2011 Infiniti EX Journey AWD Review


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2011 Infiniti EX

SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2011 Infiniti EX Journey AWD Review

Americans love their wagons -- as long as they're not called wagons, and preferably with a touch or more of SUV styling. Case in point, the Infiniti EX35.

Like all Infinitis today, the EX35 is a front-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicle at heart. All-wheel drive is optional. Off-road prowess in not in the game plan, not with 6.5 inches in rear-drive form or 5.7 with AWD. It's a small and sporty machine that is far closer to the wagon end of the crossover spectrum than the SUV end.

Which is good, as a small wagon is one of the most versatile vehicle types around. Not to mention just about the most under-appreciated, at least on this side of the Atlantic. The lower height and ride height than an SUV or SUV-ish crossover translate to better handling and easy access. And what percentage of urban and suburban crossover buyers really need imposing ground clearance, or will load their vehicle completely to the higher ceiling?

The EX35 offers a surprising amount of versatile space with a small footprint, all the better for slipping into a tight spot at the mall parking lot. Or hauling things from the home-improvement store, or the large number of things that seem to be necessary with children today. All that inside is packaged in a handsome exterior that is definably Infiniti, and nearly every contemporary electronic safety and convenience system is standard or available.

And then some… as in the Around View™Monitor system that extends the common rear-view camera with additional video cameras in the grille and at the bottoms of the outside mirrors for a 360º view when backing or moving forward slowly while parking. Wondering where the curb or the car behind really are? Not a problem with this, even at night. Slick!

The EX is offered in base and Journey trim levels, each available with rear- or all-wheel drive. Based on Infiniti's G sedan, it's about five inches taller. Interestingly, the EX is two inches shorter in wheelbase than the G sedan and nearly five inches shorter. Power for all versions is from the 3.5-liter version of Nissan/Infiniti's VQ V6, with 297 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. New for 2011, the original five-speed automatic has been replaced with a seven-speed, bringing the EX up to spec with the rest of the Infiniti lineup.

Other changes for 2011 are larger wheels, up from 17" standard to 18, or 19 as an option, and option package realignments. Blind Spot Warning (BSW) is added to the Technology Package, supplementing the Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), full speed range Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist (DCA), and Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) systems. There are enough acronyms there to make an EX35 sound like some sort of high-tech Department of Defense weapons system worthy of WikiLeaks attention…

That was on the 2011 EX35 Journey AWD that was my test car for a recent damp week, along with the newly contented Premium Package and Deluxe Touring Package. That's quite a complement of options, but they don't outshine the basic package, nor are they absolutely necessary to enjoy all that the EX35 has to offer. With good power, a responsive transmission, and a sport-tuned chassis allied to a compact but spacious and versatile body style, Infiniti's EX35 is a "crossover" that's a cross between a sports-luxury sedan and a (shh!) wagon, with no truck anywhere.

APPEARANCE: Infiniti calls the EX's body shape "coupe-inspired". I beg to differ. Some of the more bizarre additions to the crossover genre recently have been crossover coupes, for lack of a better term, and they baffle me. Their fastback rooflines destroy luggage capacity and versatility, and they look like cartoon caricatures of rally-raid racers. Not so the EX35. While it has the classic long-hood, rearset cabin look of a coupe, its more small wagon/hatchback passenger cabin is not at all coupe-like unless you remember the equally unusual BMW Z3 and M Coupes. The EX's roofline is higher than the G37 sedan's, but lower than most of the other small sporty crossovers. Hey, it's distinctive, well-proportioned, and, with the signature Infiniti grille and L-shaped headlight clusters, instantly identifiable.

