2013 Infiniti JX35 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Totally new luxury crossover SUV seats seven.
The 2013 Infiniti JX is a totally new mid-luxury crossover sport-utility with three-row seating. The JX is larger than the five-seat Infiniti FX but smaller than the eight-seat Infiniti QX. The new Infiniti JX35 is priced much lower than the QX56 yet it has the capacity to accommodate up to seven people.
With a base price of just over $40,000, seats for seven, and a broad array of luxury features, the Infiniti JX35 crossover strikes a nice balance between practicality and a self-indulgence for families of five or more.
The Infiniti JX35 is powered by Nissan's familiar 3.5-liter V6, rated at 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. That's a relatively modest output. The Acura MDX comes with a 3.7-liter V6 rated at 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.
The JX35 offers superior fuel economy, however, achieving an EPA-rated 18/24 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive, 18/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. The Acura MDX rates 16/21 mpg and comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Offered in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, the JX35 rides a stretched edition of Nissan's revised D platform, which will also support the next generation of Nissan's five-seat Murano crossover SUV, the seven-seat Pathfinder, and the redesigned Altima sedan. Although there are at least 13 crossover SUVs with three-row seating that fall into the mid-luxury category, the top player in the class is Acura's MDX, and that was Infiniti's development target.
Starting with a clean computer design screen and the MDX as a reference point, the Infiniti JX emerged with generally larger dimensions than its Acura rival. Width (77.2 inches) and height (67.8) dimensions are slightly smaller than those on the MDX, but at 196.4 inches the new Infiniti is 4.8 inches longer than the MDX, and on a distinctly longer wheelbase: 114.2 inches, versus 108.3.
The combination of long wheelbase and greater length allows Infiniti to claim slightly bigger cargo and/or passenger volume versus the MDX. And a long wheelbase is always a good starting point for creamy ride quality.
Styling may or may not be perceived as a JX strong suit. The trend in crossover SUV design is to make a big-box vehicle look like something other than a big box, without excessive compromise of big-box interior volume. To this end, the design team gave the Infiniti JX a laid back windshield, a curving roofline, a forward-canted rear hatch, and a nifty little zigzag in the rearmost roof pillar. The prominent nose is consistent with Infiniti's current design language, and the big grille is flanked by High Intensity Discharge xenon headlights, with a pair of foglights set down below.
While it may be a little difficult to perceive that big bull nose as pretty, it's hard to ignore, and hard to mistake for anything else.
In the $40,000 realm you expect a goodly list of standard luxury features, and the JX gets good marks on this scorecard. Some highlights: standard power glass moonroof, power rear liftgate, heated power front seats, leather upholstery, four 12-volt power outlets, a very good six-speaker audio system with USB connection for iPod and other devices, a power tilt-telescope steering column, spiffy electroluminescent instruments, a seven-inch color info screen, and three-zone auto climate control.
The V6 is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), a first for the Infiniti division. Like CVTs employed in Nissan passenger cars, the JX version has artificial steps programmed into its control chip if the driver elects to operate in manual mode.
The 2013 Infiniti JX comes with a choice of front-wheel drive ($40,450) or all-wheel drive ($41,550). (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include $950 destination charge and may change at any time without notice.) All 2013 JX models come with the 3.5-liter V6 and CTV.
Options include the Premium Package ($4,950) with navigation system, Infiniti Connection service, around view camera monitor system with moving object detection, 13-speaker Bose premium audio, driver's seat occupant memory, enhanced intelligent key fob, maple wood interior trim. A Driver Assistance Package ($2,220) with Backup Collision Intervention, adaptive cruise control, brake assist, forward collision warning, blind spot warning, distance control assist, active trace control, a heated steering wheel, remote engine starting, and Eco Pedal. The Technology Package ($3,100) includes lane departure warning and intervention, blind spot intervention, automatic pre-crash front seatbelt tensioners, heated steering wheel, remote engine start, plus all the Driver Assistance Package features. The Deluxe Touring Package ($2,550) includes 15-speaker Bose Surround Sound audio, 20-inch wheels, second and third-row moonroof, power rear sunshade, advanced climate control system, climate controlled front seats, heated second-row seats. The Theater Package ($1,700) comes with dual seven-inch color front seatback monitors, two wireless headphones, wireless remote control, auxiliary audio and video input jacks, a 120-volt power outlet, and two headphone jacks with individual volume control. Other options include roof rails ($370), a Tow Package ($630), polished 20-inch forged wheels ($1,600), and a maple accents package (no charge). Port-installed accessories include a dual-DVD entertainment system ($1,850) and crossbars for the roof rails.
Safety features include a comprehensive array of airbags, including roof-mounted side curtain airbags activated by a rollover sensor. Optional safety features include blind spot warning, blind spot intervention, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, brake assist with frontal collision warning, and, perhaps the most compelling, back up collision intervention.
In addition to preserving an Infiniti family look, the design team managed to imbue the Infiniti JX with respectable aerodynamic properties. Its coefficient of drag is 0.34, excellent by SUV standards and a plus in terms of fuel economy.
A slippery exterior is also a plus in the area of noise reduction, and here too the JX acquits itself very well. The interior is exceptionally quiet at freeway speeds, the better to either converse at living room decibel levels.
Inside, the Infiniti JX is distinguished by high quality materials, soft touch surfaces, touch-sceen secondary controls mitigated by some conventional buttons, and electroluminescent instruments that are simultaneously easy to read and a treat to the eye.
