Friday, May 4, 2012

Let's get specific: EX35 fills a need as luxo SUV

Sacramento, California – It’s not easy searching the sport-utility vehicle landscape.

So many variables. So many options. What works for you?

Maybe that one? Oops, no, too big. That one over there? Uh, lousy gas mileage. How about that one? Nah, I need more cargo room than that.

After some time, of course, they all start to look alike. I feel your pain, but I recently had a week in a crossover SUV that really does qualify as a consumer-target vehicle. And by that I mean it has specific amenities that separate it from the crowd.

It’s the 2012 Infiniti EX 35 Journey AWD.

OK, it’s an Infiniti product, so you know that it’s a luxury-level vehicle. And you’re guessing from the extra words in the model name that this is likely the top-level version of the model. And you’d be right.

The EX 35 Journey AWD is the priciest of four trim levels, starting at $39,300. My tester was loaded up with plentiful extras, pushing the bottom line to $45,095. So, right off the bat, you know this is a pretty fancy SUV, and if you’re going to spend that kind of money on it, you probably want to keep it for the long haul.

That shouldn’t be a problem. It’s built to last.

And you’ll notice something else when you walk up to this EX. It looks pretty small. It’s small enough to be completely hidden parked next to a truck, a midsize SUV or even a large sedan. So, if you’re still in the market for that monster-size SUV that can carry most of your kitchen on the road, this is not going to be your choice.

However, the EX35 is large enough to handle most of the grocery, soccer team and yard equipment hauling chores of suburban life. The rear seats fold easily and snap back into place without testing your strength. The smallish-size translates to sedan-like handling on the city streets and the open road.

Power is more than enough with a 3.5-liter V-6 putting out nearly 300 horsepower. Yeah, this EX scoots right along with that package, but the interior cabin is a bubble of quiet. The all-wheel-drive system is a bonus for folks who work in the city on weekdays and sometimes head up into the mountains for recreation on weekends.

Nice touches on the tester included a nicely sculpted aluminum roof rack, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control and manual shift mode, intelligent brake assist and a power sliding, tinted-glass moonroof. Inside perks offer more proof that you’re getting a luxury package for your money.

On my ride, that included leather surfaces, rear seat heating/cooling vents, power tilt/telescopic steering column and a rearview monitor projecting to a color 7-inch screen.

Spend enough loot and you can spill over into the ultra-luxury range, where you have on-board access to the Zagat Survey Restaurant Guide. I’m serious!

Gas mileage, by the way, is so-so at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, a byproduct of 297 horses under the hood.

All in all, this is a nice package. Too expensive for some. Not big enough for others. But for the discriminating SUV shopper, I’m betting this EX is going to be just right.

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