Infiniti EX35 tops in safety

Infiniti EX35

Infiniti EX35 - Dallas

Infiniti’s EX35 compact crossover has earned the coveted Top Safety Pick designation for 2011 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent testing agency that is funded in part by auto insurers.

The rating is a result of the EX35 earning the top score, “Good,” in separate front-, rear- and side-impact and roof-strength tests conducted by the institute, which has standards that generally are more stringent than those of the federal government’s testing program.

Vehicles also must have electronic stability control to qualify for the institute’s special designation.

Also on the list of Top Safety Pick vehicles this year is the Infiniti M sedan, which comes in two versions, the V-6 powered M37 and V-8 powered M56.

Standard safety features on the EX35 include dual-stage, dual-threshold front air bags with seat-belt and occupant-classification sensors, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows of seats, front seat-mounted driver and passenger side-impact air bags, and front-seat active head restraints.

Among other standard safety items are child-seat anchors and tethers, tire-pressure monitoring, traction control and four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

The EX35 has a long list of optional safety equipment as well, although the Top Safety Pick designation was not based on any of these extra-cost features. Those include the Infiniti lane-departure-prevention system, intelligent cruise control, distance-control assist and intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning.

Also available is a blind-spot warning system, which signals the driver with a light if another vehicle is detected in the blind-spot area on either side of the car. If the driver activates the turn signal with another vehicle in the blind spot, the indicator flashes and a warning tone sounds, as well.

The EX35, introduced for 2008, has a base price range of $35,200 to $38,800 (plus $895 freight) for model year 2011. It’s one of the most popular models in the Infiniti lineup, offering sporty performance in a car that has seating for five and SUV-style cargo-carrying capability.

Based on the chassis of the Infiniti G sedan, key competitors include the Acura RDX, BMW X3, Volvo XC60, Cadillac SRX and Audi Q5. But the EX also competes with sedans in the entry-premium segment as well.

The EX is a junior version of the larger Infiniti FX crossover and has essentially the same engine as the FX35 (V-6) model — but with a starting price that is $7,400 less. The FX35 begins at $42,600, while the V-8 powered FX50 begins at $57,600. The EX is not available with a V-8 engine.

For 2011, the base rear-wheel-drive EX35 model lists for $35,200 (plus freight), while the fancier Journey model with rear drive is $37,400. All-wheel drive is offered on two models: The base version starts at $36,600, while the Journey is $38,800.

Even the base EX has leather seats, a rear-view camera, rear climate-control vents and polished aluminum roof rails. Other standard features include heated front seats on all-wheel-drive models, heated outside mirrors on all models, automatic headlights, Bluetooth hands-free phone system on Journey models, and a USB port for iPods.

Under the hood is the same engine used in the earlier G35 sedans, a 297-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. EPA ratings are 17 mpg city/24 highway with rear-wheel drive and 16/23 with all-wheel drive.

The rear-drive system helps give the EX its sporty handling. The EX35 is the only vehicle in its segment with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, however. The all-wheel-drive system is useful in snow and rain, but it also helps guide the car through curves on dry pavement. It’s not intended for serious off-road driving.

EX35 changes for 2011 include a new seven-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels and more high-tech equipment options. Dual-zone automatic climate control also became standard this year, and there is now an option for 19-inch wheels and tires.

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