Early in his career, good old Abe created a psychological theory known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Laid out in the shape of a pyramid, Maslow’s theory states that our physiological needs form the foundation of our life and the capstone is formed by a level of self-actualization.
Maslow laid out the basis of human needs in a way that most people could understand, and even visualize.
We understand how needs work, but quite often we confuse them with wants. For example, we want more wagons in this country, but automakers need to build crossovers because that’s what America is buying. This is part of the reason why we’ll never see an Infiniti G37 wagon, as awesome a vehicle as that might be. Still, Infiniti hasn’t left us completely high and dry on the longroof front. The 2011 Infiniti EX35 certainly plays the crossover part from a looks standpoint, but it just might have a bit more going on underneath.
Is there enough of an enjoyable driving experience found under the skin of this soft-roading CUV to satisfy our wants? Does the 2011 EX35 offer enough interior space to satiate our needs? Keep reading to find out…
On the outside, most crossovers look like they’re the resulting accident of an unholy union between a car and a sport utility vehicle. Underneath their outfits, that’s typically what they are. Thankfully, we don’t have to stare at them with their clothes off. There are a few exceptions, however, which manage to actually look good while still wearing the crossover label. The 2011 EX35 is just such an automobile, which bears Infiniti family lines while carving out a space of its own.
If the roofline and beltine were dropped a few inches, you would be staring at a G35 wagon. That’s not the case, so you get the EX35 instead. Still, we’d be more inclined to call this a stylishly fat wagon ratther than a full-blown crossover. The arch across the roof connects the G-like nose with the FX-esque rear hatch, and it manages to squeeze in a subtly aggressive kink where the glass meets the D pillar. Opposite the roof sits the quartet of 19-inch split-spoke aluminum alloy wheels shod in 245/45R19 rubber that helps lend an air of sportiness to the exterior visual package.
The outside of the EX35 manages to come across as downright athletic despite the best efforts of my tester’s Arctic Blue paintwork.
The Papa Smurf-approved skin actually blends rather nicely with the Wheat interior. It’s a cabin space familiar to fans of the Infiniti brand. The center stack, accented with Maple wood, asserts its dominant position in the interior space thanks to the always-present analog clock and the seven-inch touch screen display. That VGA unit comes standard, but thanks to the $2,450 Premium Package, it also gets to work a bit harder. Through it, the 11-speaker Bose audio system is given direction while I’m given direction to nearby restaurants by way of the hard-drive-based navigation system. I can weed out the eatery choices thanks to the Zagat Survey guide, which is easily called up on to the screen.
My now heftier girth is comfortably supported by the eight-way power adjustable leather driver’s seat. The front thrones are heated, not by the noisy remains of my dinner, but by a switch near the gear lever. That dinner may invoke a bit of drowsiness, but my EX35 is equipped with the $2,700 Technology Package that includes blind spot and lane departure warning as well as lane departure prevention. Add in the forward collision warning, and the EX35 provides an alert environment even if your dinner is working against your brain.
This machine makes it easy to shake off the cobwebs of a good meal though.
Like the rest of the Infiniti family, the EX35 has plenty of shove under the hood. The last vestiges of the 3.5-liter V6 lie with the EX35, and the engine is good for 297 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 253 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. As with all sporty products from Nissan and Infiniti, the EX35 has a metallic howl, which is a love-it-or-hate-it exhaust note that leaves most enthusiasts split. Still, it’s not boring, and the exhaust note is preferred over the engine noise at higher rpms.
Per the automaker, that buzzy energy will push the crossover from 0-60 miles per hour in six seconds. My finely tuned butt-o-meter doesn’t sense any factory fibbing, and I’d expect to leave the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLK in the dust. Near class-leading horsepower and a 3,795 pound curb weight will tend to do that.
Of course, this segment and its aforementioned players don’t come cheap. The 2011 EX35 price saga begins at $35,600, with our tester running up the options list to ring in at $45,205. The Acura RDX starts at $34,895, while the Q5 will stretch your wallet with its standard quattro all-wheel-drive and $42,500 starting price. Mercedes-Benz lures you in with a $35,500 MSRP on the GLK, and the all-wheel-drive 300-horsepower BMW punches in at $41,050. Infiniti has priced the EX35 comfortably towards the middle of the pack, and the options are packaged to keep your final tally in check. The other Asian crossover does this as well, but the German options are full of… options. Expensive ones at that.
Despite the middle of the pack cost and near class-leading power output, the Infiniti EX35 manages to eek out an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon on the highway, and 17 miles per gallon around town. By comparison, the GLK is rated 16/23, the Q5 returns 18/23, the RDX is good for 17/22 and the X3 nets 19/26 thanks to its eight-speed gearbox. The EPA testers must have feet made of feathers, however, because my lead-footed escapades netted 15 miles per gallon in mixed driving.
The VQ35HR mill is paired with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which brings the EX up to par with the rest of the family. The unit has been honed in the G coupe and sedan, which means it has to toe the line between sporty and smooth. Time spent with the G duo has paid off because shifts are smooth, but the manual shift control means they can also happen quickly. Falling in line with the rest of the family means the seven-cog can send power to the rear wheels. All-wheel-drive is optional, but my fat wagon trends more towards a fun wagon with its right-wheel-drive setup.
My hands move to a comfortable spot on the wheel, which is easy to find because of the three-spoke layout. Once locked in, the EX35 responds rather amusingly to point-and-shoot driving. I expected a slight lull in the steering response and a healthy dose of body roll, but what I was given is direct and flat. I look, I turn and this Infiniti responds in kind. This is still a luxury machine, which means bumps are comfortably soaked up. Still, the suspension and steering are tuned to err on the side of sporty, and that’s just what I’m looking for in a segment often filled with machines that can’t make up their minds as to what side of the luxury-sport fence they fall.
Some in this segment muddy the water too much to get me excited to jump in the control seat. The GLK isn’t sporty enough while the RDX could stand to up the lux level a tad. That’s not the case with the 2011 Infiniti EX35. The automaker likes to give out the sporty driving experience we want, while also retaining a level of luxury we <strike>need</strike>… also want. It’s not all twisty roads turning miles of smiles, however. Sure, life is wonderful in the front two seats but the rear three slots should only play host to large children you dislike or adults you believe need some discomfort in their life. Back seat legroom is laughably short, with clearance of just 28.5 inches. The next shortest rear seating area is found in the GLK, which clocks in at a much more comfortable 35.1 inches.
Do we need our rear seat passengers to be comfortable, or do we want to sacrifice their happiness for a bit more of our own? Infiniti has built a car that has us examining our own wants and needs. We may want Infiniti to give us the G37 wagon of our dreams, but that isn’t going to happen. Instead, the automaker has supplied a vehicle that is needed in the luxury crossover segment. It’s sporty, fun to drive, loaded with features and manages to look good… even in baby blue.