With the unveiling of its new EX prototype at the New York International Auto Show this week, Infiniti is set to make a splash not just with the car's razor-sharp, sophisticated features, but with its plan to put the luxury SUV model into production.
Infiniti, a subsidiary of Nissan Motor (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ), says that the EX prototype, while technically still a purpose-built "concept car," is a thinly veiled preview of a 2008-model production vehicle that is due out at the end of this year. The production model will also be called "EX."
The carmaker's current, entry-level SUV is the hot-rod FX, which starts at $38,000. The EX will fit into Infiniti's lineup below the FX. Infiniti spokesman Bill Garlin says that the FX is "more aggressive" and more about "heavy-duty performance," while the EX will be "more luxurious" and "appealing to a wider audience."
Infiniti has designed the EX to take on such small luxury SUVs as BMW's X3, Acura's RDX and Lexus' RX. The market for these vehicles is growing. Last year, X3 sales increased to 31,000 units, while sales of BMW's larger SUV, the X5, declined to 27,000 units. Garlin declined to state Infiniti's projected volume for the EX.
Vehicles like the five-passenger EX are popular because they offer sporty driving dynamics and comparatively economical engines, and also have a bit of the cargo utility that makes larger SUVs desirable. The EX uses a V-6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission.Infiniti said the styling of coupes influenced the EX's look. Like a sports car, the EX features short front and rear overhangs--the distances from the wheel centers to the car's front and rear edges. A wide rear hatch, low floor and 19-inch wheels are other key EX design elements, but the EX's most striking exterior feature is a liquid-crystal, full-length glass roof panel that can change from transparent to translucent with a touch sensor system.