2011 Infiniti EX35 clobbers the 2011 Mercedes GLK350

The Infiniti EX35 is a five-door, five-passenger crossover with athletic tendencies. The sportiness comes from the underlying platform, which also forms the basis of the G37 sedan and coupe, cars that have credibly challenged the sports sedan primacy of the German brands. Mercedes is now in the game, too, with its GLK350 premium compact crossover attempting to pose a challenge to the EX35.

While the EX leans toward the luxurious side of the premium crossover theme, there’s no shortage of sharp reflexes to go with the deluxe outfitting. Everything about the EX feels more special than its $34,550 MSRP; this is a vehicle that looks and feels far more expensive.

With a higher starting MSRP of $35,500, you’d expect the GLK to offer more, but it doesn’t. The value is significantly higher in the EX35. At its starting price level, the EX brings standard XM Satellite Radio, leather seats, Infiniti’s Intelligent Key with pushbutton start, a backup camera and rear parking assist. Infiniti wraps it all with flowing bodywork and comes up with a 3,764-pound curb weight, significantly lighter than Mercedes manages with the 3,979-pound GLK. Leather seats in the GLK350 will run you an extra $1,780 for the Full Leather Seating Package, and some paint colors cost extra, too. Just getting the colors and upholstery you want is a more expensive proposition in the GLK than the EX, and you still don’t have the extras Infiniti throws in as standard equipment.

The Infiniti’s trim curb weight is augmented by more standard horsepower, 297 hp for the EX35 versus the GLK’s 268. The EX’s sprinter’s heart is more efficient, too, earning 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway in rear-wheel drive form. A GLK in RWD configuration achieves 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and, when it comes to traveling long distances, the EX offers a 480-mile highway cruising range while the GLK is busy stopping for gas at 382 miles.

Occupants will find the EX35 more accommodating than the GLK as well with its advantage in front head- and legroom. Infiniti also makes the drive more relaxing by extending its basic warranty to four years/60,000 miles; the GLK’s four-year warranty only covers you for 50,000 miles. The EX carries a 70,000-mile drivetrain warranty, 20,000 miles further than the GLK and two extra years as well.

All-wheel drive is available on both the EX35 and the GLK350, and the value gap begins to widen significantly between the GLK350 4MATIC and the EX35 AWD. The EX35 AWD carries an MSRP of $35,950; selecting 4MATIC all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the GLK350’s $35,500 MSRP. The Infiniti throws in heated seats (another $750 in the Mercedes) when adding its Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, too.

There are a total of four EX35 configurations: EX35; EX35 AWD; EX35 Journey, which carries heated front seats, maple interior trim, a glass moonroof, Bluetooth phone integration and power-adjustable steering column and EX35 Journey AWD. A GLK350 equipped comparably to the $38,150 EX35 Journey AWD rings up a $42,480 price tag, thanks to the 4MATIC, Premium 1 and Full Leather Seating Packages it takes to get there.

Infiniti offers buyers the latest in driver assistance with its Technology Package, which adds Intelligent Cruise Control that’s capable of maintaining a driver-selected following distance, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) that will warn drivers if they start drifting and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) to attempt to nudge the car back into line if there’s no corrective action at the steering wheel. Distance Control Assist (DCA) helps maintain following distance, and Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning does its best to keep you paying attention and delivers full stopping power when you need it most. Blind Spot Warning (BSW) also comes in the Technology Package. It keeps a vigilant eye on the areas where other vehicles can tend to escape notice, keeping Infiniti EX drivers out of the body shop. Mercedes does offer some technology features such as Parktronic and mbrace, but it’s simply not a match for what the EX offers.

The Premium Package bumps the entertainment horsepower with the Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System, which includes a Bose 11-speaker Premium Audio system with a 9.3GB Music Box hard drive and voice recognition. XM NavWeather™ and NavTraffic™ deliver real-time traffic and weather information. The system’s display screen serves the Around View Monitor system, too, which also adds front and rear sonar sensors, and Bluetooth functionality is expanded to include Bluetooth Streaming Audio.

The GLK350’s Multimedia Package is more expensive ($3,000 versus $2,450) and offers a smaller, 6GB hard drive. Infiniti’s unique Around View system is also not duplicated in the GLK, giving the EX35 a distinct safety advantage for less money. Also edging EX35 safety above the GLK is the voice command functionality of the Infiniti, which cannot be had at any cost on the GLK. A harman/kardon Logic7 surround-sound system costs you an extra $810 above the Multimedia Package price in the GLK as well, and Keyless Go, something every EX35 carries standard, is an additional $1,140 in Mercedes land.

While Infiniti makes buying simple with the well-equipped EX35 and easy option packages, Mercedes has a long list of items that can be added for significant cost, just to reach parity with the EX. Ticking every conceivable option box on the EX35 still tallies up under $50,000 while the GLK350 blows right by and lands at nearly $54,000 just to match what Infiniti offers in a fully-loaded EX35. That’s known as value, and it’s the best kind, coming without weight, equipment or performance penalty.

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