2010 Infiniti EX35 Journey AWD Review

Infiniti’s EX35 delivers plenty of sport, but not much utility

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2010 Infiniti EX35 Journey AWD Review
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Strap yourself into the luxurious wrap-around interior of the 2010 Infiniti EX35, stomp on the gas peddle to feel its sportscar performance, and chances are you’ll forget all about its tight rear seats and modest trunk dimensions. The truth is, Infiniti’s 2010 EX35 is a luxury sports coupe in a small SUV body, and a very stylish body at that. The fact that it’s got four doors, fold-down rear seats and a hatch at the back for added utility is just a bonus, because the true magic of the EX35 happens when you slide behind the steering wheel.

FAST FACTS

1. The EX35 is powered by a 3.5L V6 with 297-hp and 253 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Pricing starts at $33,800 and climbs to $37,400 like on our AWD Journey test vehicle.

3. AWD versions feature Infiniti’s advanced ATTESA E-TS system, also available on the M, FX and G sedan.

4. Fuel economy is rated at 17/24-mpg (city/hwy) for FWD models and 16/23-mpg for AWD.

5. The optional Around View Monitor (AVM) includes front and rear sonar systems that utilize four small cameras to give the driver a “top-down view” of the outside of the vehicle while parking.

GORGEOUS INTERIOR, BUT TIGHT ON SPACE

Excuse me while I gush like a schoolgirl who’s just come home from a Jonas Brothers concert, but the EX35’s interior quality and design is very impressive for a sub-$40,000 vehicle. Not too many years ago you would’ve paid cubic dollars for the pleasure of sitting in an interior this pleasing to the senses. Soft touch materials abound, and thanks to the wave-inspired wrap-around front cabin, where the dash and front doors come together in an encompassing embrace of soft leather and rich textures, the EX35 feels a bit like a spa on four wheels.

The heated 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with two-way manual lumber support allow for the perfect seating position, enhanced by the telescoping power adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel. Add to that the extensive onboard technology included on this Journey AWD version like the 7-inch color display, Nav system with 9.3GB Music Box harddrive, iPod port, USB port, XM Satellite Radio, and an 11-speaker Bose audio system and there’s really no reason to ever get out.

Unless you’re sitting in the back seat, that is. Children, Gary Coleman, and perhaps a Geisha with tightly-bound feet will find getting in and out of the rear seats doable, if a little cramped, but for full-sized adults rear legroom and footroom is extremely tight. Despite the comfortable and supportive rear bench, most adults will find it rather uncomfortable jamming their feet under the front seats and their knees into the front seatbacks. So although the EX35 does have 4 doors and a rear hatch, the rear seats are really more reminiscent of a G Coupe than a typical SUV.

The trunk is also quite small and with just 18.6 cubic feet of room it’s better suited to mom and dad’s golf bags than a weekend’s worth of camping gear for the whole family. However, fold down the 60/40 split rear seats and you do create a large flat surface area capable of carrying some significant cargo, certainly far more so than any coupe or sedan. But with a total of 47.4 cubic feet, it’s still well short of competitors like the Acura RDX.

BABY FX STYLE, SPORTSCAR GRIP

On the outside, the EX35 is very much a baby FX in appearance. Not that that’s a bad thing. The FX and EX both have visually dynamic shapes, looking more like a hatchback sportscar than a boxy Sport Ute. Ride height and ground clearance are also more sports sedan than SUV or even crossover, and thanks to the EX’s compact dimensions, it feels agile and easy to manage both on the road and while parking.

The Journey AWD version used for this test also felt totally composed on snow-covered roads during a test this past winter, its highly advanced ATTESA E-TS (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split) all-wheel drive system doing an outstanding job of distributing power to all four wheels.

Utilizing its active torque distribution management system that includes an active center clutch designed for smooth starts and better traction and maneuverability on snowy roads than conventional all-wheel drive systems, the EX35 delivers confidence-inspiring grip levels even on some very slippery surfaces. There is a distinct sensation of computer intervention if you stomp on the gas or try to corner too quickly or brake too aggressively on slick or snow-covered roads, the most noticeable affect being the engine’s power being cut to a bare minimum to avoid wheel spin.

If you’re looking to do some donuts in a snow-filled parking lot, there is a button located low on the dash to the left of the steering wheel that allows you to turn off the VDC (traction and stability control systems). On dry roads the EX35 enjoys a spirited change in direction, carving up on-ramps and blasting down twisty country roads with the balance you’d expect from a RWD sports sedan rather than an AWD crossover.

SEXY ENGINE, SEXY SOUNDS

Adding to the sportscar-like feel of the EX35 is its VQ35HR 3.5-liter V6 engine carried over from the 350Z. Rated at 297-horsepower and mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission, sprints from 0 to 60 mph are achieved in under 7-seconds. Better still, when you put the transmission in DS Sport Mode there’s automatic downshift rev matching, where the computer blips the throttle to match engine speed to the lower transmission gear. This not only allows for smoother downshifts but also provides an added sense of sportscar performance. I found myself charging into corners and downshifting aggressively in DS Sport Mode just so I could hear those sexy sounding rev-matched downshifts.

Like all of Infiniti’s products, there’s plenty of cabin sound deadening so there’s less engine and exhaust noise available for the driver’s eardrums to enjoy. This reduces the sense of drama in comparison to say a Nissan 370Z, and it also subconsciously motivates you to press harder on the gas pedal if you’re the kind of driver who enjoys the sound of a sport-tuned V6 at full boil. When you do stomp on the go-pedal, that unmistakable VQ engine note is still present, just in a more subdued form.

The down-side of all this fun is in the fuel-economy department where the EX and it’s combo of a potent engine and 5-speed automatic transmission deliver just 17/24-mpg (city/highway) in front drive form and 16/23-mpg when equipped with an AWD setup. This isn’t the worst in class, but it could be better – something the addition of Infiniti’s 7-speed auto-box could most certainly deliver.

THE VERDICT: HEAVY ON THE SPORT, LIGHT ON THE UTILITY

The 2010 Infiniti EX35 is very much a driver’s car. From behind the steering wheel the EX provides everything you’d expect from a luxury sports sedan – high quality materials, a dizzying array of onboard technology, a powerful engine and a refined ride quality that is both firm yet surprisingly supple over bumps. Where the EX35 falls short is in the utility department, where the cramped rear seats and small trunk make it less viable as a family hauler and weekend workhorse than some SUV or crossover shoppers are likely to be looking for.

The EX35 should be categorized as a Luxury Sport Crossover. A description of this sort offers a far more accurate characterization of its capabilities and should help genuine SUV shoppers avoid disappointment. But if you’re a driving enthusiast who’s looking for a vehicle that can deliver the luxury and performance of a sports sedan without giving up anything in the style department while gaining the utility imparted by a hatchback and folding rear seats, then the EX35 is made for you. The question is, do you really need a hatchback, because for similar money you can get into Infiniti’s G Sedan, which has six inches more rear legroom, a more powerful 3.7-liter engine, a 7-speed automatic transmission, the same excellent chassis and available AWD system as the EX35.

LOVE IT
  • Wonderfully designed and luxurious interior
  • Sporty and engaging driving experience
  • AWD system provides outstanding performance in all weather conditions
  • Oodles of onboard technology
LEAVE IT
  • Very tight rear legroom and footroom
  • Small trunk means limited carry capacity with four passengers onboard
  • Passable fuel economy

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