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Review: Infiniti EX35 Crossover

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The gadgetry in the Infiniti EX35 we tested was intense. Not only is there XM Satellite Radio there is a Bose sound system, front and rear curb sensors, and an amazing external viewing system that initially took my breath away. After driving around in a 2000 Beetle for six years, hopping into the $35,000 EX35 was like visiting Epcot Center after riding around on a carnival merry-go-round for most of your life.

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My goal in reviewing this car is to talk about how it made me feel as a geek, not a driver. As a car, it got a respectable 24 mpg on the highway and had strong acceleration. It’s powered by a 297-horsepower V6 engine and features all wheel drive. You’ll get about 17 city and 26 highway mpg and a calm, quiet ride without the height of an SUV.

We took a test drive to Columbia, Pennsylvania, taking the car on turnpikes and smaller highways. The drive was quiet and solid with good handling and excellent acceleration when needed – although the car really revved up when you called any of its horses into play.
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So what of all these gadgets? First, you have the sound system. It’s a Bose-branded system with CD, optional hard drive Music Box, and iPod/component input for external devices. The model we tested included XM Radio. All of the features are controlled by a touchscreen and set of buttons on the dash and there are a few basic controls on the wheel which changed inputs, volume, and track/channel while driving. I had mixed emotions about the touchscreen/button combo at first. For example, there was one button marked Status and another marked Info. What did they have to do with each other? What was the difference? In many situations, both would fall back to a “status” screen with current track information as well as some other info. The center dash info screen offered the same odd situation. The center OLED read-out could tell you the outside temperature, the miles left on the tank, and your fuel efficiency – but never at once. You also had control over this read-out in a settings menu that offered more oddness. I didn’t want to read the manual so we fumbled our way through and found all there was to find: in short, you’re dealing with a complex car system that has been dumbed-down in UI in order to improve efficiency.

The audio itself was fine – the XM radio sounded better than the music on the iPod but that could have been the bit-rate on both sources. The dedicated iPod cable in the center compartment, between the two seats, connects your iPod and shows all of your tracks on the screen and allows for easy browsing of the iPod while driving.

The car also included built-in GPS that, in its out-of-the-box configuration, stops responding to input while driving. This was, in short, infuriating. It often got a strong signal while driving, but this limitation was unnerving.

Finally, there is the Around View Monitor. This is honestly what sold me on the car’s value as a family crossover. The Around View Monitor consists of multiple cameras – some in the rear view mirrors and two in the front and back – that creates a 360-degree view of your surroundings. This is an amazing addition to a fairly low-priced car and it was a great help while parking in our tight driveway or on New York streets. The system basically creates an extrapolated, fish-eye view of the world and shows you what you are facing and what’s behind you. You can see folks walking around on all sides and the distance sensors tell you how close you are to walls and other obstacles.

All together, this gadgetry package adds quite a bit of pep to what would otherwise be known as a family station wagon. The back trunk is a bit cramped but by pulling down the seats you have enough room to haul almost anything you need – as you see in the photos we were able to lie a buggy flat in there with room to spare. We wouldn’t recommend the Music Box feature – it’s just a hard drive – but the iPod connector was great.

As a vehicle, the EX35 was strong, handsome, and the gorgeous deep brown paint job – a color verging on scarlet – was striking. As a rolling gadget trove the EX35 was something else entirely. It is a road-hugging crossover with acceptable gas mileage with an internal computer system that will keep any geek happy for miles.

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