The criteria that gains a car entry into the “Crossover” segment is so ambiguous that with a marginally increased ride height, four doors and a hatchbackn nearly any existing car can be made “crossover-ready.” Take the Infiniti EX35 as an example. Infiniti has self-titled the EX35 as a “coupe-inspired luxury crossover.” That is about as meaningful as a 15 year old girl stating that she is a Shaq-inspired combination of Oprah and Beethoven. It may not be as trendy or marketable, but the EX35 is actually just a small wagon which is just the beginning of the good news.
The EX35 was the most car-like nominee for the 2009 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year award. And although it ultimately lost out to the Subaru Forester, the EX35 delivered the best on-the-road driving experience of the bunch. To begin with, unlike other Crossovers, the EX35 is not bulked up with extra fender bulges or extraneous trim pieces and ride height is kept relatively low all of which helps to keep the driver in touch with the vehicle’s driving dynamics, especially handling. Acceleration is further “car-like” with a 0 to 60 mph time of 6.5 seconds. That performance is achieved by way of a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 297 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Both rear- and all-wheel drive are offered, and as you would have no doubt deduced, the AWD system is meant for only on-road use. Unfortunately, two of the most important, if not THE most important criteria for Crossovers are lacking with the EX35. First, while performance is impressive, fuel economy is not with a combined 20 mpg city/highway fuel economy. Secondly, the shedding of weight and size is at the sacrifice of utility and interior cargo space. These are two very serious negatives. After all, the very reason Crossovers even exist is to tap into previous SUV owners looking to upgrade fuel efficiency while maintaining a degree of usable interior space. Also significant is the price tag which starts at $31,300 for the rear-wheel drive and $32,700 for AWD. Standard for both is automatic climate control, eight-way power driver seat, four-way power passenger seat, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry and starting, trip computer, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack, XM Satellite Radio, and P225/60R17 all-season tires on aluminum wheels. Available option packages add things like leather upholstery, power-folding second-row seats, sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass, universal garage door opener, front and rear park assist and Adaptive Front-lighting System, which points the headlights into a turn when the steering wheel is turned. It would perhaps be better to compare the EX35 to other cars and specifically, other wagons and hatchbacks. Against that segment of vehicles, the EX35 has plenty of room and stacks up more competitively.