Thursday, April 21, 2011

Infiniti EX35's 2011 updates are substantial

Sacramento, California – I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like Infiniti’s lineup of vehicles … nicely styled, fun to drive, comfortable, cool features and arguably the best navigation system in the biz.

The recently tested 2011 Infiniti EX35 Journey crossover sport-utility vehicle with rear-wheel drive did nothing to change my mind. And for a vehicle that was supposedly only getting a “revision” or a “carryover” from 2010, a lot has been done.

The EX now has a seven-speed automatic transmission, giving you two more gears to play with. Eighteen-inch wheels have replaced the once-standard 17-inchers. Dual-zone, automatic climate control is now standard across the four trim levels.

New colors and fancy option packages have been introduced for 2011. And an enhanced blind spot warning system has been added to the likable Technology Package.

Wow, might as well have billed it as an all-new car!

The EX still flexes admirable muscle with its 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 churning out nearly 300 horsepower. That will get you and your cargo around, and the tester was outfitted with a “snow mode” feature to help one negotiate winter conditions. Brakes were grippy to the point where I had to concentrate on a light-footed application to keep my passengers comfortably seated.

Fuel mileage is, uh, a tepid 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway – numbers that won’t make you smile in these times of $4-plus gasoline.

Pricing on the tester, just slightly cheaper than the top-line AWD version of the EX35, started at $36,350, but opulent options pushed the bottom line to $42,505. That’s fairly serious luxury fare for an SUV that’s going to cost you some more serious coin at the gas pump.

At these price levels, I now view the EX35 as that luxury sport-ute you always wanted, but you’d never pay $50,000 for another automaker’s product. The EX35 comes off as a splurge, but a moderate splurge.

This EX35 will likely motor on forever with few problems, and the kids, relatives and friends will be substantially impressed with this high-end ride. And what the heck, tell them you paid $50,000 for it. Most people don’t know car prices.

One thing that stuck in my head is that, while smooth and sleek on the outside, the EX35 is sculpted low enough to resemble a five-door hatchback. And if you don’t see that and call it a straight-up crossover, alas, it looks like a lot of other crossovers currently on the roads.

Maybe this is a byproduct of driving too many crossovers of late, but exterior-wise, the EX35 came off to me as somewhat vanilla. The good news is that most everything else about the ride is hot fudge, whipped cream and cherry-on-top delicious.

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