By Stuart Schwartzapfel
With small crossovers experiencing steady gains in popularity, it was inevitable that Infiniti would hatch a premium offering of its own. The EX Concept, which debuted at the 2007 New York Auto Show, is a thinly disguised look at a small Infiniti crossover that will hit dealerships later this year.
The production EX Concept, likely to be called EX35, will compete against models like the BMW X3, Acura RDX, Land Rover LR2, and the upcoming Volvo XC60. EX35 will feature all-wheel drive and will slot below the mid-sized Infiniti FX crossover in size and price. It shares most of its underpinnings with the marque’s new G Sedan/Coupe.
EX’s rakish aesthetic mimics FX in several ways, from its chopped roofline to the bulging fenders and planted stance. It’s aggressive, no doubt about it. What’s different is the EX’s face, which is a toned-down version of FX’s more menacing “double-arch” grille -- and which looks good on EX’s smaller stature.
A Couple of Firsts The L-shaped headlamps complement the EX’s sleeker, less brash smile, while its rear haunches are more pronounced than on the FX, thanks in large part to the sloping character line that starts after the headlamps end. Overall, EX successfully blends flowing lines with crisp surface transitions.
The only unrealistic feature on EX is its liquid crystal, full-length, glass roof panel, which is able to change from transparent to translucent via input from a special touch-sensor system. What you can look forward to are two innovative systems that are expected to be world production firsts.
Draped in Luxury The “around view monitor” system utilizes front, side, and rear-mounted cameras to help reduce blind spots when parking, while the lane-departure warning system takes Infiniti's currently available system and adds a vehicle dynamic-control system to help the driver maintain lane position if he inadvertently starts to drift.
The airy interior reeks of luxurious materials and pleasant touches. Its leather-trimmed seats were inspired by the fit and drape of a custom-tailored kimono while an ambient lighting system features special, indirect, headrest illumination.
EX’s production engine will be a derivative of the familiar 3.5-liter V6 found in the new G sedan/coupe. A five-speed automatic transmission will transfer power to all four wheels.
The Verdict: A welcome addition to the growing pool of premium soft-roaders.
Schwartzapfel, a certified car freak, writes BusinessWeek.com's Concept of the Week column. He has studied the automotive marketplace and worked as an advertising/marketing strategist for major manufacturers. He does not write about any car brands for which he currently works.