2011 Infiniti EX35

October 21, 2011

As soon as I took off in the 2011 Infiniti EX35, I immediately felt like I was driving with my grandmother. I mean that in a good way. With her desire to keep me and my passengers safe, she lets me know if anyone is in my blind spot or if someone suddenly stops in front of me. While the EX35 lacks my grandmother's obscene hand gestures, its lane departure prevention and blind spot warning systems made me feel at ease on the road.

The 2011 Infiniti EX35 is loaded with features to keep a family safe and make life easier, but it isn't loaded with legroom.

The lack of interior space is this midsize luxury crossover's glaring problem. It's too small for a family of four. While the front row's legroom was adequate, the rear legroom was severely lacking.

With a V-6 engine, the EX35 has the power of an SUV, but it felt as lightweight as a sportier car. It hugged curves and corners, and merging onto the freeway was effortless. The suspension easily absorbed potholes and other road imperfections.

The 2011 EX35 has a starting MRSP of $35,200. My test car, an EX35 Journey with rear-wheel drive, starts at $37,400, but when all the bells and whistles of the Technology and Touring packages were added on, so is another couple grand. The model I tested was priced at $45,205.

EXTERIOR

The EX35 was a crowd-pleaser and turned heads as I drove by. I should mention that it was primarily female heads that were turned. That's understandable because the EX35's curvy profile was an attention-getter, and my Arctic Blue — aka baby blue — test car only added to it.

With its low step-in height, my 3-year-old had no problems getting in the crossover. The liftgate opened easily, but the cargo area was really small. It was so shallow that I was unable to fit my double jog stroller in it. I had to break out the umbrella stroller instead. While the cargo area was small, it was at a convenient diaper-changing height.

The EX35 is powered by a 297-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that's paired to a new-for-2011 seven-speed automatic transmission. Both the rear- and all-wheel-drive EX35 get an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg city/highway, and with a recommendation of premium fuel, filling up the tank could cost a pretty penny.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

INTERIOR

While the EX35 was as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside, the five-seater still lacked the size and space that a family of four needs. The interior was beautifully appointed with buttery leather seats and maple wood trim.

The center stack took some getting used to, though. It felt more like a plane's cockpit with a multitude of buttons, controls and switches. A simpler layout would have been appreciated since I spent too much time searching for the correct control when I should have been looking at the road.

When it came to storage space in the EX35, there wasn't much to be found. There were four cupholders, a decent-sized glove box and seatback pockets for the second row, but no hidden cubbies for cellphones and more.

In the second row, the outboard seats are wide with seat bolsters to help keep passengers in place during aggressive driving. Because my daughters were in their child-safety seats, they didn't get to experience the supple leather seats. However, my 3-year-old made sure to voice her complaints about the tight legroom in the backseat. She felt cramped in her forward-facing convertible. Infiniti needs to carve out some extra legroom for the second row when it redesigns this crossover.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

SAFETY

The EX35 may have missed the mark on storage space and rear legroom; however, it earns extra points for its safety features.

The 2011 EX35 has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To receive this safety award, a car must receive the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact, rear and rollover crash tests as well as have an electronic stability system. The EX35 received four out of five stars in rollover crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It has standard rear-wheel drive, active front head restraints, an electronic stability system with traction control and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. Optional safety features include all-wheel drive and a backup camera.

The optional Technology Package ($2,700) includes adaptive cruise control, a blind spot warning system, lane departure and lane prevention warning systems, and Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, which alerts the driver of stopping traffic and brakes appropriately. While the multitude of warning beeps and lights can be annoying at first, it made me more aware driver — kind of like when Grandma's in the car.

Also worth noting is the optional Around View Monitor, a set of cameras mounted on all sides of the car that gives a bird's-eye view of your surroundings on the navigation screen. This feature makes parallel parking a breeze.

The EX35 has two sets of easy-to-use lower Latch anchors in the second row's outboard seats. The seat belt buckles are on stable bases, making it easier for older children in booster seats to buckle up independently.

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