Infiniti wants its EX35 to "stand out in a crowd of common luxury crossover SUVs."
Common luxury? Have we, the car-driving public, become so spoiled that luxury has become commonplace to the point its purveyors now struggle to differentiate the nuance that separates their expensive wares from those produced by other manufacturers?
Seems to me that once upon a time, back in the age of rocks and trees advertising, Infiniti boldly separated itself from other luxury car makers by focusing on the driver's experience as well as the passengers'. Oh, sure, Infinitis had all the required luxury accoutrements, but they also were fun to drive.
If you were a driving enthusiast, you knew within the first few miles of a test drive that the Q45 was built for you while the LS400 was designed around those who were, well, occupants, not drivers, people who neither had nor wanted a steering wheel in their hands.
But things have changed in the past 20 years. Indeed, luxury has become as commonplace as the crossover vehicle, that new breed of personal and family transport: a car disguised to look like a sport utility vehicle because nobody wants to say "station wagon."
But, let's face it, the crossover is the modern station wagon, and after a week behind the wheel of a 2012 Infiniti EX35 we can report that Infiniti still makes vehicles enthusiast drivers can enjoy -- if they're willing to do some work.
Actually, I suppose, it's not that much work, but each time you start the car, you'll have to remember to reach down and deactivate the lane departure warning system -- unless you enjoy hearing a chime sound three times every time you approach the apex of a curve. The system is designed to help inattentive drivers stay between the lane markings painted on roadways, but it is nothing but frustration for those who enjoy the shortest distance between two points.
Oh, and one other thing, you'll have to deal with the nuances of Infiniti's seven-speed automatic transmission, which almost startles you with the way it leaps away from a stop but then bogs down should you decide warp speed is just a bit too much when puttering around the neighborhood. (We were similarly frustrated with Infiniti's seven-speed automatic a few weeks ago while driving the 2012 IPL G Coupe.)
One final frustration before we tell you why it's actually fun to drive the 2012 EX: The navigation system is perhaps the least intuitive we've experienced.
The 2012 Infiniti EX35 is available in four versions: EX35 RWD, EX35 AWD, EX35 Journey RWD and EX35 Journey AWD. We drove the Journey RWD from Phoenix to Las Vegas as part of our coverage of the NASCAR race weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Journey was a joy on the road trip. The 3.5-liter V6 provides 297 eager horsepower. Infiniti wraps that enthusiast-oriented, rear-driven powertrain within a handsomely attractive sleek (for a wagon) exterior, and packages it with an extremely comfortable interior, especially when finished, like our test vehicle, in chestnut-colored leather.
Standard equipment on the Journey RWD includes all the seemingly ordinary luxury features -- heated power seats with adjustable lumbar on the driver's side, power tilt and telescoping steering column, maple trim, dual-zone automatic climate controls, power moonroof, seven-inch display monitor, Bluetooth, satellite radio, iPod interface, etc.
Base price for the 2012 Infiniti EX35 Journey RWD is $37,900. Our test vehicle was equipped with a $2,700 technology package, $2,700 premium package, and $2,200 deluxe touring package, all of which brought the as-tested price to $48,395, but brought with it such features as intelligent cruise control, blind-spot warning rear mirrors, lane departure warning and prevention, 19-inch wheels, power folding second row seat backs, high-intensity discharge headlamps with adaptive lighting, front and rear sonar and "Around View" for parking, an 11-speaker Bose audio, navigation with XM traffic and Zagat restaurant guide, aluminum roof rails and much more.
The intelligent cruise warns you when traffic ahead suddenly slows, which happened a couple of times as we were leaving the Phoenix metro area. But once out on the open road, and with the lane departure warning system off, this crossover acted more like a sports car, hustling up hills, hugging curves, all while hugging us in that gorgeous brown leather and sounds from the satellite.
But then we reached Vegas, discovered that we couldn't figure out how to find our specific lodging within the navigation system listing for nearby hotels -- nor could we find a display scale that would allow us to identify cross streets as we sought the cross street on which our hotel was located. We finally had to stop in a restaurant parking lot, carefully punch in the hotel's specific address and let the system lead us there.
Things went much better the rest of the trip. We didn't need the nav system to reach the race track, nor to find our way back to Phoenix. And, once again, the Journey was a joy.
Countersteer, by Rick Kranz
Simply, the 2012 Infiniti EX35 Journey is comfortable, quiet, luxurious and powerful. It's a pleasure to drive, as I discovered on a holiday-weekend road trip from Detroit to Chicago.
But there was that one irritating issue. Would you believe the turn signal?
The EX35 Journey I drove was equipped slightly differently than the model Larry Edsall tested earlier this year. My model had all-wheel drive (base price, awd, $39,300 plus $895 transportation), the Deluxe Touring Package ($2,200) and the Premium Package ($2,700), bringing the total to $45,095.
While Larry had a problem with the navigation system, the system in my car worked flawlessly. I found the controls easy to use, and once the destination was selected, the system guided me to my destinations in Chicago and the suburbs without any detours.
I especially liked the weather map and forecast that appear on the seven-inch screen in the instrument panel. The weather info is incorporated into the XM radio package. The threatening clouds heading for Chicago weren't so threatening as I quickly learned from the NAV system's local forecast and radar weather map.
I'm a big fan of what Infiniti calls its Around View Monitor system. In addition to having a camera in the rear, cameras are located in the front and on the side mirrors, giving the driver a 360-degree view of the vehicle's surroundings. This is a must have feature for neighborhoods filled with dogs, cats and small children.
The Around View Monitor is part of the Premium Package. A rear camera is standard on the base model.
Getting up to speed entering the Windy City's expressways was never a problem. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine produces 297 horsepower and 253-pounds feet of torque. I averaged 22.4 miles per gallon on the trip, which included exploring Chicago's North and Southwest side neighborhoods, and trips to Evanston and the northwest suburbs.
A few nitpicks: I agree with Larry about the seven-speed automatic transmission. Sometimes, say accelerating to about 35 miles per hour, the transmission would get confused once the speed I wanted was reached. It seemed to be guessing my next move -- it down shifted, then upshifted for no apparent reason.
Blame the design of the instrument panel for my biggest complaint. I was unable to see the activated turn signal indicators while driving -- they were blocked by the steering wheel. Also, I wish there was a way to adjust the sound of an activated turn indicator. It is difficult to hear, at least for this guy. Both were really irritating.
All in all, the pluses greatly outweigh a handful of minuses. I would easily select the EX35 Journey for another road trip.