When the EX37 arrived at our offices, there were a few bemused looks. The question on each team member’s lips was: in which segment does this vehicle belong? It is slightly higher than a saloon but doesn’t carry an SUV tag. Infiniti calls it a compact performance SUV, which is technically correct because it boasts all-wheel drive, a raised ride height and 235 kW.
The brand, relaunched in South Africa in 2012 (the Q45 was on sale here in ’96), is Nissan’s luxury subsidiary and has managed to create another niche segment: the premium crossover.
From the outside, the EX appears both trendy and classy. And there’s definitely been some styling influence from the big-brother FX, most notably in the sloping coupé-like roofline. Nineteen-inch wheels fitted with low-profile rubber and twin exhaust outlets emphasise the sporty nature, while black trimmings at the bottom fit in with the crossover appeal.
The cabin is finished in plush leather with (optional) maple-wood inserts on the dash and soft-touch plastics everywhere to enhance the premium feeling. The high driver’s seat position (even at the lowest setting) ensures good visibility but does compromise headroom for taller drivers. As with all Infiniti products, buttons on the dash are plentiful but laid out in a neat manner. There are several duplicated controls because many functions can be operated from the steering wheel, dash or central touchscreen.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the 3,7-litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine straight from the 370Z. Lovely as this powertrain is, it is more suited to the sportscar application than a heavy (1 878 kg) family vehicle as the unit lacks low-down torque (peak torque is delivered at only 5 200 r/min). The engine needs to be revved hard before any meaningful progress can be made. This negatively impacts fuel consumption, as can be seen from our fuel-route test in which we managed only 12,2 litres/100 km. When the EX’s neck is wrung, it will deliver a zero to 100 km/h time of 7,08 seconds.
Handling-wise, the vehicle acquaints itself fairly well on long sweeping bends, although the raised ride height and comfortable suspension setup result in a fair amount of body roll.
In tighter corners, the weight and all-wheel drive works against the EX when understeer sets in as you near the adhesion limit of the tyres. Off-road ability should be limited only to the odd dirt road when the option of tar is not available.
The boot is small for an SUV (224 dm3) and would struggle to cope with all the paraphernalia of a young family. At least the 60:40-split second row provides the option to increase carrying ability to a more generous 994 dm3 when completely stowed.
Where the Infiniti beats the onslaught of the German contenders, most notably the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, is in standard specification. Most equipment an owner can wish for on a luxury vehicle come as standard. The GT premium spec fitted to our test car adds a glass sunroof, polished aluminium roof rails and a host of extra safety features, including blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning (including prevention), adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning. The latter system will apply the brakes autonomously to avoid a possible collision.
The EX37 is caught in a catch-22 situation; it needs to be pricey as Infiniti targets the premium segment, but that also aligns it with some pretty strong German opposition.
At about the same price of the EX37, you could opt for a range-topping Q5 or X3. Where does this leave the EX37? Only the true individualist will opt for such a niche product from a relatively unknown manufacturer. The fact that only one EX model sold locally in July 2013 (Naamsa figures) proves the point.