Lumping the EX35 in with other “small cars” is a bit of a stretch. We know the Mini Cooper is small because you have to fold yourself into a ball to get inside. And the Smart Fortwo is so small you can use it as a doorstop. The Infiniti EX35 is not exactly small, since it measures about 15 feet long and weighs 3,764 pounds. Yet, the vehicle has a few important upgrades for the 2011 model year and a couple of new colors. It is also just a blast to drive, especially if you use the manual shift. The fact that Infiniti offers several tech features as standard offerings makes the deal even sweeter, even if we ended up liking the sportier Volvo C30 a bit more.
Actually, the EX35 is not really in the same small category as the C30 either. It’s more of a crossover-hatchback hybrid that maybe falls in line better with something like the BMW X3 – and frankly looks very similar. Yet, inside, the EX35 drives like it is meant for careening down some lonely country lane and taking corners at fairly ludicrous speeds. (Ahem, not that we would know anything about that.)
Refined inside and out
It all starts with the interior. Like the Infiniti M37x, the EX35 has that cocooning cockpit feel. You slip in and the car just feels right. There are faux maple wood accents and a leather steering wheel and shift knob, something that you may not notice right away but might appreciate compared to the hard plastic used on so many other cars. The lighting inside, especially the “electroluminescent” gauges, have that extra luxury look that makes the car worth the higher price tag (our test car is priced at $46,605 but the base price is $35,150 – or much closer to the X3.)
The instrument panel also features a seven-inch color display with Infiniti controller for the trip computer and additional vehicle information, including the available Infiniti Hard Disk based Navigation System with 9.3GB Music Box hard drive. A Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Control system is standard.
Other technology systems include available Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System and standard Infiniti Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition. Available technology features include Rearview Camera (available separately, or as part of the Around View Monitor system), front and rear parking sensors, Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) and Bose Premium Audio System with 11 speakers including two subwoofers, six CD in-dash changer and iPod connectivity.
An 8-way power driver's seat with two-way manual lumbar support is standard, along with a 4-way power passenger's seat. A driver's seat memory system is also offered, along with available heated front seats and 8-way power front passenger's seat. Also available is an unusual 60/40 split power-folding 2nd row seat, operated from the front or hatch area.
Steering is provided by a speed-sensitive power-assisted steering system with power-assisted front and rear discs (vented front) and standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA).
Also standard is Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS), while an advanced Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) with Preview Braking is optional. The EX35 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, with 19-inch wheels on offer.
EXTERIOROther exterior features include a high-mounted rear hatchback spoiler, chrome-finished dual exhaust pipes, an available power tilt/sliding sunroof with one-touch activation and optional roof rails and crossbars. The EX35 also features a standard puddle lamp integrated in the driver's side door mirror as part of the Hospitality Lighting Concept.
The EX35 comes standard with Nissan's fluid finish paint technology. The technology allows for minor scratches in the EX's clearcoat to disappear in hours or days thanks to an elastic resin that flows back into shape after being damaged.
The EX35 is available with Infiniti's "Around View Monitor." The system utilizes small front, side and rear-mounted cameras to project an all-around view of potential objects on every side of the vehicle, helping reduce blind spots when parking.
The driver-focused cabin layout features an Infiniti double-wave instrument panel, high-contrast gauges with white-and-violet illumination and hospitality lighting with a pin LED light mounted over the center console.
Rear-wheel drive comes standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. The EX35's car-based chassis has a four-wheel independent suspension with extensive aluminum components. Mechanical features include:
*297-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with 253 pounds-feet of torque
*New seven-speed automatic transmission
*Rear- or all-wheel drive
We’re jumping right to the driving experience here, because that is the real draw with this sporty hatchback. Interestingly, even though we drove the 2010 EX35 around this time last year, we had more fun in the 2011 model. Maybe it is because Infiniti fine-tuned the engine. It now has a 7-speed transmission. From a standing position, the EX35 doesn’t exactly lurch forward, and we’re not going to say the upper gears pack as much power as, say, the BMW 5-Series. Truth be told, switching from a 5-speed to a 7-speed might be a technical improvement. The real reason the EX35 begs you to drive fast is due to the cockpit feel. Like the C30, you feel one with the car as you twist around a corner or beat the next soccer mom to a parking spot.
The available Around View Monitor uses four cameras to give the driver a top-down view of the EX35 to reduce blind spots when parking. The newly available blind spot warning system signals when other vehicles are close by. Safety features include:
*Side-impact and side curtain airbags
*Active head restraints
*Electronic stability system
*Optional lane departure warning system
*Optional adaptive cruise control
*Optional forward collision mitigation and intelligent brake assist