Full 2008 Infiniti EX35 Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Infiniti EX35 is an all-new five-passenger, compact crossover SUV.
Compact SUVs represent one of the final frontiers in the world of luxury utility vehicles. Only a handful of small luxury SUVs are on sale right now, but their population is on pace to double in the next two years. At first glance, this phenomenon might be hard to understand: These upmarket crossovers are small, expensive and, in most cases, light on utility. Yet for consumers who drive and park in traffic-clogged cities, tidy dimensions, a tall seating position, an upscale interior and adroit driving dynamics have considerable appeal. It's exactly this sort of buyer Infiniti is hoping to attract to its new-for-2008 EX35 sport-utility. And based on our testing, the EX will satisfy on nearly all fronts.
Like all SUVs in this class, the 2008 Infiniti EX35 is based on a car platform, and in this case, that car is the G35 sedan. With scarcely a 2-inch stretch to the wheelbase, the EX maintains its sedan sibling's overall proportions and indeed looks much like a G35 wagon, albeit with an extra inch of ground clearance. Compared to Infiniti's pre-existing midsize FX series SUV (which is modeled after the previous-generation G35), the EX is 7 inches shorter and almost 6 inches narrower.
The EX35 has the same power source as the current G35, a 3.5-liter V6 that in this application is rated at 297 horsepower. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and it drives either the rear wheels or all four if you opt for all-wheel drive. Whatever drivetrain you choose, the EX feels downright quick -- not surprising since it weighs only 200 pounds more than the G.
In terms of suspension components, the Infiniti EX35 borrows its front double-wishbone setup from the G35, while its rear multilink design is derived from the larger FX. This may sound a bit piecemeal, but the reality is that the EX's suspension offers perhaps the best compromise between ride comfort and handling capability of any vehicle in the Infiniti lineup. It's noticeably more compliant than the G, yet it will keep up with most sport sedans on a back road.
The good feelings continue into the cabin, where the EX35 has a distinctive dash design that flows around the driver in soft waves, along with nicely shaped front seats. In basic spec, the cockpit has all the pluses of the G35's interior, including solid ergonomics and impressive technology. The interior materials aren't going to win any awards for quality, but if you check off the Luxe Elite Package, Infiniti will upholster the cabin in higher-quality leather that truly delivers on the promise of this SUV's premium branding -- if we had it our way, this stuff would be standard. The other option that will draw your attention is the Around View Monitor. An enhancement on traditional back-up cameras, the AVM pieces together images from four cameras mounted around the perimeter of the EX to provide an overhead, 360-degree view.
If there's anything not to like about the 2008 Infiniti EX35, it's the small rear seat and cargo areas. Compared to rivals like the Acura RDX, BMW X3 and Land Rover LR2, it has anywhere from 7 to 9 fewer inches of rear legroom. It's a similar story in regards to luggage capacity, as the Infiniti's hold is little more than half the size of the X3's. For shoppers who require genuine utility in a small luxury SUV, the EX is unlikely to fit the bill. The EX is also a questionable value proposition for anyone focused on practicality, given that its price tag extends well into the $40Ks when fully optioned.
However, for singles and couples drawn to the comforts and image of SUV ownership, the elegant Infiniti EX35 is an appealing option. It's quicker than any of its peers and arguably has the best ride/handling balance of any premium compact crossover as well. If you don't need space for kids or dogs, the EX belongs on your short list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Infiniti EX35 is a compact, five-passenger luxury SUV available in base and Journey trim levels. The base EX comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a power driver seat, single-zone automatic climate control, a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio, a keyless ignition system, and a sunroof. The Journey gains a sunroof, leather upholstery and power-folding second-row seats, and is eligible for many more options.
Big-ticket items include the Premium Package, which provides an upgraded Bose sound system with a CD changer and iPod integration, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control and a power front passenger seat. The Luxe Elite Package is a worthwhile addition that provides higher-quality leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels and adaptive bi-xenon headlights. (If, for some reason, you didn't want the upgraded leather, the Luxe Style Package gives you just the 18s and adaptive lighting.) A hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage capability and a rearview monitor are available, but you can take it even further with the Technology Package. This provides the 360-degree Around View Monitor, a lane departure warning and prevention system and adaptive cruise control. Black lacquer and aluminum trim pieces are standard in the EX35, but as you'd expect, the optional maple wood trim is much nicer.
Powertrains and Performance
Motivating every Infiniti EX35 is a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 297 hp and 253 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and buyers have the option of getting rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. With either drive configuration, the EX35 is quick. We timed a rear-drive test vehicle at just 6.3 seconds for the 0-60-mph run. The transmission's ability to match revs on downshifts heightens the impression of speed and makes the EX quite entertaining on back roads. The Infiniti's fuel economy numbers are on par with those of the X3 and LR2. The rear-drive EX has 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway estimates while the AWD EX35 comes in at 16/23.
It's not an exaggeration to say the 2008 Infiniti EX35 has more safety technology than any other compact SUV. In addition to expected items like stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, the EX can be equipped with either a conventional rearview monitor or an enhanced Around View Monitor, which uses four different cameras to provide an overhead image of the vehicle and its surroundings for additional peace of mind when parallel-parking. Another option is the Lane Departure Prevention system, which has the ability not only to audibly warn the driver if he veers out of his lane, but also to take corrective action via the stability control system.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Infiniti EX35's cabin is uncommonly warm and inviting for an Infiniti, although you really need to spring for the Luxe Elite option group to enjoy it to full effect. High points include the flowing yet tailored design of the dash and supportive front seats, and the available two-tone color scheme. The driving position is excellent, thanks to a tilt/telescoping wheel and good sight lines. The rear seat is less impressive and offers just 28.5 inches of legroom -- substantially less than most competitors. When tall adults are seated up front, it's basically kids-only back there. If the EX35's scrawny 16.8-cubic-foot luggage bay isn't enough for you, you can take advantage of the rear seats' 60/40 split. In Journey models, these seats have a power-fold feature actuated by buttons in the cargo bay and on the center console.
Driving the 2008 Infiniti EX35 is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, even if you don't normally like sport-utility vehicles. For starters, the EX is quicker than other compact SUVs, even those of the premium variety, and its V6 is smooth, potent and aurally pleasing even at high rpm. In addition, the balance between ride quality and handling is close to ideal. Even with the 18-inch wheels, the EX35 is perfectly comfortable over crumbling pavement, yet it feels sharp and responsive when hustled around turns. The brakes are strong and easy to modulate.