Heating up Miami
From South Beach to Hollywood, the Infiniti EX35 proves a handy family hauler in the Sunshine State
We needed heat, we needed to get away and we needed it now. Drive down to Florida? Many Canadians do it, but there's nothing like a toddler with a weak constitution to dissuade you from a 20-odd hour family drive marathon. Unless it's a mischievous seven-year-old who finds it hilarious to torment his kid brother in his more restrictive child seat.
And yet the warm sunshine, beaches and the chance to flex the strong Canadian dollar proved too strong a call to resist. So, we broke out the laptop to map out the hot spots available using the miscellaneous reward points and frequent flier miles we could scrounge together. It was the traveler's equivalent of reaching under the couch for loose change. Even as a frequent flier (me) and frequent shopper (certainly not me), the points didn't cover all flights for a family of four, but it sure helped - or, at least, helped convince us to take the plunge. With that, our flights and hotel were booked. Destination: Miami, right on the beach. Who ever said parenthood means the end of spontaneity?
The call of the beach
Upon arriving at the Trump International Beach Resort, the hotel was nice enough to offer us a room upgrade to a newly renovated suite. With floor-to-ceiling windows looking out dramatically over the Atlantic Ocean, miles of carefully groomed beaches called us from below.
The breezy balcony with clear glass walls made it easy to enjoy quiet morning breakfasts set against spectacular sunrises. As we soon came to discover, those windows also provided a vantage to scope out the ultimate spot on the beach or a strategic early morning towel drop area near one of the hotel pools.
The hotel offered shuttles to nearby high-end shopping and South Beach, the former on my wife's wish list, the latter on mine. But our plans also called for a visit to Miami's Jungle Island, a Miami Heat basketball game and a jaunt to the famous beachside Broadwalk in America's lesser known Hollywood, about halfway between Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale. It was clear that we needed our own vehicle.
Luxury comes in small packages
Enter the 2011 Infiniti EX35, a luxurious compact crossover that seemed to fit in well in this comfortably upscale part of South Florida. The smallest SUV from the Japanese brand may look like it's a tonier version of the Nissan Rogue, but in fact the two are not mechanically related at all. The Nissan is shorter in wheelbase and overall length, offers front or all wheel-drive, and its four-cylinder engine offers nominal motivation that gets to the wheels courtesy of a continuously variable transmission.
The Infiniti EX35 shares more of its underbody DNA with the G37 sedan, including a standard 3.5-litre V6 that puts out an impressive 297 hp through a seven-speed automatic. The EX35 is based on a native rear-wheel drive platform, a stretched version of the one also used in the 370Z sports car. The EX35 comes standard with all-wheel drive in Canada, unlike our U.S. neighbours who have the rear-wheel option.
Too much sun and not enough sunscreen
Most of the Miami Beach waterfront is public, meaning you don't have to be a guest of the ritzy hotels in the area to set up camp nearby. Especially entertaining for our boys was the sand bank that occasionally appeared about 50 metres out at low tide, offering the kids the chance to play on their own mini island.
Alas, too much sun and not enough sunscreen for Mom and Dad meant the next day was reserved for beach-free exploration. We drove down the entire length of Miami Beach in the EX35, taking in the sights along the Atlantic-hugging A1A scenic highway. Once we reached South Beach, Ocean Drive took us into an art deco landscape with light-hued building motifs as well as a smattering of classic Detroit iron. It's here where you will find the former Versace mansion, now a luxury hotel. Budget-conscious tourists will want to look out for menus void of drink prices. Ask before ordering - one night we ended up with a surprise $109 bill for three drinks.