Infiniti is not a "me, too" company, and the new 2008 Infiniti EX35 AWD Journey adds another unique statement to the portfolio. Slotted somewhere in the limbo between sedan and SUV, EX35 combines utility and sportiness in a stylish package. The 2008 Infiniti EX35 AWD Journey carries a base price of $36,250 ($45,015 as tested), along with a 4 year/60,000 mile basic warranty, a 6 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty, and an EPA fuel economy estimate of 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. Let's drive.
Reviewing a new Infiniti always presents a dilemma -- do I talk about the driving experience, the styling, the fit and finish, or do I concentrate on the technology? This new EX is loaded with new features that will be sneaking into the rest of the Infiniti lineup soon. I'll have to try to walk the tightrope and talk about it all at once.
Let's start with the exterior. If you like the FX, you're going to like the EX. In fact, I have a hard time telling the two vehicles apart in isolation. EX is significantly shorter (182.3" vs. 191.3") and narrower (71.0" vs. 75.9) than FX, but a little bit taller (66.1" vs. 62.6"). Both vehicles share a scarab-like shape, and the Infiniti family nose. The EX looks like somebody over-inflated their G35 coupe. It's not an elegant vehicle, exactly, but it is a really assertive interpretation of the crossover.
Being Infiniti, there's some technology to discover on the exterior. A highly elastic resin clearcoat, which Infiniti calls "Scratch Shield," protects the paint. Small scratches self-heal over the course of a week's time, depending on ambient temperature and other weather conditions. I didn't scratch my test vehicle to test it, but I have noticed that my neighbor's EX35 still looks showroom new after six months on the road, and living outdoors on our suburban street. Very impressive.
In the Driver's Seat
I know I'm going to get all wrapped up in the technology, so first I'm going to talk about luxury and comfort for a moment. Infiniti's sense of luxury is clean, crisp and firm. I like it, and I get the feeling that down the road, the EX is still going to feel luxurious and comfortable after years of use.
Now to the technology: there's a ton of it. My test vehicle was equipped with a $1,950 Technology Package, which included a very impressive Around View Monitor (AVM) and a Lane Departure Prevention and Warning System. The AVM synthesizes the view from several tiny cameras mounted around the EX's body to present a 360 degree overhead image when you shift into reverse gear. It's jaw-dropping tech that may or may not be necessary, but it certainly is cool. The Lane Departure system demands even more explanation. A sensor in the windshield detects unintended (unsignaled) lane changes, and gives a visual and audible warning to the driver, just like on the Infiniti FX. EX adds a prevention factor -- gently actuating the braking system to keep the vehicle in its lane. I found the system a little annoying at first. The additional visual, aural and physical inputs were too distracting to deal with in heavy traffic. But during a late night drone on the highway, the system was a reassuring backup that helped keep me alert.
Additional technology on my test vehicle included the Premium Package ($2,150) and Navigation Package ($2,150). Just for looks, they threw in maple wood trim on the console and doors ($450).
On the Road
Infiniti's clean and crisp aesthetic extends to performance as well. The familiar 3.5 liter V6 engine lives under EX's hood, cranking out 297 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque. My test vehicle was the AWD model, driving all four wheels with a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. If you choose two-wheel drive, the rear wheels get the power. Four-wheel independent suspension with springs over shocks and stabilizer bars front and rear keep the ride firm and controlled, and ventilated discs operate with ABS and EBD on each corner. With a curb weight of 3,953 lbs, EX isn't exactly a lightweight, but it does move along quite well. You'd think that the shorter wheelbase and narrower track would make for quicker response over the FX, and you'd be right. But the EX feels less athletic than FX, a result of slightly higher center of gravity. It's still a lot of fun to drive, but doesn't beg to be flogged like a sportscar.
Rear seat comfort isn't all that it could be, either. With just 28.5 inches of legroom in the rear, a tall passenger can be significantly cramped with a tall driver behind the wheel. There's plenty of luggage space behind the second row. You can jam 18.6 cubic feet of cargo back there in a covered, secure-looking compartment.
EX's biggest problem is going to be differentiation from FX. FX does everything that EX can do, and does it better, honestly. Sure, it's more expensive, but the vehicles are so closely matched it hardly seems worth having both in the lineup. EX suffers from the same lack of utility that afflicts the new BMW X6. Both are cool vehicles, eclipsed by other vehicles in the same lineup that have a better mix of features. If you want a great sedan, you might as well buy a G35; if you want a great crossover vehicle, you might as well buy an FX35. There isn't enough room in between the two choices to leave room for EX35.
There are other competitive choices to consider as well. Acura's RDX brings an impressive array of features and available technology to the table. Lexus' RX 350 is a softer, less athletic option, and you can choose an RX 400h for a real dose of technology including a hybrid gas/electric powerplant. Mazda's CX-7 is another interesting take on the equation. Check out the Lincoln MKX as well. You might be surprised.
I very much enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the EX35. I love Infiniti's design sense and the kitchen sink approach to technology. But even with all the luxury, comfort, performance and gadgetry, EX35 left me wanting more. Specifically, it left me wanting an Infiniti FX50.