COMFORT: With first-class materials, a functional dark-over-light color motif, a pleasingly simple and functional instrument panel and control design, and all of the amenities expected of a mid-luxury car, the EX35's interior will not disappoint. Leather is standard, as is power operation of both front seats. Seat comfort is good, and the steering wheel is power-adjustable for both tilt and reach, with memory as an option. Easily-visible electroluminescent instruments aid the driver's tasks, and the interface to the navigation system is mostly self-explanatory and intuitive. Audio controls are separate from the screen, no delving into submenus necessary. Even with all of the digital high-tech systems, the signature Infiniti analog clock still gets the place of honor at the top of the stack, just below the information screen. Rear seat room is good for the EX's size, with knee room aided by front seatbacks that are scooped out a bit. A high center tunnel, necessary with rear- or all-wheel drive and a low chassis, does impinge on center position space and comfort, but that shouldn't be a surprise in a car this size, and outboard passenger should be happy. The rear seat folds 60/40, and the lightweight tailgate and low liftover make luggage or cargo loading painless.

SAFETY: Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones and a strong safety cage around the passenger compartment is supplemented by the Infiniti Advanced AirBag System, front-seat active head restraints, strong antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, Vehicle Dynamic Control, and traction control systems as standard equipment. The above-mentioned alphabet soup of electronic safety systems comprise the Technology Package that is optional in the Journey models.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The EX35 is built on the same "FM" architecture as the G sedan and coupe (and cousin Nissan Z), so sport is designed in. Sport is matched with utility. Its fully-independent double-wishbone front, multilink rear suspension uses aluminum control arms to reduce unsprung weight and improve response. High-performance shock dampers are matched correctly to the spring rates, and the suspension calibration is firmer than the crossover norm. But there is still plenty of comfort and ride compliance, and no harshness.

PERFORMANCE: The VQ35HR 3.5-liter V6 is a jewel. Of aluminum alloy construction with dual overhead cams, 24 valves, and attention to detail including Teflon®-coated pistons to reduce friction and continuously-variable cam phasing to improve power delivery and efficiency and reduce emissions, maximum horsepower is 297 at 6800 rpm, with maximum torque 253 lb-ft at 4800 rpm. That's higher that it usually spins in everyday driving, but there's plenty of low- and mid-range torque. The new seven-speed electronically-controlled automatic improves both acceleration and fuel economy a bit, but the AWD EX is still 400 pounds heavier than a G37 sedan it won't score as well in both parameters. Still, it's enjoyable and even entertaining to drive, something that can't be said of too many crossovers.

CONCLUSIONS: The Infiniti EX35 strikes an unusual balance between sport, style, utility, and luxury.

SPECIFICATIONS
2011 Infiniti EX Journey AWD


Base Price			$ 37,750
Price As Tested			$ 46,605
Engine Type			aluminum alloy DOHC 24-valve V6
				 with variable cam phasing
Engine Size			3.5 liters / x cu. in.
Horsepower			297 @ 6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			253 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission			7-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		110.2 in. / 182.3 in.
Curb Weight			3991 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.4
Fuel Capacity			20.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P245/45R19
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, VDC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		5.7 inches
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine,
				 all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 24 / 19
0-60 time				6.0 sec 

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Technology Package - includes:
  Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Land Departure Prevention
  (LDP), Intelligent Cruise Control (all speeds),
  Distance Control Assist (DCA), Intelligent
  Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision
  Warning (FCW), Blind Spot Warning (BSW)		$ 2,700
Illuminated kick plates					$   280
Aluminum roof rails					$   250
Premium Package - includes:
  Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System,
  XM NavTraffic® and XM NavWeather™,
  Zagat® restaurant guide, Bluetooth® streaming
  audio,  Infiniti Voice Recognition,
  9.3GB MusicBox hard drive, 11 speaker,
  2 subwoofer Bose audio system,
  2.0GB MusicBox® hard drive, Around View™
  Monitor with front and rear sonar, Advanced
  Climate Control System (ACCS) with Plasmacluster™
  air purifier						$ 2,450
Deluxe Touring Package - includes:
  19" alloy wheels with all-season performance tires,
  dual occupant memory system and entry/exit assist
  for driver's seat, steering wheel, outside mirrors,
  outside mirror with reverse tilt-down, 8-way power
  front passenger seat, driver's seat two-way power
  lumbar support, xenon auto-leveling headlamps
  with Adaptive Front Lighting System, Homelink®
  universal transceiver, premium stitching on meter
  hood, power remote up-folding rear seat, coat
  hanger on driver's headrest				$ 2,300

Destination Charge					$   875

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