2011 INFINITI EX35 Introduction

Think of the INFINITI EX35 as the crossover wagon version of the INFINITI G sedan. It's sort of a cross between a wagon and a coupe but slightly taller. Whatever you call it, the EX35 strikes a nice balance between sportiness and luxury. The INFINITI EX35 comes with Nissan's superb 3.5-liter V6, fully independent suspension and rear-wheel drive, the stuff of sports sedans. Indeed, we found the EX feels more car-like underway than most other crossovers.

The 2011 INFINITI EX35 comes with a new 7-speed automatic transmission, replacing the 5-speed on 2010 and earlier models. 2011 EX35 models also get larger wheels than before, packaging revisions, new instrument graphics and an available blind spot warning system. The INFINITI EX35 was launched as an all-new vehicle for 2008; the headlights were reshaped for 2010.

Smaller than the INFINITI FX, the EX35 can seat five. We found it much more comfortable with four. The cabin boasts rich, soft-touch materials and a stylish design. All of the controls are within easy reach.

Room up front is good, but taller drivers will want more headroom, especially if they opt for a moonroof. The back seats offer decent room, but it's tight when the front seats are all the way back. Both rows are easy to enter and exit, thanks to the EX35's ride height, which is higher than that of a sedan, but not as high as most SUVs.

Cargo room is plentiful thanks to the hatchback design, though many SUVs offer more space. A power-folding second row eases the process of loading items in the back, and they can be brought back up from the driver's seat, handy when pulling up to the curb to pick up passengers.

The 3.5-liter V6 makes 297 horsepower and is mated to the 7-speed automatic transmission that has a manual shiftgate (but no paddle shifters). We were pleased by the EX35's ready power. It accelerates from a standstill quickly and offers strong passing response at highway speeds. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg City/Highway.

We found the EX35 drives like a sedan with a slightly elevated ride height. The EX35 comes with a choice of rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The AWD is meant for on-road use and is beneficial in foul weather. We found the handling responsive, and the brakes and steering feel natural and inspire confidence. The EX35 rides more smoothly the larger FX50. It isn't as firm as the Acura RDX and is a bit less driver-focused than the BMW X3.

With its carlike handling, powerful engine, and useful cargo room, the 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 versatility of a wagon or SUV, make sure to put the EX35 on your shopping list.

The Around View Monitor shows obstacles 360 degrees around the vehicle, making it easier to maneuver in tight quarters. There's a hard drive available with 9.3 gigabytes of storage for music files. The Lane Departure Prevention system enhances safety by lightly applying the brakes on one side to steer the vehicle back into its lane should it start crossing lane lines, for example, if you fall asleep.

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