2009 Infiniti EX35 Review – Best Handling SUV, Ever!

Expert Reviews Infiniti

By Anson Tse


  • Silky smooth power train
  • Well balanced chassis that feels more like a sports sedan
  • Great creature comforts and techno wizardry


  • Very little rear seat leg room
  • Overall size and versatility
  • Can get pricey in a hurry

I’ve seen these small Infiniti SUV’s around mainly because they’re noticeably shorter than a lot of the other crossover SUVs that are out there. The EX35 is a great looking small SUV that seems to fit perfectly in the Infiniti vehicle line up. Every manufacturer has placed their efforts in the crossover SUV space and there are plenty to choose from. In the premium space, the closest competitors to the EX are the Acura RDX, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and BMW X3. Compared with Lexus, Infiniti has always positioned themselves in the sport-luxury segment. Naturally, I had to check out this vehicle to see what Infiniti has come up with and how it compares.

2009 Infiniti EX35

Driving Impressions

The EX is perhaps the best all around handling SUV on the market. It is easy to draw the similarities to the Infiniti G35 if you consider the EX to be the more athletic brother, but with a taller roofline, more upright seating, and a tailgate. This makes the EX more of a five door hatchback version of the G35 which provides a good frame of reference to how high you sit in this vehicle and the overall dimensions. Handling dynamics of the EX’s front mid-ship (FM) platform centers the vehicle’s weight to help deliver quick steering response and precise balance through curves. The EX is very responsive with quick reflexes which leads you to believe that it is quite a bit lighter than it actually is. We consider the EX a great handling vehicle that is focused on the driver.

Nissan’s award-winning engine has long been an industry benchmark of refinement and power for V-6 engines. Under the hood, you’ll find Nissan’s bread and butter 3.5L V-6. In the EX35, Nissan’s VRQ6 engine puts out 297 HP and 253 lb.-ft. of torque. Although this piston powerplant is happier higher up in the RPMs, when paired to the 5 speed automatic the gearing allows for quick responsiveness off the line.  In automatic mode a sophisticated learning algorithm adapts to your individual driving style and shifts to optimize engine performance. You can shift the gears manually by putting the transmission in “manumatic” mode and tapping the shifter fore and aft to row through the gears. Downshift rev-matching, which automatically adjusts engine speed output to smooth out shifts, accomplishes downshifts smoother than Jenson Button laying down hot laps at Monaco.

The entire powertrain in this car is first-class; few vehicles can match the level of refinement that Infiniti has been able to achieve. The version that I tested was rear wheel drive only so I can’t comment on the effects that AWD has on this car. According to Infiniti, the all-wheel drive system knows all and continually adapts to changing road conditions. When AWD is not needed, the system sends 100% of the power to the rear wheels. I love the feel of rear wheel drive vehicles and living in California, I would seldom need to use AWD. Locales that have roads slicker than butter on teflon might want to consider the AWD version. Then you get the best of both worlds — rear-wheel drive dynamics on dry pavement and all-wheel driving handling when the weather turns nasty.

EPA rated fuel economy is 17 city and 24 highway, I managed to get 21 MPG in my combined driving.

2009 Infiniti EX35


Infiniti’s have always been nicely appointed and rich with the latest features, they (along with everyone else for that matter) have always been shadowed by Lexus in terms of overall craftsmanship. Specifically, the interior quality of the switches and controls always lagged that of Infiniti’s peers. That’s no longer the situation as witnessed by the EX. First rate materials are used in the interior with smooth lines and solid feeling components. On the outside, the margins and panel fits were superb. Nowadays these are table steaks for luxury vehicles, but it’s always great to see it well executed. There’s consistency with all of the switches throughout the interior and it makes you believe that there was a unified design concept, even though Infiniti uses many of the same components across their vehicle line. The doors and controls have a solid, satisfying feel which confirms you are in fact sitting in a luxury vehicle.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

Behind the wheel, you find yourself situated in a richly appointed interior. I have to say the EX has one of the nicest interiors in its class. From the front seat all the controls are within reach and there is good isolation from the outside world. There are so many gadgets that this makes this SUV feel like a jet fighter cockpit. Not having driven an Infiniti lately, I needed some time to figure out how to operate all of the neat gadgets. Infiniti provides a quick overview on how to operate the gadgets, which certainly beats digging through the two inch thick owner’s manual, which is located in a zippered compartment in the rear cargo area.

Infiniti EX35 interior Infiniti EX center stack Infiniti EX35 control layout

The interior of EX is perhaps the best part of vehicle. The instrument panel and controls are all well laid out and everything is where you would expect it to be. There is no denying you are sitting in a luxury vehicle; it has power everything with memory, so finding and repeating that comfortable seating position is a simple affair. However, for rear seat passengers, they’re going to feel a bit cramped. Especially if the people sitting up front are taller than average. Infiniti Engineers knew space and comfort would be a challenge for passengers banished to the rear seat, so they carved out the back of the front seats to allow a little more space for knees for those cases when someone taller than 5′ 2″ has to ride in the back.

The EX has pushbutton keyless ignition, so there is never a need to fumble with keys. There are plethora of gadgets in this SUV, the version I tested did not have the optional $2250 “Technology Package” which adds lane departure warning, intelligent cruise control, distance control assist, and intelligent brake assist. The intent of this state of the art package uses various sensors to prevent collisions by warning the driver and in some cases activating the brakes if the warning is not heeded. For those that have spouses, they can affirm that many of those functions already exist.

cameras for around view monitor Infiniti EX35 door panel Bikes fit inside the Infiniti EX35

The EX I tested did have Infiniti’s Around View Monitor system, which comes standard with the navigation system. The vehicle has four built-in cameras, one in the grille, one in each side mirror, and one in the tailgate. When backing up or even moving forward in a parking space, the navigation screen shows a top view of the vehicle with the 4 camera views integrated into the display. While in reverse, the display also gives color coded guide lines based on the direction that vehicle is currently facing and separate lines based on the angle of the steering wheel to show where it would go. The system also has radar sensors in the front and back of the car to give audio feedback on the proximity of any objects. The side view cameras are wonderful for actually seeing how close the wheels are to the curb to avoid curb rash. This is simply the best system that I have come across and makes parking a pleasure. Similarly, the Bluetooth® functionality worked beautifully with my iPhone. The Navigation system is integrated with XM® radio’s traffic service to show highway traffic conditions. The navigation screen becomes the focal point of many of the gadgets and it all seemed to function quite well.

Interior storage space is well thought out with a sizable center console to store things. There is a built in plug that controls your iPod and there are RCA jacks to plug in component level inputs, too. Unfortunately, my iPhone didn’t seem to be fully supported, but that’s bound to happen since car manufactures can’t work faster than cell phone manufacturers.

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