1 Dec 2012

Driven - Infiniti EX30d GT Premium

Speedmonkey reviews the Infiniti EX30d

When you first start the Infiniti EX30d, via a large Start/Stop button to the left of the steering wheel, the engine fires into life, then - nothing.  It's almost silent at tickover.  Diesels can be silenced to virtually nothing (they don't require exhaust back-pressure to function efficiently, unlike petrol engines) and Infiniti's Japanese engineers don't like engine noise - especially diesel engine noise.

This can cause problems because the car can be driven with the key in your pocket.  So you pop into the local shop, for example, and forget the engine's running.  Another example would be that you finish your long test drive and hand the keys to the Infiniti PR man and walk off, forgetting the engine's still running.  I didn't do the former, I did do the latter.

In a way this is a good thing.  If you actually own an Infiniti EX30d you'd soon get used to it and turn the engine off as a matter of course.  If, like me, you hate the sound of a diesel engine then you don't have to listen to it.

But despite the fact the EX30d is powered by a diesel, which I generally despise, it is an extremely good engine.  It's a turbocharged 3 litre V6 with 235bhp and 406lb/ft of torque (loads) and does 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds.  Fuel consumption is 33mpg combined.
Infiniti EX30d GT Premium

And it feels good to drive.  Nice and responsive, plenty of oomph.  The gearbox is good too.  It's a 7 speed semi-auto that just gets on with it's job.  You can play with using it as a manual but there's no point.  It's one of the best automatic gearboxes I've tried.  The only exception is a small delay when driving away.  You only notice this when playing the traffic light game of beat thy neighbour.  But if your neighbour gets a slight head start the torque means you soon catch them up.

At this juncture it's worth pointing out that I'd much prefer a manual but you can't buy the EX with a manual gearbox. Ho hum.

The look and shape of the car is down to individual preference.  It's neither fantastically attractive nor a hideous blobfish (see the Ford Ecosport for details).  Personally I love shape of the back end, but am rather ambivalent about the front.  At least it doesn't have the wavy bonnet of other Infinitis.  It's certainly not bland.  It has lines, shape, flair, curves.  And the quality of construction is apparent.  Shut lines are tight, doors clunk.  It feels solid.  Infiniti laser scan every single car that leaves the factory to ensure shut lines are within prescribed limits.  This shows.

The interior is typical Japanese and typical Infiniti.  A mixture of high and low quality materials that generally come together well to create a high-end ambience.  In the EX the higher quality outweighs the lower quality but there are still some annoying plastics that are quite obviously thin and cheap.  The steering wheel highlights this.  The wheel itself is trimmed in decent grade leather and feels good between the fingers.  However, tap the plastic central part of the wheel with your fingernail and it's as if Infiniti spent most of the budget on the leather and had to make savings on the plastic trim.

Notwithstanding that the interior works well.  The buttons and knobs are laid out as they should be, although it took me an age to find the wing mirror adjuster (its down below the steering wheel).

There is plenty of space for 4 and just enough for 5 - the back seat is a particularly fine place to be.  The seats are all comfortable and adjust each and every way imaginable, with one notable exception.  Maybe the Japanese don't suffer from lower back pain but the lumbar support was dreadful.  It's there, just not nearly enough.  The upper portion of the drivers seat is firm but the lower part is soft.  My lower back was in agony after an hour or so driving the EX.

On the road and the EX drives like a car, not an SUV.  It's styled as an SUV - they actually call it a coupe crossover.  I don't really care - I'm not fussed about segments.  It's spacious, it goes quickly and it handles very well.  Don't forget that Infiniti is essentially Nissan's posh big brother and Nissan make the GT-R.  They know how to make a great handling car.  In fact the underlying theme across all Infinitis is that they have great chassis' and suspension.

The ride is excellent.  The steering is quite light but reasonably involving for something with so much electronic trickery.  There is almost no perceptible body roll.  The brakes are impressive and give good feedback - although when stationary the pedal feels quite spongy which is quite odd.

It's on the motorway you get to play with the electronics.  Lane Departure Prevention, Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range, Intelligent Brake Assist, and Forward Collision Warning, blah blah blah.

The buttons for all these assists are simply laid out and the systems themselves work perfectly.  If a vehicle pulls out in front of you then slams on the brakes, the EX will do the same.  You can set how far back you want to be and the EX will cruise at the speed you want and adjust the speed according to the vehicle in front.   You won't see many Infinitis involved in motorway shunts because the system is so simple and intuitive the car itself will stop any rear end shunts from happening.

What's good:

Chassis, ride, handling, driver assists, engine, gearbox, (most of) interior.

What's bad:

Lumbar support, dodgy plastics.
Infiniti EX30d GT Premium

The Infiniti EX 30d GT Premium I drove costs £41,080, almost £5k more than the base EX30d but if you're going to spend a lot of time on the motorway the extra investment is worth it for the driver assists alone - never mind the premium sound system.

The interior colour of the one I tested was a shade too beige for me but the bodywork looked good in black.  Infiniti is developing it's brand and they still have a way to go to compete on an equal footing with BMW, Audi and the rest in terms of brand awareness and image.  The Red Bull F1 team title sponsorship should go someway to alleviating this.

I would recommend the EX30d to anyone considering a sporty car.  It's hatchback boot is a bonus over a saloon without suffering the potential image problems of estate cars.  The EX is the most sensible and best car in the Infiniti line-up.  It just gets on with the job without pretensions. The average age of an EX buyer is 51 but a relative youngster wouldn't feel out of place at the wheel.

The only real let down for me was the lumbar support.  I couldn't undertake a long journey in an EX without the need for handfuls of aspirin to alleviate the pain.  Providing better lower back support would be a cheap fix for Infiniti - and it's something I recommend they do.