Small SUVs save big bucks – and consumers are stepping out of gas-guzzling monster SUVs and into smaller, practical vehicles that cost less and save more at the pumps. Small crossovers are everywhere, but if you’re shopping for one, good luck.
The choices are endless – there’s the Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, and Infiniti EX, to name a few. Narrowing down the selection can be tough.
Start with the basics – safety. A reliable resource is the U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and its list of Top Safety Picks – the best in frontal, side, rollover and rear impact crash tests. Many vehicles receive top marks, but at least it’s a starting point.
The 2013 Infiniti EX37 is one of those vehicles named a Top Safety Pick. For 2013, the Infiniti EX gets a new 3.7-litre V-6, which replaces the previous 3.5-litre V-6. The name also changes to reflect the new engine. It’s now called EX37 instead of EX35.
The 3.7-litre V-6 engine is rated at 325 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is a new seven-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. The powertrain is strong; the power boost immediately noticeable. Handling is responsive and the ride is steady and composed, soaking up bumps and other degradations in the road nicely. Despite its tall, narrow body, it has minimal body lean when cornering. Manoeuvrability is excellent – its small size makes it a cinch to get around crowded city streets. Infiniti’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system also handles well on rain-slicked roads; the vehicle remains secure and firmly planted on the ground.
Outside, the EX37 is sporty looking with powerful arches, a long hood, short front and rear overhangs, and trademark Infiniti touches such as a double-arch grille and large L-shaped headlights with integrated fog lights. A high-mounted rear spoiler, chrome-finished dual exhaust tips, and 19-inch five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, part of a premium package on my tester, provides a muscular, athletic stance to the EX. But the premium package is pricey, costing $4,150. At least you get an around-view monitor, which uses small cameras to display onto a seven-inch colour screen every angle of your vehicle when reversing, a front and rear sonar system that warns when you’re too close to an object, a Bose premium audio system with 11 speakers, two subwoofers and an eight-way passenger seat.
An intelligent key with a push-button ignition lets you unlock the door without fiddling for keys in your purse or pocket. The system does it automatically, provided the key fob is nearby. Inside, the cabin is nicely finished with leather seats, a leather and aluminum shift knob, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for audio, cruise control, and voice commands. The dashboard and centre console are busy with buttons and gauges for every function imaginable. It’s confusing, but you get used to them quickly. White-and-purple illumination on the gauges is easy to read and creates a calming cabin atmosphere.
Heated front seats and an eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way manual lumbar support make it easy to find a comfortable seating position. Outward visibility is good, but rear visibility is hampered by thick rear pillars and a small back window. The three rear seats are also tight – two people would be more comfortable than three. With 527 litres of cargo space, it is not the largest in the segment, but a low load floor makes it easy to place and remove items in the back.
My beef is with the options. There are five optional packages available on the Infiniti EX37: Luxury, Journey, Premium, Navigation and Technology. Add a few pricey packages such as the $3,900 Journey package, which includes a moonroof, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, maple interior accents, and a power tilt and telescopic steering column, or the $2,500 Technology package with a Lane Departure Prevention System (LDP) with Lane Departure Warning System (LDW) and a Blind Spot Warning (BSW) system and the price can add up fast.
LDP, which builds on the LDW system, is designed to alert the driver when your vehicle is crossing the lane unintentionally with a visual display and audible buzzer. If your vehicle drifts outside the white line without using a turn signal, the LDP engages the vehicle dynamic control system to keep you in the correct lane. The BSW warns you when there’s a vehicle in your blind spot. While the technology is innovative and impressive, it’s costly. The price of my tester jumps from a reasonable $39,900 to more than $55,000. However, as long as you keep the options at bay, you’ll drive away with a stylish, small and practical CUV.
2013 Infiniti EX37
Type: Four-door compact CUV
Base Price: $39,900; as tested, $55,695
Engine: 3.7-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 325 hp/267 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.1 city/8.1 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Cadillac SRX, Land Rover LR2, Buick Encore