2009 Infiniti EX 35 AWD JourneyPosted on September 8th, 2009
Mid-sized crossover with race-inspired performance
By Nina Russin
The EX35 is similar to Infiniti’s FX crossover, but with more compact proportions. The EX exterior appears to combine elements from a station wagon and sport-utility vehicle. But looks can be deceiving. Ride and handling are akin to a sports coupe, thanks to Infiniti’s front midship platform and exceptional aerodynamics.
The EX is available in two grades, with rear or all-wheel drive. The test car is the upscale EX35 Journey with all-wheel drive. Base price is $37,400, not including the $865 destination charge. Three option packages, upgraded wheels, roof rails and illuminated kick plates bring the price as tested to $45,285.
Power comes from a 297-horsepower V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. Infiniti’s all-wheel drive system uses an active center clutch to distribute torque between the front and back, or side-to-side, depending on which wheels have the best traction.
Fuel economy is good compared to like-size vehicles. My gas mileage during the 300-mile test drive averaged 21.8 miles-per-gallon: better than the EPA estimate. The fact that the trip included a considerable elevation gain and some extremely bad weather makes the figure more impressive.
Eighteen-inch wheels dress up the car’s exterior, and give it a considerable footprint. A fully-independent suspension with standard front and rear stabilizer bars is compliant enough to smooth out bumps in the road while keeping the chassis flat in the corners.
Speed-sensitive power steering provides more assist at low speeds, while maintaining a positive on-center response on the highway. Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking help the driver to maintain directional control on wet roads.
Late summer monsoon
To appreciate how well Infiniti’s all-wheel drive system works, it helps to have as a frame of reference old car technology. Having spent seven Chicago winters behind the wheel of a 1966 Rambler Classic sedan, I have that experience in spades.
My Rambler had manual steering, four-wheel drum brakes, and hydraulic wipers. When it rained hard, my ability to see out the windshield depended on maintaining a certain speed, since the wipers operated off engine vacuum.
During a storm, it would take about two blocks for the brake drums to fill up with water. After that, where I landed during a stop was anyone’s guess. Radial tires, which I had swapped for the corded nylons that came on the car, provided on-again, off-again traction. The best thing I can say for the experience is that I developed an acute awareness for hydroplaning, and learned to drive accordingly.
By comparison, driving the EX35 on water-logged roads isn’t much different than dry pavement. A late-summer monsoon blanketed the route between Phoenix and Sedona throughout my drive up north. Compounding the challenge was road construction over a ten-mile patch of freeway north of town. Limited visibility didn’t stop drivers from jockeying for position when three lanes narrowed to two.
Operation of Infiniti’s active center clutch is invisible to the driver. Not once did I feel the tires lose contact with the pavement: something I found nothing short of amazing.
Xenon headlamps that come as part of a premium option package ($1750), throw a bright beam of light that is longer and closer to daylight than halogen. In addition, the lane departure warning system alerts the driver with an audible alarm when he crosses over a lane marker.
Not only did I feel well-protected in the car; the technology made it possible to maintain normal highway speeds for the entire drive up north. My driving time was about the same as it would have been in sunny weather.
Around-view monitoring enhances rear visibility
A proprietary around-view monitoring system works in tandem with the rear backup camera to make parking easy. The system uses four cameras at the car’s perimeter to provide a top-down view.
When the driver shifts into reverse, the rear-view image comes up on the left side of the navigation screen, with the top-down image on the right. Together, the systems eliminate blind spots around the vehicle, and alert the driver as to obstacles in the car’s path.
High tech interior
Inside, the EX is well-equipped with standard safety and convenience features. Leather trim is standard on all EX grades. The Journey model has dual-zone temperature control versus single zone on the base model, a six-disc compact disc changer, and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, vehicle dynamic and traction control and antilock brakes. A technology package on the test car adds lane departure and forward collision warning. Intelligent cruise control maintains a preset distance between the vehicle and the car in front.
A Bose navigation package ($2000) upgrades the standard audio system and adds hard-drive navigation with traffic alerts, XM radio and Bluetooth interface. I found the navigation screen hard to read in bright sunlight, with or without tinted lenses.
A premium package ($1750) adds two-position driver’s seat memory with an eight-way power passenger seat and power lumbar support. Adaptive xenon headlamps swivel according to steering inputs to light corners of the road: an important safety feature on dark rural or suburban streets.
Seating for four passengers
A large floor tunnel limits seating in the second row to two adults. Legroom is back is limited, even with the front seats moved forward. Vents behind the center console bin circulate air through the back of the cabin.
All passengers have access to cupholders: two in the center console, and two in a fold-down rear armrest. Front passengers can recharge portable electronic devices with two 12-volt power points, as well as a USB port in the center console bin.
A standard power moonroof brings extra ambient light into the cabin.
Power folding rear seats
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern using knobs on the outside edges of the seatbacks. Power switches in the cargo area fold the seats flat as well, make it easier to load up the back. A standard first aid kit in the cargo area comes in handy after an accident on the trails. The car’s spare tire and jack stow underneath the cargo floor.
The versatile EX35 is on display at Infiniti dealerships nationwide.
Likes: Exceptional wet weather handling, thanks to Infiniti’s all-wheel drive system with active torque distribution. The four-passenger crossover has the ride and handling characteristics of a sports coupe.
Dislike: Navigation screen is hard to read in bright sunlight.
Model: EX35 AWD Journey
Base price: $37,400
As tested: $45,285
Horsepower: 297 Hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 253 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/23 mpg city/highway
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