2013 Infiniti EX37 – CUV with a hot-rod heart

2013 Infiniti EX37 is powerful and sporty, and one of our favourite CUVs tested this year

2013 Infiniti EX37 is powerful and sporty, and one of our favourite CUVs tested this year

 

The Infiniti EX37 is often overlooked in the luxury compact crossover class where it competes with the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK350. The EX37 is some 50-75 mm lower than these German offerings, making it sportier, but more of a wagon than these taller CUVs.

Really, the EX37 is the wagon version of Infiniti’s excellent G37 sedan.  Visually, the EX37’s sheet metal is polarizing.  Its round rear quarters and steeply-sloped rear window and liftgate have a slightly cartoonish look to some observers, and doesn’t appeal to everybody.  To my eyes the EX37 has a distinct, handsome exterior.

The EX35 was introduced as a 2008 model, but for 2013 it has received a major upgrade.  The engine has been bumped up to a 3.7-litre V6 (from 3.5-litres) and power has been elevated from a respectable 297 horsepower to a powerful 325 horsepower.  (The EX37’s engine is impressive and comes within a hair’s width of the power output of its corporate sports car cousin, the 332 horsepower Nissan 370Z.)

This 3.7-litre engine is a driving enthusiast’s dream.  It is powerful and smooth, and best of all, matched with the 7-speed automatic transmission, the Infiniti feels responsive and lively.  (This Nissan engine made Ward’s Ten Best Engines list in 2008.)  Forward thrust is satisfyingly strong. Under hard acceleration, the engine and exhaust make all the right sounds.  If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were behind the wheel of a Nissan 370Z sports car.  Quite simply, the EX37’s 325 horsepower/price combination blows away the Audi Q5 2.0T (211 horsepower, $39,900), BMW X3 (241 horsepower, $42,800, 2014), and Mercedes-Benz GLK350 (302 horsepower, $44,900), and its powerful engine makes it more fun to drive than any of this respected Teutonic trio.

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The EX37’s cabin feels small, but intimate rather than claustrophobic.  Interior materials are of suitably high quality and Infiniti’s designers have opted for a curved dashboard with rounded lines, more suggestive of a Henry Moore sculpture than the simpler Bauhaus lines favoured by, say, Mercedes.  The front seats are heated, naturally, but this year are upgraded with rheostat controls, replacing the on-off switches of the previous model.

Rear seat room is tight and the swoopy roofline with large C-pillars impede sight lines the rear, but the EX has a standard equipment blind spot warning system.

The EX37 has several features worthy of special mention.  The first is the “360-degree view” back up camera.   This vehicle has a camera on every side.  Shift into Reverse and you get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding environment.  It’s a brilliant safety feature.  The second is Intelligent Cruise Control.  When the cruise control is activated, the system automatically maintains a safe gap when approaching slower traffic.  Third is the convenient power folding second row.  Lowering or raising the second row, split seatbacks for cargo duty is a doddle, requiring only depressing a button.

The driving dynamics of the Infiniti wagon very nicely balanced between sporty handling and comfortable ride.  Beefy 19-in., ten-spoke wheels and fat rubber provide quick steering response. Suspension tuning is very good.  Cornering is flat and well-controlled, and the springs/shock absorbers are remarkably compliant, giving one of the most comfortable rides in class.

No vehicle is perfect and the EX37 has one obvious feature missing.  At this price point, the lack of a power liftgate is a glaring omission.  Users are forced to sully themselves when they have to open and close the tailgate by hand, a messy nuisance when the back of the car is grime covered.  Other than that, there is little to complain about.

The 2013 Infiniti EX37 is one of the best ‘driver’s’ choices in the premium wagon/CUV class.  Infiniti’s powerful 325 horsepower is a grin-inducing V6 engine that makes this AWD sport wagon one of the hot rods of the segment.  It’s fun to drive, has a luxurious interior, and pricing that makes the Q5, X3 and GLK350 seem overpriced.  Those factors put the 2013 Infiniti EX37 on my short list for Top Ten Drives of 2013.

The Specs

2013 Infiniti EX37

Type of vehicle:  5-passenger compact AWD luxury wagon

Engine: 3.7-litre V6

Power: 325 horsepower at 7,000 r.p.m; 268 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 r.p.m.

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Brakes: Front ventilated disc brakes, rear disc brakes. ABS with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution (EBD)

Tires: 245/45R19, temporary spare

Price: $39,900

Transport Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): NA (premium fuel)

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