Warren Clarke , Automotive Content Editor
Crossovers come in more permutations than the coffee beverages at your neighborhood Starbucks. Contrary to popular perceptions, these haulers aren't geared exclusively toward parents who'd rather not drive wagons. Some are designed with singles and couples in mind -- shoppers who appreciate the versatility these vehicles offer, but who don't necessarily need as much cargo room as little Ava's mom and dad. The 2010 Infiniti EX35 is one of these crossovers, built to please drivers seeking a vehicle that offers hatchback utility in a relatively small -- and not especially capacious -- footprint.
With a cabin lined in wood and leather, the EX35 offers impressive luxury. It's also a technophile's playground, with neat gizmos like an Around View monitor that gives you an aerial view of the vehicle. In the grand Infiniti tradition, the EX35 is no slouch when it comes to performance. Its capabilities aren't immediately apparent in normal city and highway driving, but when pushed near its limits, its inner athlete is gloriously awakened.
This Infiniti isn't the only sporty choice to consider in the competitive premium compact crossover segment. The Audi Q5, BMW X3, Acura RDX and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class all offer similarly plush accommodations, similarly enjoyable handling and more cargo capacity.
Nevertheless, the EX35's outstanding materials quality, impressive performance and comfortable ride distinguish it as one to keep in mind. If your cargo typically consists of little more than a couple of grocery bags, and your idea of a dream crossover is a sport sedan with a hatchback, the 2010 Infiniti EX35 may very well be your cup of Joe.
A 3.5-liter V6 rated at 297 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque lends the EX35 its impressive get-up-and-go. This engine (the only one available in the EX) is a standout in its segment, offering more horsepower than you'll find in rivals like the Audi Q5 (270 hp), BMW X3 (260 hp) and Mercedes-Benz GLK (268 hp).
Acceleration around town and on highways is unfailingly peppy, and the 2010 Infiniti EX35 proved itself a star at the track. The crossover completed the zero-to-60-mph sprint in a mere 6.7 seconds, placing it ahead of choices like the GLK (7.2 seconds) and the Acura RDX (6.9 seconds). Power delivery from the mill is consistent throughout the torque band, even as redline approaches.
The engine is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control. Shifts in automatic mode were smooth, if a little slow. Manual mode delivered quicker shifts that were just as fluid and free of harshness. Paddle shifters aren't available, and that's a shame; these would be appropriate, given the EX35's sporting nature. Manual gear changes are executed via the gated shifter.
Braking was solid, with the Infiniti stopping from 60 mph in just 123 feet. This places it ahead of the RDX and X3 (both stop in 125 feet), but behind the GLK (119 feet). Each of the EX35's stops was arrow-straight, and there was virtually no brake fade in evidence. Its slalom speed of 64.2 mph makes the EX35 quicker 'round the cones than the GLK (61.3 mph) but slightly slower than the RDX (64.6 mph). Notably, this Infiniti earned a "Very Good" rating at the track in both handling and braking, marking it as a top performer in this segment.
The EPA rates the EX35 at 17 city/24 highway mpg and 19 mpg combined, making it less fuel-efficient than the RDX (19/24) but more so than the thirsty GLK (16/22). We logged 16 mpg, primarily in city driving.
Unlike similarly athletic rivals like the Q5, the 2010 Infiniti EX35's ride is never overly firm. Road feel is communicative -- in keeping with the crossover's sporting ambitions -- but the Infiniti's suspension cushions you from rough stretches of asphalt. The infinitely adjustable driver seat offered good back and thigh support; still, overall comfort was hindered by the seat's intrusive headrest. There was enough headroom and legroom to accommodate even taller drivers.
Backseat accommodations are tight; with 6-footers seated in both front and back, the rear passenger's knees made contact with the front seatback. However, it does help somewhat that the front seatbacks have scooped-out indentations designed to provide more room for gangly knees. The rear-door opening is also quite narrow, so getting into and out of the backseat can take some maneuvering.
There was more wind and road noise than we'd expect from a vehicle in this segment. Most notably, there was an annoying hum emanating from the vehicle's front end, which seemed to occur between speeds of 55 and 75 mph. We suspected tire noise to be the culprit, but our editors weren't able to arrive at a definitive conclusion before our test car's departure.
Those who need their MP3s will be impressed with the EX35's iPod interface. The graphics on the interface -- rich with warm colors and three-dimensional imagery -- make it one of the most attractive in the segment. There's enough screen real estate to make both the artist's name and song title fully legible, and because the menu layout mimics the iPod's, searching and scrolling is a breeze.
Along with the rearview camera you'd expect from a vehicle in this price range, the 2010 Infiniti EX35 offers an Around View monitor that gives you a view of the vehicle from an aerial perspective. Imagine being able to look down at the crossover from a perch that's a few feet directly above, and you'll get a sense of the image that's presented by this monitor. The picture is actually a composite of those generated by multiple cameras all around the vehicle.
The Around View monitor is more than just a cool toy with which to impress your neighbors. It's pretty useful when parking in tight spaces, as it allows you to get a clear picture of where the vehicle is in relation to external objects without your having to crane your neck. Overall, visibility is decent. Keep in mind, though, that prominent backseat headrests and a relatively small rear windshield result in some compromises to the rearward view.
Cargo capacity is unimpressive. With just 18.6 cubic feet available, the EX35 trails rivals like the RDX (27.8 cubic feet), the X3 (30) and the Q5 (29.1). Still, in our real-world usability tests, the cargo area was big enough to fit two sets of golf clubs and a suitcase. A rear-facing child safety seat was accommodated in the backseat, but it was a close fit.
Design/Fit and Finish
With smooth, flowing lines, the EX35's shape is pleasantly organic. This crossover manages to be distinctive-looking while at the same time less polarizing in its appearance than some of its Infiniti siblings.
Materials quality within the cabin is best-in-class, with supple leathers and yielding plastics; save for the glossy wood, there's nary a hard-touch surface in evidence. With flourishes like a redundant analog clock on the center stack, the design aesthetic is attractive in an old-school sort of way. Still, those who favor cabin décor that's bolder and more modern will want to check out the handsomely appointed Mercedes-Benz GLK.
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2010 Infiniti EX35 represents an appealing alternative to the typical family crossover. It's well suited for singles and couples who value luxury and performance -- provided they have no need for a roomy backseat and ample cargo capacity.
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