Reviews

2011 INFINITI EX35 Walk Around

The INFINITI EX35 is more like a car than an SUV. It looks like a coupe crossed with a wagon. It sits lower than a typical crossover, and has a sporty, swept back appearance. The cat's-eye headlights were subtly reshaped for 2010.

From the front, the INFINITI EX looks similar to the INFINITI G sedan line. In the rearview mirror, it's hard to tell the two apart, with the subtle differences in their grilles and fascia. Its slightly raised stance and larger side mirrors are good indicators that the sporty vehicle behind is the crossover, not the sedan. Also distinguishing the EX35 and G are the different shapes of the air intakes in the front fascia.

Like that of the G sedan, the EX35 front end has curvaceous, organic shapes that flow into body sides marked by prominent wheel openings pushed to the corners. But while the cross-section of the sedan is a single, unbroken curve, the EX sports a graceful character line flowing from front to rear, dipping in the middle and sweeping up at the back to give the crossover a sporty rake. The doors and windows appear 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.

In fact, the EX35 shares its basic structure (code-named FM) with the G and FX. The EX is nine inches shorter overall than the FX and rides on a 3.4-inch shorter wheelbase. The EX is also lighter than the FX by more than 300 pounds.

Scratch Shield paint is available that uses a clear coat 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.

Interior

Rich, soft-touch materials abound inside the EX35, 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, all now white-on-black with violet accents. 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 navigation. 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. Bluetooth streaming and iPod links are among other input options.

The Premium package includes INFINITI's Around View Monitor, which expands on the rearview camera concept. It utilizes four cameras, one hidden 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 system 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 Technology Package includes INFINITI's Lane Departure Prevention system, which goes one step beyond Lane Departure Warning. Lane Departure Warning detects painted lane lines and emits a beep if you begin to cross those lines without using a turn signal. Lane Departure Prevention then 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 correct as much when we let the vehicle drift to the right, perhaps because of crowned roads.

The EX35 offers the room of a midsize station wagon. It's a step up in cargo space from a sedan, but it's compact by SUV standards. The seats don't fold quite flat, but the liftover is fairly low, and with the seats down there is 55.7 cubic feet of cargo volume. With the rear seats up, there is still 18.6 cubic feet of cargo volume.

Getting in and out is a breeze because the EX35 sits higher than a sedan but lower than most SUVs. With the Journey's 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 but petite drivers may have to look around them more. The shape of the rear pillar and the position of the headrest on the passenger side rear seat creates a large blind spot over the driver's right shoulder, and it’s not a lot better on the driver’s side.

The rear seats are comfortable, but the EX35 will be far more comfortable for four passengers than five. Head room isn't the problem until you reach six feet, but leg room gets tight when the front seats are pushed far back. The rear seats are shaped to make the outboard positions more comfortable than most, but getting stuck in the center position will definitely cause fights among the kids. The seat is split 60/40 and there is a standard fold-down center armrest, which further aids comfort for outboard passengers. On Journey models with the Premium package, a coat hanger pops out of the back of the driver-seat headrest, useful for hanging a sport coat or suit jacket.

Journey models with the Premium Package feature a second-row seats that fold up and down via power controls located in the rear cargo area. There are also power controls up front to raise the seats, though the driver can't lower the seats from behind the wheel. With or without power, the second-row seats also fold down manually in an easy one-step motion.

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