2008 Infiniti EX35 Review

2008 infiniti ex35 review

When you make the market’s most un-SUV-like SUV– a large, fast, expensive, thirsty, luggage and mud-aversive vehicle– what do you do for an encore? If you’re Infiniti, you make a virtually identical smaller version that’s slightly more fuel efficient. And how do you convince consumers to buy this $40k FX35 mini-me? You cram it with enough electronics to keep an AWACS crew busy for hours. Strangely, that’s not the best reason to buy an EX35. Hell, it’s not even a good reason. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Visually, the difference between the FX and EX is no more profound than the disparity between Sarah Connor in the first and second Terminator movies. The “coupe inspired” EX is a bit more compact and a lot more cut than the FX. And that's it. To this reviewer’s eyes, the FX’ zoftig curves are far more appealing than the Bimmer-aping character lines bisecting the EX’ prow and flanks. The EX’ rear window treatment is especially over-wrought; a mish-mash of shapes assembled for the sole purpose of not being an FX.

The EX’ back end lacks the FX’ way cool integrated coffee can exhausts, but the smaller sib’s helm leaves no doubt to which letter in SUV it aspires. The Japanese cute ute’s steering wheel is meaty enough to inspire a vegetarian backlash. That said, the EX’ designers clearly decided that G comes before Z in their aesthetic alphabet. To justify the Lexus-like price tag, Infiniti’s designers have once again benchmarked Audi. From the climate controls to the red-faced LCD trip computer nestled between the gauges, the EX grasps for Ingolstadt's four rings.

And misses the marque. The EX’ dash may be as handsome as Poggenpohl kitchen, but the gauges’ violet inner rings and oversized font stick out like an oil can of Fosters in a wicker wine cradle. The EX’ leather seats may look elegantly sumptuous, but they feel as plasticky as your grandmother's vinyl couch covers. The EX’ rotary controller is suitably Starck, but sits dorkily on the dashtop, like a nerd's polyester trousers grazing his nipples. While I can appreciate the oil-dampened glide of a glovebox door as much as the next OCD pistonhead, the EX’ cabin proves than lackluster imitation is the sincerest form of bad branding.

If Infiniti has a "thing," it's gizmos. We're talking voice recognition, an Intelligent Key (that couldn't answer the simplest trivia questions), Intelligent Cruise Control (that kept Tom away), an "Around View" parking monitor (in case you need to park sideways), a brake-actuating Lane Departure Prevention system, Sat Nav (with real time traffic info), Bluetooth, Bose blasting (with 24-bit DAC, 11 speakers, two subwoofers, six CD player, iPod connectivity and a 9.3GB hard drive), remote rear seat release (and motorized retraction) and the usual luxury everything. Wait. No power liftgate? Nope.

But power it's got. The EX’ fourth gen VQ engine stumps-up 297hp and 253 ft.-lbs. of torque. As max shove clocks-in at a relatively high rpm, sporting drivers must give the EX’ go-pedal a proper pasting to satisfy their accelerative urges. So motorvated, the 3752lbs. EX heads for the hills like you TASERed its tailpipes. The dash from rest to 60mph takes a shade under six seconds. Provided you use the EX’ five-speed autobox’ manual override to hold onto tight to your revs, the SUV will pass long lines of traffic in a single bound.

On the downside, EX lacks the similarly speedy FX35's operatic mellifluousness under wide open throttle. What's worse, the silence allows the EX' tire roar to come to the fore (damn those fat all-season shoes). The EX35's prodigious thirst is another inconvenient truth. Ambling around town, the accommodation and cargo-challenged SUV gulps gas at the astonishing rate of 16mpg. Drive the EX like you stole it and the fuel bills will make you wish you had.

Still, if you had to evade the long arm of the law in an SUV (closed course, fake arm), you could hardly do better than pilot an EX equipped with ATTESA ET-S (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System with Electronic Torque Split). If you ignore the FX-donated crashy rear suspension, and the EX' unsettling tendency to porpoise over undulations, the all wheel-drive Infiniti can perform the same stupid truck tricks that help Porsche Cayenne S owners justify their bizarre whip to incredulous mainstream motorists– only faster.

Yes but– you can’t drive an EX35 off road. Or tow anything. Or carry four adults in comfort. Or their luggage. Yes, the Infiniti EX35 is the fastest, best handling of all the luxury cute utes. But who cares? How many people have been hankering for a really expensive jacked-up two-plus-two sports coupe with a billion megabits of electro-mechanical mishaps just waiting to happen, produced by an automaker whose street cred hovers in that near luxury no-man’s land once occupied by Buick, currently home to Acura?

In fact, the Infiniti’s EX' EXtreme lack of utility consigns this so-called SUV to an EXtremely rarified niche: drivers who want a less practical G35 sedan with a better view; or customers looking for a smaller, cheaper FX35. Otherwise, well, what was the point?

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  • Revolver1978 Revolver1978 on Jan 29, 2009

    I'm soon to be in the market for a 3-dog friendly vehicle, and live in the snow belt. My first choice? A 5-series wagon w/ AWD. Unfortunately, I can't stomach the thought of paying over 30k for a 4 yr old wagon from a marque with a reputation for expensive repairs. The market for AWD wagons is pretty limited. My sig other is VERY enamoured with this vehicle (which I have repeatly stated I can't afford anyway.) When I look at the hatch (or what infiniti calls a hatch)the utility is gone by puttin a piece of glass diagonally from the top of the rear seat to the back belt line. (I don't haul trapezoids much.) I'm hoping to check it out in person at the Auto Show next month, just to confirm that this thing has less usable cargo space than a WRX. (said WRX, with it's improvemnts for '09, will probably be my next vehicle.)

  • Energetik9 Energetik9 on Feb 18, 2009

    My wife and I looked and drove this car when shopping for a new car for her. It had technology....but most competitors do also. It had the edge in nice lines, but it feel far short when it came to usable space in the rear. One criteria for us is to be able to hold a dog in the back and this just didn't work. The sloping rear cut out any praticality. Short version....this vehicle was 3rd on our list. Nice and all...just not worth considering.

  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
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