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Review

First Drive: Infiniti EX30d car review

27/07/12

YOU’D be forgiven for reading this just to find out what the car is, because you don’t see a lot of them. When you start a new automotive brand and go up against the might of BMW, Mercedes and Audi you don’t expect to change the world overnight.

But despite Infiniti’s EX being below a lot of people’s radars, there’s a lot about it that makes it well worthy of a closer look, or to pay a visit to one of Infiniti’s genuinely marvellous showrooms.

The EX is officially mooted as a coupe crossover, and you have to admit it’s as sleek as a Brylcreemed otter. The looks aren’t to everyone’s tastes, particularly those used to more geometric, Germanic styling but there’s a definite litheness and confidence in its proportions. If you’re not sure about it, it’s a grower.

This model has the diesel engine. With 406lb.ft of torque driving the four wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox, it’s perfect for building and maintaining relaxed pace. It’s very good at getting up to speed and staying there without shuffling around the gears, even with four or five people on board.

Infiniti is a sporting luxury brand; or at least that’s the image it strives for. In reality it makes luxury cars, but naturally they end up heavy so we can forget about the EX being the next Lotus Elise. Performance is blunted a little as well, so while judicious application of throttle pedal brings with it storming acceleration to begin with, it starts to runs out of breath at motorway speeds.

Despite the sense that there’s more to be gained there, that’s not the whole story. Remembering the relatively heavy, albeit nicely grumbly V6 engine up front it’s easy to imagine that the EX must struggle through corners. But it doesn’t.

It actually handles surprisingly well, with a nicely taut chassis and suspension that offers a good compromise between ride comfort and body control. The weight of the engine is there, but the chassis has been set up to effectively compensate for it and the EX doesn’t try to push its nose wide in the way that some of its rivals do.

The steering is nice and direct, with a much greater sense of connectedness to the road than any other crossover style car I’ve driven. Half an hour on a twisty road in the EX is far from the worst way to spend your lunch break.

You’d certainly need a few minutes to get used to all the buttons on the centre console. At first glance there seems too many, but they’re almost all logically laid out in sections according to function, although the position of the main control wheel isn’t ideal.

Three trim levels are available, and standard equipment is extraordinary. Even the entry-level £37,150 EX comes with cruise control, electrically-adjustable front seats, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, a powered folding rear seat back rest, ‘self-healing’ Scratch Shield paint, front and rear parking sensors and Bluetooth, among plenty more.

Tested here is the range-topping GT Premium, sitting above the mid-point GT. In it you get the fantastic Around View Monitor (AVM) that gives you an all-round bird’s eye view of your position when parking, complete with a live camera image from the rear-facing reversing camera and all the usual audible and visual warnings, including from additional corner-mounted parking sensors.

Once you get used to the AVM as a completely new way to reverse, you could black out every window and manoeuvre with just as much confidence as if you had eyes on the outside of the car. It’s a superb innovation.

GT Premium also showcases Infiniti’s impressive range of safety equipment. Enough active systems to rival or better the competition’s are all standard on the top-banana EX. The full list of standard gear is amazing if you have a couple of minutes to read it on Infiniti’s UK website.

It’s not perfect, but the only major gripe is with the diesel engine’s gearbox. Even in normal ‘drive’ mode it hangs on to gears for too long. It’s a big, torquey engine and with its current gearing could handle up-shifts at 1,750rpm or less; not the 1,900 to 2,100rpm it typically changes at. As minor as it sounds, it’d make a big difference to its all-round refinement.

Still, the EX has a great deal to offer and the only reason I can think of to explain why it’s not a more common sight is that people just don’t know about it. Well, now you do.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Infiniti EX30d GT Premium, £45,290 on the road.

Engine: 3.0-ltre turbocharged V6 diesel producing 235bhp and 406lb.ft.

Transmission: 7-speed automatic gearbox driving all four wheels.

Performance: Top speed 137mph, 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds.

Fuel economy: 33.2mpg.

CO2 rating: 224g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy2 (worse than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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