x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Infiniti EX35

SUVs are out and car-like crossovers are in vogue, the Infiniti EX35 is a worthy contender to top this niche-market.

The EX35 is a lovely looking beast but it handles more like a saloon car than an SUV.
The EX35 is a lovely looking beast but it handles more like a saloon car than an SUV.

Fashion can be very important in our lives: what colour is in? Flats or heels? Double or single breasted? It's all about how you are viewed in society. I don't know about you, but whenever I work out what colour is this year's "new black" and fill my wardrobe with it, somebody comes along and changes it. Cars are no exception to this rule. Ten years ago, the ultimate fashion item was the sports-utility vehicle; it drank fuel like a conventional 4x4 but had far more street credibility and was just the thing to be seen taking the darlings to school in. Then the trend changed to smaller versions of the SUV - the more car-like crossover.

Now there is the Infiniti EX35. For those who aren't familiar with the Infiniti brand, it's pretty much to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota - it speaks better, has more leather in it and gets invited to the best parties. So when the Nissan Qashqai appeared, it was a pretty safe bet we would soon be seeing the more up-market version on our shores. The EX35 is fairly hard to put into a practical box. It's a lovely looking little beast, but it's not an off-roader. In fact, it struggles with speed bumps and handles like a car. Inside, there is room a plenty for four adults and a large boot that is easily accessible.

The 3.5L engine teamed with the five-speed automatic box means that the EX is a powerful and refined car to drive. Discount the higher driving position and you could well be in a regular saloon. As you would expect, the interior has its fair share of leather, and the seats are super comfy and supportive. I managed to add some 650km to the EX during the 48 hours I spent with it - and believe me, I wouldn't have done that if I didn't feel comfortable.

However I have to have one very big gripe about the interior - buttons. They seem to be everywhere, with microscopic words or diagrams above which should tell you what they do. These are simply not practical when you are driving. I counted 46 on the centre console and 10 on the steering wheel. You shouldn't have a problem if you are a qualified pilot, but for we average mortals, there are far too many -it would be better to have a touch screen.

While I am on the subject of interior clutter, you will never be late with the Infiniti - there is a clock on the digital display along with a curious looking analogue clock about three inches lower. However, the analogue clock looks as if it may have been stolen from my grandfather's sitting room and it looks out of place. On the plus side, the screen does house an excellent rear-view camera, which has a neat added extra of a view of the offside rear tyre. What a clever and useful gadget for parking.

When you switch off the engine, the Infiniti helpfully moves your seat back, useful if you want to swing your large handbag or briefcase across from the passenger seat. However, when you return to the car the seat won't move forward again until you start the engine. Annoyingly, to do this you need to have your foot on the brake, which by now was well out of reach of my right foot. And then there is the issue of quality. If you buy a luxury car, you expect it to last. I am aware that people treat demos badly, but I would be interested to hear from owners how their EX is as it approaches its first service.

The model I tested had less than 8,500km on the clock, but the front cream leather seats were badly stained and the electric switch for the back rest on the driver's seat was missing, plus there was a large piece of plastic trim swishing around in the back, which I later discovered had come from a vent on the rear seat. Also, if the air conditioning was set to anything below 18°C it blew hot air at me.

The on-board computer seemed to lack the vital calibration it needs to actually make it accurate. While cruising, it told me I had 70km of fuel remaining and then, just a few kilometres up the road, the fuel warning light came on, which was more than a little infuriating. Granted, none of these problems are life-threatening, but it's clear when you talk with consumers, the biggest draw to a marque and what keeps them as repeat customers is that the vehicle provides them with trouble- and stress-free motoring. I remind you again this Infiniti had not even covered enough kilometres to require its first service. How would you feel if you had parted with nearly Dh150,000 for this vehicle?

I know that the Infiniti fits nicely into this new niche in the market and I am sure all the über fashionable people will be rushing out to buy one. My advice? Just check which colour is this season's "new black" before ordering. motoring@thenational.ae