The Infiniti EX offers an engaging drive, but has limited practicality and high running costs

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Nissan's luxury arm Infiniti may be a little-known brand in the UK, but the car cognoscenti will be familiar with the marque. It has been successful in the US since 1989, and has rolled out in the UK with, among others, this handsome EX luxury compact crossover SUV to lure the inquisitive.

Initially the EX was only available with a thirsty 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine, but a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 developed from a Renault unit joined the UK line-up under the bonnet of the EX30d in 2010.

The EX37 GT has real sports car character without the Cayenne Turbo running costs

The EX is the biggest-selling Infiniti in the UK and its size, shape and price put it closest to cars such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Infiniti has, however, tried to give the EX more focused performance and handling than any class rival. The distinctive coupé styling also differentiates it from more conventional 4x4s.



Infiniti EX xenon headlights

Is the EX model an SUV or shooting brake? Infiniti says it’s a bit of both, trying to position the car away from the traditional mid-size SUV and claiming it's closer to Audi’s A5 Sportback than the Q5. To this end, the styling makes a point of shying away from the traditional bluff front so typical of SUVs, none more so than the EX’s big brother, the extrovert FX.

It also has a more curvaceous roofline than the Q5, X3 or Land Rover Freelander and, at less than 1.6m high, a lower one. However, the elevated driving position is still more SUV than car. As are the EX’s overall length and wheelbase, in both cases within 11mm of the Q5’s. Similarly, the drag coefficient of 0.32 is good for an SUV, but poor for a coupé or saloon.

The EX isn't one for the taller occupant: headroom's tighter than the class average in both rows

The EX is based on the Nissan/Infiniti FM platform, as used in the Nissan 370Z, while the four-wheel drive system is derived from that used in the Nissan GT-R. Infiniti makes no claims for the EX’s off-road abilities however, recommending you stray no further than a grassy field.


Infiniti EX dashboard

There is no doubt that the Infiniti EX’s cabin feels of equal standard to its rivals, and is superior to some. Much of the switchgear looks similar to that of the Nissan 370Z, including the start button and sat-nav switchgear, and the same simple typeface adorns all the buttons. But this doesn’t detract from the ambience.

Interior room is one of the car's disappointments. The EX is longer than the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, but there is less interior space than in either. That’s not to say there isn’t enough room to seat four adults in reasonable comfort, but it will be more cosy than in many rivals.

Metallic cabin trim is cool to the touch, and exotic for a mainstream SUV

The sloping roofline and narrow rear windows create a slightly claustrophobic feeling in the back, but from the low-set driver’s seat there is only a slight awareness that there’s less elbow room and headroom than you might expect.

The boot is also small, with a capacity of just 340 litres with the rear seats up; a Ford Focus has more boot space.


Infiniti EX front quarter

Two engine variants are offered on the Infiniti EX and include a 316bhp 3.7-litre petrol and a more recent 3.0-litre oil-burner with 235bhp.

Performance for both models is very good. Against its closest rivals, the petrol-powered EX37’s 0-60mph time of 6.5sec is as quick as any rival. With peak torque of 266lb ft arriving at 5200rpm and the full 316bhp not until 7000rpm, it would appear on paper that the EX needs a lot of revs to deliver its full performance. But with 215lb ft of torque available from as low as 1500rpm, the reality is plenty of useful low-down urge. And the typically linear power delivery of the naturally aspirated engine means that the V6 is never left floundering outside of its power band.

Big-chested tuneful petrol V6 makes the EX a real enthusiasts' pick

By contrast, the diesel’s 406lb ft means that you can lock the car in fourth gear (roughly 20mph/1000rpm) and dispatch challenging B-roads or motorway sliproads with at least as much ease as in the petrol version. The oil-burner is smooth and quiet even by the standards of the very best V6 diesels, and well matched to its torque converter automatic gearbox, and propels the EX to 62mph in a shade under eight seconds.


Infiniti EX cornering

This is where the Infiniti really sets itself apart from the competition. The EX can be a genuinely fast and entertaining car to thread through a sweeping bend, and much of this is due to the electronically controlled four-wheel drive system, which is a modified version of the one used in the Nissan GT-R.

On a normal dry surface the EX is, in effect, rear-wheel drive until the moment the computer senses a loss of traction, at which point up to 50 percent of the torque can be sent to the front wheels. A standard mechanical limited-slip diff also adds to the high level of traction.

Sporting chassis makes for stout control and real dynamic poise on a dry circuit

The speed-sensitive steering is well weighted and always offers the right level of response and resistance. It’s a joy to use, both in focused driving and in normal everyday use.

Body control is excellent, and while there is some roll on entry to corners, it is well restrained and there is none of the cumbersome weight transfer generally associated with tall SUVs. It is a real achievement to have endowed the high-riding EX with all the responsiveness and entertainment levels of a big sports coupé.

Ride quality is firm, as is to be expected, but it represents a well resolved compromise between comfort and handling. Longer undulations in the road surface can cause some body float, and carrying speed over intrusions such as potholes and drain covers will result in loud thumping and intrusive jarring in the cabin. The Infiniti is also prone to tramlining, but in general it is composed, comfortable and exploitable.


Infiniti EX

The Infiniti EX is an expensive luxury crossover which isn't going to sell in market-altering numbers. Its list price stands square with the higher-end versions of more established rivals. You have to reach S-line specification in the Q5, for example, to match the EX30d’s entry-level price.

The one that makes the most financial sense is undoubtedly the 3.0-litre diesel. Infiniti claims the car will achieve just over 33mpg, while emitting 224g/km Co2. Both figures are off the pace, and the economy return itself takes discipline to match in the real world.

Real-world economy of the diesel really isn't a vast improvement on the petrol. I'd take the latter and have more fun with it.

If the outright power of the EX37 does it for you, you’ll have to put up with a £41,930 price-tag and 25mpg with 265g/km Co2 emissions. It'll be a very committed purchase and will require the indulgence of an owner who cares little about running costs - but that owner will be rewarded by one of the best handling 4x4s on the market.  

There is little existing data to draw on in terms of residuals, but the experts expect that an EX will also depreciate faster than its rivals.


3.5 star Infiniti EX

The level of driver found in the Infiniti EX reward proves that this model has a place in the UK market. Its combination of rear-biased handling, with the extra security of four-wheel drive when you really need it, is unique in the class, and it allows the EX to match the dynamics of the BMW X3.

It is also the precise handling more than the coupé styling that distances the EX from the majority of its rivals – and makes it clear that Infiniti can offer something more than just another high-end SUV.

The compromises are obvious; cabin space is limited despite the sizeable exterior dimensions and running costs will be higher than most rivals’. But it undoubtedly deserves success as a niche enthusiasts' family choice.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Infiniti EX 2009-2015 First drives