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2011 Infiniti EX35: High-tech wagon serves luxury for two

Posted by Bill Griffith  May 3, 2011 03:10 PM

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(All photos: Bill Griffith for The Boston Globe). Click photo for larger version.

One maneuver that always makes me a tad nervous is the challenge of parallel parking someone else's vehicle, being able to smoothly place the vehicle next to the curb without scuffing an alloy wheel on the curb or rub someone's bumper. Any time you have to hold up traffic while trying to accomplish the task doesn't help, either.

Just that situation arose soon after taking the wheel of today's test car, a 2011 Infiniti EX35 Journey. The most impressive feature was Infiniti's "Around View" monitor. It splits the seven-inch navigation screen into two images, one of which offers a standard rear view and the other which displays a bird's eye view of the vehicle and its surroundings. First-time viewers may wonder if it's some kind of satellite photo, but it's really a nifty composite of the vehicle's four on-board cameras.

Those views let me ease the EX into a downtown parking spot on one try. The system also protected the flower bed at the end of my own driveway — one I've been known to trample on occasion.

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Infiniti says its EX35 combines the look and feel of a luxury coupe with a crossover's flexibility. We concur, and add that in "the old days" we'd have just called this a terrific sport wagon.

The EX is a luxury crossover built on the same platform as the G37 sedan and shares similar handling and performance characteristics. Power for all EX models comes from the tried-and-true 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 297 horsepower and 253 lb.-ft. of torque. It's mated to a new-for-2011 seven-speed automatic transmission that replaces the prior five-speed unit. We found it notable for its adaptive shift control feature that matches gear selection to your driving style, and the rev-matching feature on downshifts.

We found the power impressive both around town and out on the highway and the suspension equally adept on both smooth roads and those severely potholed stretches left over from winter. That's a long way to say "powerful" and "refined."

The all-wheel-drive system didn't affect gas mileage (the EPA range is 17 city to 24 highway for both rear-wheel-drive and AWD versions), but it cuts down ground clearance to 5.7 inches.

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Our test version was the more upscale Journey with all-wheel-drive. Base price is $38,625 (including destination) and our tester had three of the four factory options — roof rails ($250), premium package ($2,450), and deluxe touring package ($2,300), plus dealer-installed illuminated kick plates ($280) for a bottom-line price of $43,905.

The premium package adds adaptive headlights, an eight-way passenger seat, and a long list of interior accoutrements. The touring package offers an advanced climate control system and navigation system with all the bells and whistles.

Normally, test vehicles are loaded with almost all available options. This time the test EX35 didn't have the $2,700 technology package, which contains some features we think should become standard equipment in future years.

Among them is the Blind Spot Warning system that illuminates a light in the side-view mirror when another vehicle is in the blind spot on that side. Lane departure warning alerts you when you cross over a lane without signaling your intention in advance. Using it tends to make you a more alert and courteous driver. The package also contains adaptive cruise control and the related distance control assist, intelligent brake assist and forward collision warning.

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The back of the driver's headrest has a clothes hanger that folds out to hang garments on trips to the laundry or during vacations.

The driver has a standard eight-way adjustable (and heated) seat and sits in front of an instrument panel with white needles and numbers on a black background and blue luminescent circles. The interior design, space, and seats definitely produce a cockpit-like feel. Fit and finish is superb and our EX35 Journey had leather and maple appointments with an upscale feel. Even the lighted doorsill plates add a posh touch after dark.

This isn't to say the EX Journey is perfect. We still haven't come up with the all-things-for-all-people-all-the-time vehicle yet. The EX has limited leg room in the rear seat, the cargo area isn't particularly large, and you almost have to be flexible to connect a USB plug deep in the center console. However, for one or two people, with the rear 60/40 seats folded down, space abounds.

And, as easy as it is to park, it's even more fun to drive.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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