Infiniti is finally catching up with the demands of European buyers, busily fitting diesel engines across its range. So the compact EX crossover, the smallest of its 4x4s, now comes as an EX30d. There's no Germanic badge trickery at play here: this is indeed an EX powered by a 3.0-litre diesel. How refreshing.
While EX prices start at £35,975 in the UK (less than the petrol 3.7), ours cost a slightly more troubling £41,220 in the new GT Premium spec. Infinitis are already well equipped compared like for like with Europe's ancien régime, but the GT Premium spec throws the kitchen sink into the mix: cornering headlamps, parking sensors, electric seats and steering adjustment, radar cruise control, leather trim and a collision warning system are among the toys. No wonder this is a heavy car.
So what's this new diesel engine like in the Infiniti EX30d?
Pretty good on the whole. We've tested quieter diesels, but the Renault-derived 3.0-litre V6 is by no means noisy. There's just a little derv chatter to remind you of the motive force where many exec-level diesels have now achived aural parity with their petrol counterparts on the move. Expect a Merc-sourced diesel engine in the next few years, as the Nissan-Daimler relationship bears fruits.
What we will remember the EX30d for is performance: this is a very quick crossover. The figures speak for themselves and it's no mean feat for a nigh-on two-tonne SUV to hit 62mph in less than eight seconds. It feels just as quick as those warm hatch figures suggest. The seven-speed auto transmission unobtrusively slurs the gearchanges but there's so much torque it just slings you forwards when you step on the gas.
And how does the EX diesel drive?
The EX, like every other Infiniti, uses the Nissan group FR platform. It's the same front-engined, rear-drive/4wd combo you'll find under a Nissan 370Z for instance. It's quite a fun steer, disguising the heft of the EX well with quick steering and an agility that's surprising on one so big, but it never has the dynamic precision that the X3, say, has. Our car rode on chunky 18in rims and the ride feels correspondingly jiggly. Not bad, just busy.
One of the new toys on the EX30d GT Premium is the Lane Departure Prevention system. We're used to systems that blink and vibrate and generally annoy drivers when they cross the white lines without indicating. Now Infiniti's latest gizmo brakes one side of the car to steer you back into your lane if you stray on a motorway at speeds of over 45mph. We had a go and it's a strange sensation. Frankly, we'd rather the system slapped the driver round the face than took over completely. At least it can be turned off.
A much better option is the Around View Monitor, offering a 360-degree bird's eye view of the car from cameras scattered around the body. No excuse for kerbed alloys ever again...
Should I buy an EX30d?
Depends on your needs. If you want a striking, alternative crossover and are fed up with the X3 and its ilk, then it's certainly worth considering an EX. Problem is, if you ever need to carry – you know – passengers, the EX comes unstuck. The rear compartment is tiny considering this car is 4.7m long. It's really cramped sitting behind an even reasonably tall driver.
The boot's okay, but you'll quickly clock the EX's fashion bias from the swoopy, coupé-on-stilts exterior. This is a selifish, feelgood car – not a practical SUV.
The addition of a diesel V6 will massively extend the appeal of the EX. A 3.7-litre V6 petrol is considered by most Europeans akin to removing the contents of your wallet and introducing them to a lit match. No wonder it's been a niche player so far.
The diesel may still be a large capacity – CO2 of 224g/km isn't going to win any Greenpeace awards – but the pay-off is strong performance in the new EX30d. It's easy to see why eight out of 10 EXs sold here are likely to be the diesel. If you want an EX, it's definitely the one to have. Just check an EX fits your requirements before you commit, because there are flaws among the charm.