from a practicality standpoint are well worth it thanks to the exceptional driving experience offered by the crossover. The EX's FM platform, which has pulled duty in a long list of sporty Nissan products including the 370Z, is an inspired choice for a small SUV that handles far more like a sedan than it really ought to. The crossover's seven-speed automatic transmission turned in a commendable performance even when not set to sport mode, and the suspension was quite comfortable in addition to being responsive to every flick of the steering wheel.
Infiniti's ATTESA all-wheel drive system, or Intelligent All-Wheel Drive as it is often advertised, has been tuned to preserve the EX37's rear-wheel drive dynamics without impeding its ability to offer extra grip during low-traction situations. While driving in regular conditions on a dry road, 100 percent of engine torque is sent to the rear wheels (except when pulling off the line, when a slight bit of power is diverted up front). When wheel slip occurs, the system can send power to the front or to either side of the vehicle in order to maintain stability and forward momentum.
Taken together, this helps the Infiniti EX37 feel very much like a sports sedan from behind the wheel, and it also reduces fatigue on longer highway trips as steering and straight-line stability are enhanced by its rear-wheel drive bias. Better yet, by disabling stability control it is possible to engage in heroic four-wheel drifts through a snowy parking lot and still emerge at the end unscathed, due to the ability to turn-in to a slide as a rear-wheel drive vehicle and pull-out as a four-wheel drive one.
Our time with the EX coincided with a record-setting single-day snowfall in Montreal, which meant that we were suddenly able to test out the crossover's ability to handle seriously deep drifts and uncleared roads. With 24 inches of snow to deal with, and major city thoroughfares a mess of snow banks, we found ourselves frequently engaging the 'Snow' button on the center console in order to lock torque distribution 50/50 between the front and rear axles. This feature, combined with the ride height advantage enjoyed by the EX's SUV-like design, and its excellent set of winter tires, had us bravely maintaining our forward progress through even the fiercest, deepest snow that we encountered. We were very impressed with how the Infiniti comported itself during very challenging conditions that had over half the city paralyzed, and if we had only had a tow strap we would have been able to help out many other drivers who were spinning their way to nowhere.
The snow did have its revenge on our EX tester, however. The spokes of the optional 19-inch rims on the crossover would occasionally become completely packed with snow after we had pulled through a few drifts, and this unbalancing effect translated into serious shaking at higher speeds. We rectified this by parking the SUV inside a heated garage for a couple of hours to melt everything away. The snow also concealed a pothole that cut the side of one of the front tires when we rolled through it unawares, which had us wishing for a bit more sidewall to protect the crossover's rims.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Final Thoughts
The 2013 Infiniti EX37 simply isn't designed for serious family duty in the same way that a Toyota RAV4 is, but then again, the Toyota can't match the Infiniti when it comes to pure performance - or luxury. Vehicles in its class like the BMW X3 provide similar premium fun with a larger interior, but other rivals from Mercedes-Benz, Acura, and Audi that also provide more storage room don't measure up to the EX when driven in anger.
The lack of usable cargo space inside the EX is a black mark on a model that is marketed in a niche where practicality is a prime consideration. However, if you are looking for an all-weather warrior that is fun to drive when conditions are warm and sunny and equally capable on rain-slicked, ice-covered roads, then the EX37 Journey AWD is a definite contender that should be cross-shopped alongside all-wheel drive wagons like the Audi A4. The additional ride height offered by the Infiniti is quite useful when dealing with large amounts of snow, and the rear-wheel drive dynamics of the crossover place it a cut above most wagons on the market. Approach the EX for what it is - a taller compact wagon, not a true SUV - and you won't be disappointed by what you find.
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Pros and Cons
2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD Review: Pros and Cons
- Excellent power upgrade from a new V-6 engine
- No fuel mileage penalty to pay compared to the previous model
- Top-notch rear-biased all-wheel drive system
- Great snow-fording capability
- Class-leading navigation and multimedia interface design
- High class cockpit
- Interior smaller than most rivals
- Serious lack of cargo space
- Adaptive cruise control system not as smooth as in other Infiniti models
Nissan Canada supplied the vehicle for this review