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Compact luxury crossover vehicles aren't typically svelte or quick, but the 2012 Infiniti EX35 confounds those expectations. It doesn't deliver quite enough rear-seat or cargo room for most shoppers, but it overdelivers when it comes to sharp road manners and decidedly non-crossover looks.
The EX35's rakish roofline and pert proportions hardly look like a crossover, in fact. With few cutlines and a coupe-like roofline, it's one of our favorite crossovers to look at. Inside, it's an austere, well-finished environment. The cockpit-style layout wraps around the driver with its wide center stack a big LCD screen and secondary controls. The instruments look elegant and refined in soft-white lighting, and the wood and leather wear matte finishes.
The EX35 has some of the most responsive drivetrains of its kind. The 297-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 accelerates strongly, and the seven-speed automatic adapts to driving style, making itself invisible in gentle driving but clicking off quick shifts when it's under the gun. This engine's a little more tame and refined than larger, 3.7-liter Nissan V-6s we've experienced. And while handling isn't quite as crisp as with Infiniti's G25 and G37 sedans, it's dynamically very deft for a tall wagon. Rear-wheel drive endows it with good steering feel and the independent suspension hits the ideal balance of smoothness and athleticism, but the optional all-wheel drive system shaves some of that off, adding on welcome all-weather ability.While it carries itself quite well, the Infiniti EX35 doesn't carry others as easily. The cabin feels tight on space. Fit and finishes are top-notch, and front-seaters will feel coddled enough, but the back seat is one of the tightest we've experienced in any crossover, in legroom and headroom. Cargo space is also tight, hindered even more than you might expect due to the sloping rear window and a rather high cargo floor.
The safety story is great, however. The EX35 has earned top marks in all respects from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick. In addition, the EX35 comes with a host of safety features that some luxury automakers have skipped in this smaller class. Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, as well as a a Blind Spot Warning system and a 360-degree Around View Monitoring system, are all available—and the latter is very useful given the EX35's limited rear visibility.
Last year, the EX was repackaged into fewer models with more features. All EX models now get 18-inch wheels, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, cruise control, push-button start, and USB connectivity. Higher-trim levels include Bluetooth, Bose premium audio, DVD navigation with real-time traffic, XM satellite radio, larger wheels, and a power-folding rear seat.