It’s taken four years of planning to realise this Infiniti EX37 launch. Nissan’s Infiniti 'premium brand' is about to make a bridgehead into Europe, and it’s this EX37 SUV-lite experience that it expects to take the majority of sales.
Hang on a moment; 'surely there’s some mistake,' you say. Surely, considering the current economic and social climate, a 316bhp, petrol-powered, faux SUV really isn’t what the UK needs right now? And there’s no diesel option yet either? Infiniti cannot have foreseen the current market conditions, of course, so regardless of any dubious timing, has the EX37 been worth the wait?
Tell me more about the new Infiniti EX37?
Apparently it’s a 'crossover', a tag bandied about with zealous abandon lately, but which feels about right in this case. In the metal the EX37 genuinely does look like the curious offspring of a coupe and an SUV – it's 16cm lower than a Land Rover Freelander, with a long-ish bonnet and big wheels in relation to the overall body height – and secondly, it really does turn heads. Let’s face it: if you’re in the market for something a bit different, that is a vital commodity.
Ok, so you can’t miss it on the high street. But would you want to be behind the wheel?
The Infiniti EX is about as far removed from green-laning as a 110 Landie is from scything through Silverstone’s Copse corner. Yes, it is four-wheel drive, using Nissan’s acronym-heavy ATTESSA E-TS set up that includes an LSD, but there is no mention of deep wading or climbing muddy hillocks here. Instead there is talk of outdoor sports, enhanced practicality and, yes, that ubiquitous ‘sporty drive’.
Nevertheless, the basics are promising. The EX37 is spun off Nissan’s FM platform – as are the G37 Saloon and Coupe – sharing genes therefore with the 350Z. So we’re talking fully independent multi-link rear suspension and a meaty V6 mounted well back in the chassis (weight distribution is quoted as 54:46 front/rear).
This is the latest 3.7-litre V6 featuring variable valve timing, and it has been remapped to meet Euro emission regulations, combining that aforementioned healthy power output with 266lb ft of torque and driving through a new seven-speed auto ‘box.
The really key fact, however, is that the EX – like the complete Infiniti range – has been tuned for European roads and tastes, and part of that development work was carried out at Nissan’s Cranfield technical centre in the UK.
Click 'Next' below to read more of our Infiniti EX37 first drive review
So what's this EX like on European roads?
The result of these Euro-biased tweaks is a car that’s something of an unexpected pleasure. According to the Infiniti guys, this EX, like all of the new Euro range, has been developed to have a distinct ‘feel’: a character set of major control weights and operations that defines the brand. These guys are deadly serious at copying the BMW DNA, it seems...
The EX37 steers with a deliberate, well weighted action, clean and linear on lock, and although it feels poised on the road, it seems largely free from the roll-rock sensation often found in an SUV with thick anti-roll bars fitted in the name of ‘sportiness’ – or the neurotic rebound damping of a BMW X3. Both bode well for the ride quality in the UK, and on these admittedly smooth French roads of the launch location the EX seems pleasingly composed.
With nearly 1900kg to shift, the omens aren’t great for outright performance. But the brawny V6 easily has the lungs to get all that automotive lard moving, and the seven-speed auto proves a good partner for it. Tiptronic-style manual shifts are available via the gear selector, although there are no paddles as there are on other Infinitis.
Your trade-off for the pain of 25.2mpg ‘combined’ – and the tax implications of 267g/km of C02 – is a 0-62mph time of 6.4sec and a top speed just a spit of Infiniti’s trendy ‘own brand’ mineral water away from 150mph all-out.
So it sounds like a decent drive – but is this really a premium segment contender?
Infiniti claims quality and sportiness are its twin guiding lights, and on this evidence they deserve to be taken as seriously on the former as much as the raw numbers prove the latter. Much detail engineering has taken place titivating the Euro Infinitis, and this EX benefits from a series of tweaks stretching from electronic tweaks to new door seals. There is even a self-healing paint finish on every car that ‘repairs’ scratches itself; until the time I see the gouges vanishing with my own eyes I still can’t quite get my head around the technology involved, but Infiniti is suitably proud of it.
You sit fairly low in the EX, certainly for the class, with a heavily scalloped cockpit and some nice touches of trim. It feels solid in here, free from creaks and groans, and possessing of a startling stereo and an impossibly trick bird's eye video camera system to aid parking. The list of standard equipment is extensive in fact, and it’s a comfortable car with which to decimate distances, although accommodation in the rear is slightly cramped for six-footers.
Click 'Next' to read CAR's verdict on the new Infiniti EX37
A realist will quickly point out that until the promising sounding Renault-Nissan V6 turbodiesel engine is offered in the EX, the car will remain a minority attraction. Expect that deliverance to happen in early 2010, some months after the EX37 goes on sale in summer 2009.
That’ll be just fine for Infiniti: its projected sales volumes are very small, and its targets constructed around cars of individual character and a new dealership concept with a raft of customer service sweeteners at its core. At around £35,000 the EX37 is good value considering the spec, and if you’re looking for something a bit different and don’t mind regular visits to the pumps, on the evidence of this first drive it’s well worth a look.
Would you buy an Infiniti EX37 to be different, wait for the diesel or ignore the brand altogether? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say