I expected this crossover to be a bit slow off the line, since it has a fairly high revving twin cam engine that makes most of its power in the higher RPMs. At 3812 pounds, this SUV is no lightweight either, so I was pleasantly surprised when I stomped on the gas. First gear is setup to get the vehicle moving, 0-60 takes 6.2 seconds. The power delivery is smooth and the engine doesn’t sound like it’s under any strain thanks to a great engine and excellent sound deadening and sealing.
The transmission shifts smoothly with no hesitations in the full automatic mode, but in the manual mode,
I did experience some delay in my shifts when I tried this out. This is a bit annoying to me, but I know that this is primarily done to reduce shock to the drive train. After all, the EX is not purporting to be a high performance vehicle. The Acura RDX sports a turbocharged 2.3 L inline 4 that puts out similar performance figures, but lacks the overall refinement that Infiniti offers with this world class power train. The GLK has a 3.5L V-6 and a 7 speed transmission but somehow manages to get worse fuel economy and a slower 0-60 (6.5 seconds) than the EX. The brakes have a nice progressive feel that matches the overall sporty character of the vehicle.
Without a doubt this is a driver’s SUV…the steering is precise and linear with the feel that you can only get from a rear wheel drive vehicle. Steering effort is a bit over boosted for my taste, but considering the demographic that Infiniti is targeting, it makes low speed handling quite effortless, without losing too much feel. The EX has good on center feel at all speeds. I put this vehicle through its paces on my standard route through the twisty Santa Cruz Mountains. Again, the EX performs much more like a sports sedan than a SUV. The engineers at Infiniti have done a wonderful job at maintaining ride comfort and preserving handling. Most SUV’s show their heft with excessive roll in aggressive handling and braking maneuvers but the low center of gravity and G35 underpinnings allow this car to handle brilliantly with poise and balance.
The EX has some interesting proportions and makes for an attractive looking vehicle. From the side, the long hood clearly communicates a longitudinal mounted engine. The headlamps also stretch back along the front fenders, which reinforce the long nose. The driver actually sits more toward the middle of the vehicle, which comes primarily at the expense of rear seat leg room. The rear roofline sweeps back relatively quickly which severely diminishes the rear cargo space. The end result is a crossover that is aesthetically pleasing but limited in true versatility. This vehicle will struggle to accommodate 4 or 5 passengers and their luggage unless they’re small children. There are some five door hatchbacks which actually have similar amounts of rear seat and cargo space as the EX.
Infiniti has done a great job with the rich looking interior design. My tester had the chestnut leather interior, which is best described as a dark brown, but for some reason, it seemed to have a bit of a purple tinge. The GLK and X3, have nice interiors as well, but I feel that the styling on those vehicles is a bit on the sterile and utilitarian side. By contrast the EX provides a level of warmth with its rich leather and maple wood inserts.
The market for midsized SUV’s is quite large, with every manufacturer offering something in this segment. The field narrows when looking a premium SUV’s. When looking at premium vehicles, features will tend to dominate the value decision versus price alone since price shoppers will self-select themselves towards non premium vehicles. Infiniti has more standard and available features than its competitors with a similar price point. In this class, every competitor will offer navigation, satellite radio, premium sound systems, the full range of safety systems. Infiniti is almost one step ahead in every one of these regards, by offering enhancements like a hard drive based navigation system with real time traffic, state of the art systems like active cruise control and the Around View Monitor parking system to list a few differentiators.
A base level rear wheel drive EX starts off at $33,800, while the Journey level trim starts out at $36,000. A fully loaded Journey with AWD prices out around $43,900. The base level vehicle seems to be a compelling value, but the extra gadgetry of the other packages really starts putting in to question the overall versatility of the vehicle since there other vehicles outside this class that will need to be considered. In my eyes the pure value proposition diminishes as the option sheet grows, yet many of these are options are not available from Infiniti’s competitors which price out at similar levels. Therefore, I go back to some of the basics regarding rear seat room and cargo space. Buyers will have to make a careful evaluation of their real needs to assess the value to them.
Who should buy it?
This crossover SUV is for someone who wants a driver’s car, but needs more versatility than a luxury sports sedan can offer. The EX is more car than SUV. From my perspective this is a logical trade off between a pure sedan like the G35 and something a little more SUV like. The EX is not small by any means, but the design of the vehicle will almost make it unsuitable for families that take anything but short trips. The Mercedes Benz GLK is the closest competitor in this respect and I prefer the EX. I feel the optimal buyer for this vehicle is a young, active, affluent couple who have a young child and need something a bit more versatile than a sedan but don’t want a traditional midsize SUV. They may currently have a premium sedan like a BMW 3 series or an A4, and like the driving dynamics of such an import sedan.
The EX is an excellent choice for someone looking for a performance based, premium SUV. It is perfectly sized for running around town and performing errands in style. Infiniti has created crossover in the truest sense of the word, meshing the driving dynamics of a sports sedan and some of the practicality of an SUV. There are some state of the art gadgets that work really well that are not only for geeks. This makes a wonderful vehicle for both short and long trips if overall passenger space is not a concern.
|The official website of Infiniti – www.infinitiusa.com|
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