Infiniti delivers a unique new car with the 2008 Infiniti EX35 Journey, packing it full of over-the-top technology that all proves useful. The EX35 fits the crossover mold, a segment in which Nissan/Infiniti has plenty of experience from prior models, such as the Murano and FX45. But the EX35 leans more toward the car side, with a front end designed after the G35. The roofline of the EX35 isn't much taller than a typical sedan, and the quick drop-off at the rear leads to minimal cargo space.
But the EX35 wins us over with driving tech that includes an almost legendary engine, adaptive cruise control, and lane drift prevention. The interior is everything we expect from Infiniti, with an excellent-sounding stereo and many options for digital music. The navigation system is also loaded with tricks, including 3D view and live traffic with smart routing. And for maneuvering in tight spaces, the Around View Monitor offers camera views around the entire car
Test the tech: 360 degree vision
Because of the camera system on the EX35, we ran two tests where we maneuvered the car through a traffic-cone course in reverse. The Around View Monitor uses four cameras, one in front, one in back, and one on each side mirror, to let the driver see any objects around the car. On the LCD, you see a view of the front or back, depending on whether you are in drive or reverse, and a side screen that shows the sides, front, and rear of the car. It is an impressive system, with our only complaint being that the display of the entire car should be a little bigger.
We call our first challenge the squeeze. We set up four cones with their bases just an inch out from each tire. Car Tech editors Kevin Massy and Wayne Cunningham took turns attempting to reverse the EX35 through this narrow corridor by only looking at the LCD. On the initial approach, we relied on the back-up camera, which uses a graphic overlay to show how close objects are and the car's path depending on which way the wheels are turned. This rear-view let us line the car up for a straight approach, although Massy rode over the base of the front left cone. Reversing through the cones, the AVM let us see how close we were to the first set of cones as they moved along the sides of the car, and the rear-view camera helped with keeping the rear set of cones lined up. Cunningham ran over the base of the left rear cone on the way through the squeeze.
For our second test, we set the cones to describe a 90-degree left turn. Again, we would have to reverse through the course. The maneuver was a tricky one, as the cones were placed too close together to make the turn without adjustments. Again, we used the reverse camera to set up the approach to the course, getting the first set of cones in view and lining up the car. Once into the course, we had to cut the wheels to get the back end moving through the 90-degree turn. The AVM proved very useful for keeping track of the inner cone, on the left side. We got the EX35 moved back until its rear end almost touched the cone on the outside of the course, then pulled forward, cutting the wheels right. A little more back and forth, and we had the EX35 through the 90 degree turn, with neither Cunningham nor Massy touching a single cone.
The AVM let us see where each cone was in relation to the car, and we were helped further by the car's sonar park distance sensors. These sensors flashed warnings at each corner of the representation of the car on the LCD when objects got close, first green, then amber, then red. This combination of sensors should make insurers very happy as they help drivers maneuver through tight spaces in parking garages.
In the cabin
The interior fit and finish of the 2008 Infiniti EX35 is everything we would expect of an Infiniti. The design is very clean and the materials nice. Because the car is higher than a sedan, the driver gets a slightly raised view of the road. Our car came packed with electronics, which includes a very usable interface that combines a touch-screen LCD with a multicontroller knob. This knob has buttons embedded on top that give directional capability, like a joystick, and an enter button. Using this controller to spell out street names on a virtual keyboard was very easy, as you can quickly move up or down rows of letters. This controller is supplemented by a fairly capable voice command system.
The navigation system is one of the most advanced we've seen. It stores maps in 2D and 3D on a hard drive, and offers details such as building outlines in certain urban areas. You can also split the screen, showing a 2D map on one side and 3D on the other. Our only criticism is that, in 2D, the map is a little ugly, with jaggy street names laid over a white background. But the route guidance graphics get very nice, with representations of freeway exits that look almost photo-realistic. Under route guidance, the system will pronounce the names of upcoming streets when giving directions.
Even better, this system integrates XM traffic, showing traffic flow in green, amber, or red on freeways and other major, monitored streets. In our experience, the traffic reporting doesn't cover as many streets as that provided by Clear Channel for BMW, which we last saw in the BMW M3. But this navigation system will route around bad traffic, an advanced feature we haven't seen on many cars yet. When we tried it out, the system let us drive into slow traffic, indicated by an amber overlay on the road, but as our route approached a red zone, the navigation system directed us to take an exit onto surface streets.