Infiniti, the premium brand of Japanese manufacturer Nissan, will soon cross over to the softer side of the sport-utility-vehicle market.
Beginning around the end of December, it will start selling the EX35, a premium utility vehicle that bears a family resemblance to the larger FX35 SUVs, but has a lot more in common with the companys G35 sedan.
The EX35 will have seating for a maximum of five people and is aimed at a part of the market where the company believes there is an unmet need
The target is the style seekers, a financially comfortable group that encompasses active singles, young couples and empty nesters.
They are half male and half female. They make between $120,000 and $140,000 a year and 60 to 70 percent are college-educated.
The EX35 will be playing in a pretty hot segment, predicted Larry Dominique, vice president of product planning, during a press introduction for the vehicle in Santa Monica, CA.
This is because Infiniti believes the EX35 is a right-size vehicle for the target buyers, one that combines the right amount of practicality with plenty of luxury, high-tech accessories and a car-like driving experience.
To get a sense of the new vehicle, one needs only to study Infinitis G35 sport sedan, on which the EX35 is closely based. You cant help noticing how much parts sharing is involved.
Both vehicles come with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both are equipped with five-speed automatic transmissions and share the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine. However, at 297 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque, the EX35 has nine fewer horses and 15 less pound-feet of torque.
The two vehicles have similar suspensions - independent double wishbones with anti-roll bars in the front and multi-link setups with anti-roll bars at the rear. Finally, they both have power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and power-assisted antilock disc brakes.
Even in size they are not that far apart. The EX35 is five inches shorter than the sedan, but it is about an inch wider and four inches taller. While it sits a bit higher than the G35, it measures only 6.5 inches from the ground with rear-wheel-drive and 5.7 inches with all-wheel drive.
There is a significant difference in cargo capacity. however. With both rows of seats in place, the EX35 has 16.8 cubic feet of space, compared with the 13.5 cubic feet available in the sedan. Push a button, and the second-row power-folding seats will disappear to significantly expand the available cargo space.
With all of that in mind, it is not surprising that the new crossover drives more like the G35 sedan than FX35 SUV.
Acceleration is brisk, the steering is sharp and the brakes are strong. The EX35 remains composed on the rough back roads, and hangs on tenaciously around curves, with almost none of the body roll that is common to regular SUVs.
The five-speed automatic transmission enhances the driving experience with a manual shift-mode and a sport mode, which matches engine and transmission speeds during downshifts.
The all-wheel-drive system is programmed to give the EX35 the drivability of a rear-wheel-drive vehicle on clear, dry roads.
If you spend a few hours driving and riding in the EX35 you can almost forget that you are not in a sport sedan.
The plush EX35 interior is probably the most luxurious (Infiniti) interior to date, according to Dominique.
The EX35s on hand for the press preview were mostly top-of the-line models that confirmed Dominiques assessment. They were outfitted with posh leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, electroluminescent gauges, the signature double wave instrument panel, and optional wood trim on the center console, center stack and door panels.
The standard trim is textured aluminum on the door panels and black lacquer on the center console and center stack. The EX35 literature says the entry-level vehicle will be available with cloth seating but Im wondering if Ill never actually see one so equipped.
To properly impress and assist the buyer, a premium vehicle must have some exclusive techno-wizardry and this Infiniti does not disappoint.
One new system is the around-view mirror. Front, side and rear-mounted cameras monitor vehicle surroundings and flash their findings on the navigation screen to let the driver know if there is anything in the vehicles way during parking maneuvers.
Conventional mirrors, no matter how carefully you use them, just cant provide a view around the vehicle that the . . . four-camera system does, said Mark Igo, vice president and general manager.
The EX35 also features an advanced version of Infinitis lane-departure warning system.
Instead of simply giving the driver audible notice that the car has wandered out of its lane, the updated system employs the vehicles stability control system to gently nudge the vehicle back toward its proper position.
And then there is Infinitis Scratch Shield paint. If a minor scratch appears on the clearcoat, the surface can heal itself within days, thanks to a highly elastic resin that spreads over the scratch when subjected to heat such as the vehicle would experience in a car wash or on a warm day.
The EX35 will be available in standard trim with rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel drive vehicles and in upscale Journey trim with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Infiniti officials would say only that pricing is expected to be in the range of the G sedan. Exact figures will be released closer to the late December on-sale date.