2011 INFINITI EX35 Driving Impressions

More than other crossovers, the INFINITI EX35 drives like a car. In fact, the EX drives like a sporty sedan, and a pretty good one at that. That's not surprising because the EX traces its roots to the G sedan's architecture.

Compared to INFINITI's V8 crossover FX50, the EX35 is aimed a little more toward luxury than sportiness. The difference mostly manifests itself in ride quality. With the base wheels now 18-inch and fitted with VR-speed-rated tires, the EX35’s ride isn’t as soft as it was but is still compliant, better than the larger FX (especially on 21-inch wheels) and softer than the G sedan. Sharp bumps never jolt, even with the available 19-inch wheels. The ride becomes busier with the 19s, but it is still livable.

With a taller ride height than the G sedan and softer suspension settings than the FX, the EX isn't quite as sporty as its INFINITI siblings. That said, it doesn't lean much in corners and it's nimble during 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.

The 297-hp 3.5-liter V6 that comes in the EX35 is one of the better engines available. It is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual shiftgate. The duo works in tandem to provide willing power in any situation. INFINITI doesn't list a 0-60 mph time, but we'd say you’ll rarely have to use all of the engine’s power, a good thing because when you do it revs to 7600 rpm and makes noise that seems out of place amongst the cushy cabin. Otherwise the cabin is quite quiet and makes longer trips low-fatigue affairs.

The EX35 leaps from a stop and is even more impressive in passing situations at highway speeds. The seven-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. In sport mode it automatically downshifts under moderate braking, holds gears during cornering, and rev-matches downshifts for longevity and quicker gear engagement. Oddly, steering wheel paddles aren't provided. We think the EX35 would be even more fun with them.

Fuel economy is average, the result of big wheels, 300 horsepower and two tons. The seven-speed automatic helps somewhat as 2011 ratings are 17/24 regardless of rear or all-wheel drive. INFINITI recommends but does not require premium-grade fuel for the EX.

Regardless of EPA ratings we expect an all-wheel drive’s real-world fuel economy to be slightly lower because of extra machinery and 200 pounds. The all-wheel drive is only for severe weather with winter tires and not off-highway use; the rear-drive car has almost one inch more ground clearance.

No tow rating is published for the EX35, however, hitches may prove useful for bike racks and the like.

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