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2008 Infiniti EX35 Luxury Compact Crossover SUV

What was tested? 2008 Infiniti EX35 RWD Journey ($34,850).

Options: Premium package ($2,150), luxe style package ($1,250), navigation package ($2,150).

Price as tested (including $815 delivery charge): $41,215.

This vehicle is a mystery.

Infiniti's new mini SUV, the EX35, is one of the best performing SUVs on the road. Its handling is so precise, its performance on the limit so balanced, that you'd swear you were driving a great sports sedan and not a whale-butt SUV.

On the other hand, this is hardly an SUV at all.

The EX35 looks like one of those vehicles you buy when you just can't drive a minivan, but it's actually based on the awesome G37 sports coupe. That means it has absolutely stunning performance, enough that I'd rather drive this thing than BMW's oft-praised baby ute, the X3.

At the same time, that sports-coupe performance has the unfortunate side effect of sports-coupe impracticality in some ways.

The EX35's back seat, for example, is designed for leprechauns, and its cargo area isn't much better. You'd think such a small vehicle would get great gas mileage, but no. It makes Exxon executives grin with 24 mpg on the highway and 17 in town. It's also pricey for its small size, starting at $31,300 and easily reaching $40,000 as you add goodies.

And that's where the mystery begins.

Most people who are looking at small SUVs would buy them for several reasons, so let's just run down the list.

Is the EX35 cheap? No.

Does it get great gas mileage? No.

Is it as practical as a real SUV? No.

Does it have more room than a mid-size car? No.

That leaves a fairly small customer base who can appreciate the EX35 for what sets it apart: technology and performance.

This vehicle is a showplace for the latest in automotive gadgetry, and what a show it is. There's an available hard drive for storing all your music, a CompactFlash card reader for playing your MP3s, four video cameras that give you a "top down" view of the car when parking, a Bluetooth connection for your phone, and even a navigation system that sees traffic jams in real time and automatically re-routes you to avoid them.

And, as I mentioned before, there's the performance.

Aside from its angelic suspension, a 297-horsepower V6 engine always keeps things interesting. Yes, it gets unimpressive gas mileage for such a small SUV, but it produces extremely impressive acceleration. SUVs simply aren't supposed to go this fast.

Styling is also a plus on this car. It looks seductive and slinky, with a sexy nose and sloping coupe-like rear. It looks like a normal SUV in pictures, but in person -- thanks to its small size -- it's much more intoxicating. It's almost Italian.

I think the EX35 is the latest and greatest in mini SUVs, if only for a year or two, but is that enough for people to flock to it? Probably not if they think like my dad, who said "power windows are just another thing to go wrong." He'd probably have a fit over hard drives, navigation screens and four video cameras in a dadgum car.

But when you combine everything together -- the latest tech, the trendiest style, the best performance -- into one compact package, how can anyone ignore it?

Pros: It has amazing performance for an SUV and offers the latest in technology. It's techie meth.

Cons: It's small, expensive and doesn't get good gas mileage.

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 4
Handling: 9
Ride: 9
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 8