What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Infiniti EX receives a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control; it replaces last year's five-speed. Dual-zone climate control and 18-inch wheels are now standard on both trim levels. Option packages have been modified and combined, including the Technology package which now adds a blind-spot warning system. Also, Infiniti has dropped the "35" from the car's name; it's now simply the "EX."
It sometimes seems like ancient history, but there was a day when long, portly station wagons ruled the dominion of family hauling in America. Then the SUV came along, ending one era and birthing another as American families turned to taller, fatter vehicles for almost three decades. But $4-a-gallon gas broke up that party faster than the cops, and soon Americans turned to compacts, hybrids and car-based crossovers.
As luxury crossovers go, the 2011 Infiniti EX (formerly the EX35) inhabits a small niche. It wants to prove that it's really a sport sedan underneath its elevated perch and rear cargo hold. And it makes a good case. The EX's wheelbase is just 2 inches longer and its ride height 1 inch taller than the Infiniti G37 sedan that underpins it. The EX still carries the 3.5-liter V6 left over from the previous G35, but it finally gets the seven-speed automatic transmission offered across the rest of the Infiniti line.
For 2011 the EX also gets a new exterior look, with 18-inch wheels standard on both trim levels. All models also get dual-zone climate control, previously only available on the higher trim level. Inside its cabin, the EX offers a fine sport-luxury environment with leather upholstery and high-quality touch points, as well as numerous standard and optional high-tech features, including Infiniti's innovative Around-View Monitor camera system, which uses four cameras to present a 360-degree composite view of the car while parking. For 2011, the EX also features a blind-spot warning system.
While the 2011 Infiniti EX might be one of the more nimble crossovers in the segment, it's not the most versatile. Its backseat isn't suited to long hauls and its cargo area doesn't offer much more space than a large trunk. If it's room you need for passengers and cargo, the Audi Q5, the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and the Volvo XC60 are worthy alternatives. The BMW X3 is also worth a look, as it is similarly sporty as well as being roomier inside. But if you like sport-sedan dynamics, small wagon utility and driving slightly above the fray, the EX is an endearing oddity in this evolving segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Infiniti EX is a five-passenger crossover luxury wagon available in base and Journey trim levels. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, automatic headlamps, foglights, cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, heated outside mirrors, automatic dual-zone climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column with leather-wrapped wheel, eight-way driver and four-way passenger power seats (heated on AWD models), leather upholstery, two-tone cabin treatments, a rearview camera and a six-speaker stereo with a single-CD player, satellite radio and a USB jack.
The EX Journey adds a sunroof, power-adjustable steering column, heated front seats, wood interior trim, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an in-dash six-CD changer.
Notable options are limited to the Journey. The Premium package includes an 11-speaker Bose audio system with single-CD player and 9GB of digital music storage, a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, Bluetooth streaming audio, a multi-camera parking system, front and rear parking sensors and an air purifier.
The Deluxe Touring package includes 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlamps, driver memory functions, an eight-way power passenger seat, a power-folding backseat and upgraded interior trim. The Technology package offers lane-departure warning and prevention systems, adaptive cruise control, intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning and a blind-spot warning system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Infiniti EX is available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The sole engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 297 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a new seven-speed automatic with manual shift control.
In performance testing, a rear-drive EX with the previous five-speed automatic hustled from zero to 60 mph in a quick 6.3 seconds; this year's EX will likely be a tenth or two quicker still. Fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined for both rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive models.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. The optional Technology package adds Forward Collision Warning (which uses the adaptive cruise control radar system to alert the driver of an impending collision), Intelligent Brake Assist (which automatically engages the brakes when the driver ignores FCW) and the lane-departure warning system (which alerts the driver when the car starts to veer into another lane). In performance brake testing, the EX stopped from 60 mph in 118 feet, a very good result for this class.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the EX earned a top score of "Good" in frontal-offset and side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The EX has one of the most inviting interiors in its class. Both trim levels offer high-quality leather, with aluminum (base) or maple (Journey) interior trim complementing the soft lines and pleasing contours. The front seats are supportive and the driving position is excellent, more so with the Journey's power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The controls for the climate, stereo and optional navigation systems are some of the most intuitive to use, as is the standard iPod interface.
The backseat is less impressive, as its limited legroom becomes confining on long trips. The cargo area is also somewhat shallow; at 18.6 cubic feet, the space behind the rear seatbacks is only marginally greater than the trunk space in many sedans. Even with those seatbacks folded down, there is less capacity than in competing crossovers.
The 2011 Infiniti EX is a treat to drive, even if you don't like sport-utility vehicles. That's because the EX is really more of a sport sedan with a tall ride height. Based on the Infiniti G35 platform, the EX strikes a near-ideal balance between ride quality and handling. Even with 18-inch wheels it feels comfortable over broken pavement, yet sharp and responsive in tight corners. The V6 pulls hard from almost any speed, and the brakes are strong and easy to modulate. Those who opt for the EX instead of the G series sedan will not likely miss the G's slightly better overall dynamics.