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AUDACITY AND HOPE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Feb 7, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

AUDACITY AND HOPE By John Grafman

The Infiniti EX35 AWD Journey might be the Obama of the crossover genre. It offers high expectations and perhaps a healthy dose of hope. But will it deliver the goods once it gets rolling? The EX tries real hard to offer something for everyone and pulls it off, err, nine times out of ten. In my mind this is what a cross-over should be. As we Angelinos know, the off-road adventures experienced by the average driver in the greater L.A. County area are all but nil, the idea of getting dirty is absurd. (This is not to say that there aren't an abundance of off-road possibilities in the greater L.A. County, there are, it's just that the average L.A. County SUV never leaves the safety and comfort of the pavement.) So, the real meaning of sport in this neck of the woods means on-road fun. Freeways and streets are the destination, and the transportation should be created for that purpose. The new Infiniti does address this need far better than one would expect.

This vehicle feels fast. The 3.5-liter V6 feels far larger than it is. I would actually go so far as to say that the EX35 embarrasses most other SUV's with its blend of speed and handling. Those behemoths of the roadway are sloppy in nearly every way, albeit there have been some big strides made compared to just several years ago. The nimbleness and speed that the EX provides is really the death blow to the SUV. The EX does however give up seating to those behemoths. Four average size humans are the total that can be squeezed into the Infiniti without crushing anyone. The cargo area is nicely trimmed, but it too is not as plentiful as the bigger transports. Well, maybe the SUVs do have a reason to exist after all. The EX35 does get moving in a hurry. And at the cost of burning a few more natural resources than may be necessary, it is able to provide a good dose of fun. You sink into the seats with a quick stab at the accelerator pedal. Without too much effort, the EX bests the typical SUV in handling, but this is not to say that we are talking about sports car handling. The EX35 does try really hard , and while the 297 horses do tease and tempt the driver, 3,953 pounds is just too much weight. Sporty yes, sports car no. The higher ride height does prevent the EX35 from being able to negotiate a slalom in a flat manner. At the same time, the Infiniti should get some credit for not being too wobbly either. Independent suspension front and rear is one of the reasons why. One of the clever features that assists in keeping the EX between the lines is the Lane Departure Prevention/Warning Systems. This baby beeps when it senses the driver drifting out of the chosen lane. The vehicle handles well enough that any warning is more than likely attributed to user error. The system is a bit jumpy though, so the beeping does get a bit annoying. Fortunately it can be turned off.

Handling well enough is fine for most, however this is supposed to be a notch above the rest. The original equipment tires, Dunlop Sport 7000 All-Season aren't really the performance rubber needed to wring out the most from the EX35. The tires do offer a blend of smooth driving over road imperfections, and ability to handle less than optimal weather conditions, but this feels like a compromise in the performance department. The Dunlops reside upon some elegant 18" factory wheels. These get high marks in terms of both design and finish. Styling is always a tough call as everybody has a different opinion, just like ice cream. Chocolate or vanilla, which is better? Nevertheless, the rims are hard to fault. The exterior design is a little bolder, and a bit sophisticated in the graceful, flowing shapes. The feeling of the hood is organic and not easily confused with other vehicles. And best of all, this looks the part. This is refined, and also has a dynamic, physical appearance that one takes seriously. Infiniti seemed to have a particular goal in mind when developing this, and took the necessary time to achieve it. It seems that the final product was a result of continuous refining. The interior is a different story. The layout is functional, but it doesn't reflect the same care that the exterior exhibits. The shortcomings range from a smallish overall cabin size and feel, mismatched interior material colors, no mute on the steering wheel, the short iPod cord, plus the plug-in doesn't properly recognize iPhones, and the use of squarish looking buttons in a vehicle that is emphasizing an organic look. The glove box is all but useless, and it's easy to accidentally have pieces fall behind the back panel of the box. It should be mentioned that the otherwise nice sunroof is for the most part behind the driver's head, unless the driver has the seat very far aft. More importantly, the mirrors obstruct too much visibility, which are a fashion no-no and a minor safety issue.

Infiniti does offer the multiple packages that refine the EX even further. Features include a step up in audio and memory for most of the major electrically operated components from seats to steering. A very welcome feature is the Bluetooth hands free phone system. The Luxe Package is the upgraded leather accents, Bi-Xenon headlights and Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), plus 18-inch rims. The Navigation Package as one would guess encompasses a hard drive based nav, voice recognition for HVAC, audio and navigation. Additionally, a 9.3 gig music box and rearview monitor are part of the deal. And in a quest for something unusual Infiniti provides the Around View Monitor (AVM), a 360-degree overhead camera. This near bird's-eye view does offer a complete view of the surroundings, however I can get almost the same result by turning my head so that I can look over my shoulders. Have we really gotten this lazy? I have to wonder if this will be an example of just how ridiculous our society has become. I do applaud the ability to scan or sense objects that might be hard to otherwise see, but I just hope this isn't an excuse to abandon good driving habits. The AVM is just one part of the Technology Package that also includes the Lane Departure Prevention System, and Lane Departure Warning System. Intelligent Cruise Control also is part of the package at a mere $1,950.00. A bevy of standard features include outside power folding mirrors, one touch power tilt, and slide sunroof with sunshade. The interior holds price appropriate features like 8-way power seats with manual lumbar for the driver (4-way for passengers), aluminum trim (wood optional), full color 7" information system, trip computer, auto climate control, and rear heating ducts. Other niceties include cruise control, steering wheel mounted controls, and Infiniti Intelligent Key with push-button ignition system. Standard safety systems range from airbags to belts, and zone body construction to front-seat active head restraints. The deep cup holders that hide away are welcome to anyone who enjoys a real size beverage for the road. This is comfortable if nothing else. The high driving position and ergonomics make this enjoyable as well as comfortable. In spite of the interior issues, the EX does offer up all of the bells and whistles that Infiniti is known for. The cup holders are standard fare, but the other options take the sticker from a moderate 36K to a tick over 45K. The EX35 Journey does offer all manner of tricks to keep us entertained. Some of this works, and some just don't. Is it better to have high expectations, but fall short, or is it superior to have more realistic expectations and exceed in every respect? I think our new President might just say, one hopes for the best of everything!

SUMMARY JUDGMENT The crossover that offers something for everyone, but lacks a singular purpose. For LA Car's review of the rear-wheel drive EX35, click www.lacar.com Find more at www.infiniti.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Infiniti EX35 AWD Journey Price: Base $36,250, as tested $45,015 Engine type: VQ35 DOHC, 24-valve, aluminum-alloy block and head, V6 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 16/23 Horsepower: 297 @ 6.800 rpm Torque: 253 lb.-ft @ 4,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed, electronic controlled automatic overdrive transmission with manual shift mode and Downshift Rev Matching Suspension: Front: Subframe-mounted independent double-wishbone, aluminum-alloy upper and lower links, high-performance dual-flow pass shock absorbers, stabilizer bar Rear: Independent multi-link design, aluminum-alloy upper and lower links and axle housing, high-performance dual-flow pass shock absorbers, stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 17-seven spoke aluminum-alloy with metallic finish, 225/60R/17, Optional 18" 8-spoke aluminum-alloy, 225/55R/18 Rear: 17-seven spoke aluminum-alloy with metallic finish, 225/60R/17, Optional 18" 8-spoke aluminum-alloy, 225/55R/18 Brakes: Front: Vented discs 12.6" x 1.1" Rear: Vented discs 12.1" x .6" Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), 4-channel, 4-sensor, 4-wheel ABS Overall length: 182.3" Overall width: 71" Overall height: 61.9" w/o racks Curb weight: 3,953 lbs

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