Infiniti EX35

Ask Nissan, the parent company for Infiniti, to define the EX35 and you’ll hear many of the current buzzwords that are ricocheting around the auto industry: stylish; sport coupe-inspired; crossover flexibility, and user-friendly functional utility.

Onlookers were somewhat less creative. Upon learning that our review Infiniti EX35 Journey featured all-wheel drive -– rear-wheel drive is standard -– most labeled it either a sport- or crossover-utility vehicle.

No one called it a wagon, though in many ways, the EX35 could be thought of as a wagon version of the Infiniti G sedans.

Make that a small wagon.

While the crossover utility vehicle body gives the car undeniable flexibility, the back seat and cargo areas are snug.

Cargo room with the second row seat raised is just over 18 cubic feet, while rear seat leg room is a scant 28.5 inches. Front seat passengers have over 44 inches of leg room at their disposal.

Still, the EX35 is undeniably attractive and easy to recommend, thanks to its excellent driving dynamics. The engine remains a 3.5-liter V-6, rated at 297 horsepower.

The only transmission, an automatic, is new this year and boasts seven speeds as opposed to six.

Acceleration is strong when first starting out and continues to be impressive as speeds climb. We reached 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds.

Two trim levels are offered. The base model features a generous level of equipment, including all the expected power assists, leather upholstery and air conditioning. The Journey trim level adds a power sunroof, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats and hard drive music storage.  All-wheel drive is optional in either trim line.

Our review car had the following extras, allowing it to serve as a poster vehicle for all the latest safety and advanced technology features that Infiniti offers: front and rear obstacle detection, navigation with around-view cameras, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind-spot alert and lane departure prevention.

These options can prompt a driver to do a better job, or to turn off the systems in frustration. Here is a car that beeps when you drift out of your lane without signaling first.  It then gives a mild tug on the steering by applying the brake to one wheel in an effort to get back in the lane. This is easily overcome in an emergency.

The active cruise control maintains a set distance to the car ahead while the blind spot alert warns you whenever another vehicle is lurking out of sight in the adjacent lane.

The interior is very well done. The design, materials and assembly are all up to luxury car standards.

 The ride is decidedly firm with the optional 19-inch wheels, another upgrade for 2011. Handling is crisp, rewarding and predictable. The EX35 earns a high spot on the fun-to-drive scale.

Indeed, that is probably the car’s most endearing virtue. Regardless of the destination, driving there in this Infiniti should be a highly enjoyable experience.

Infiniti EX35 $35,200 plus $875 for destination charges. Our AWD Journey started at $38,800.

 Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 297 hp

253 lb-ft of torque

EPA 17/24 RWD or AWD

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