Its spacious interior and accessibility to the second and third-row seating are strong suits. The middle bench adjusts fore and aft as much as 5.5 inches, and its seatbacks flop forward to make access to the rearmost row easy, rather than the graceless struggle that's required in so many seven- and eight-seaters.
The front seatbacks can house a pair of DVD screens, which come with the Theater Package. The package includes wireless headphones, wireless remote control, auxiliary audio and video input jacks, a 120-volt power outlet, and two headphone jacks with individual volume control. This sort of package, ideal for peace-keeping on long trips, has become fairly common in family haulers, but an Infiniti distinction is that the two DVD screens can run two different movies.
Cargo volume is another strong suit. The Infiniti JX has a cargo volume edge versus the Acura MDX, with almost 16 cubic feet behind the third row, as much as 47 cubic feet with the third row folded down and the second row adjusted all the way forward, and just over 76 cubic feet total. Minivans offer more, but of course they're minivans, hopelessly low on the cool ride meter.
Infiniti has been a leader in so-called driver assist features aimed at compensating for inattention on the part of the driver and unexpected antics on the part of other drivers. Backup Collision Intervention is the latest, and possibly the most welcome of these innovations. The system uses radar in the rear quarters, plus rear bumper sonar parking sensors, to detect objects behind the vehicle that may be out of the driver's sightlines, and, just as important, cross traffic that may not yet be in view. If either of these situations exist when the driver begins backing up the system first flashes a warning on the info screen, then an audible warning, and if the driver still fails to react applies the brakes.
Backup Collision Intervention is included in the Driver Assistance Package that also includes adaptive cruise control, brake assist, forward collision warning, blind spot warning, distance control assist, active trace control, a heated steering wheel, remote engine starting, and the irritating Nissan/Infiniti Eco Pedal. Other guardian features, including lane departure warning and intervention, blind spot intervention, and automatic pre-crash front seatbelt tensioners, are part of the more comprehensive Technology Package, which includes all the Driver Assistance Package features.
Many owners have been irritated at one time or another with some or even most of these safety features, and Infiniti has responded by making them selectively defeatable, rather than an off-on setup for the entire system as was previously the case.
Infiniti Personal Assistant is an intriguing new electronic element and it won't try to help with your driving. Free for the first year of ownership, it's essentially a concierge service that will take care of all sorts of personal errands, from hotel bookings to your calendar to dates.
Another is the Infiniti Connection (part of the $4950 Premium bag of telematics), which includes Google Calendar integration and a program that monitors where the JX goes when the kids are using it and notifies parental units via smart phone or PC when the vehicle exceeds pre-set speed limits or ventures beyond a pre-set distance from home.
On the road the Infiniti JX is quiet, mannerly, competent, and exactly as exciting to drive as your living room sofa. The 3.5-liter V6 provides fairly lively acceleration in the Murano, but in this heavier vehicle (by some 350 pounds) forward progress is more deliberate. Expect 60 mph to come up in about 7.5 seconds, and passing acceleration to be unhurried. This may not be particularly important to someone in the market for an upscale family wagon. The JX delivers adequate acceleration, and adequate will probably fill the bill.
Fuel economy is good by the standards of a two-ton SUV designed to carry a small tribe. EPA ratings are 18/24 mpg City/Highway for the front-wheel drive version.
Ride quality is nice and cushy. Quick handling maneuvers won't be particularly quick, however. Hard cornering will provoke resolute understeer and body roll (lean) will be abundant.
Steering feel could also be better. The electro-hydraulic power steering is as devoid of feel as a missing limb. There's zero tactile information when the steering wheel is near center, and aside from a little more effort when vehicle speed increases, there's none when the driver turns the wheel, either.
The continuously variable transmission is another soft point. As noted, Infiniti has programmed in some artificial shift points, to simulate a 6-speed automatic for drivers, who usually prefer the feeling of a conventional self-shifter. This is accessible by clicking the shift lever into sport mode. The resultant shifts are a little soft, but tangible enough to satisfy traditionalists. In standard drive mode the CVT keeps up with the engine in unhurried situations, but sudden power demands still produce the slipping-clutch sensation that's been a drawback for this type of transmission since its invention. Nissan has done a better job with CVTs than other carmakers, and there are definite fuel economy advantages. But it's still not a device that scores well on the fun-to-drive meter.
While the Infiniti JX measures up well versus its Acura MDX target in many areas, in terms of being fun to drive the JX trails the MDX by three car lengths, two football fields, and a lap of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Infiniti JX35 rolls into the marketplace as one of the more attractive offerings in its class. While its dynamic persona is pure vanilla, it's handsomely appointed, smooth, quiet, and roomy, with versatile interior adjustability to accommodate passengers and/or cargo in comfort. Standard equipment is comprehensive, optional goodies tempting, and optional safety features are innovative, particularly the new backup intervention system. Pricing is competitive by the standards of this class.
Tony Swan filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drives of Infiniti JX models in South Carolina and Michigan.
Infiniti JX35 FWD ($40,450); JX35 AWD ($41,550).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($4950) with navigation system, Infiniti Connection service, around view camera monitor system with moving object detection, 13-speaker Bose premium audio, driver's seat occupant memory, enhanced intelligent key fob, maple wood interior trim; Technology Package ($3100) includes Driver Assistance Package, backup collision intervention, adaptive cruise control, brake assist with forward collision warning, blind spot warning, distance control assist, active trace control, eco pedal, heated steering wheel, remote engine start, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blind spot intervention, frontal crash pre-tensioning front seatbelts; Deluxe Touring Package ($2550) includes 15-speaker Bose Surround Sound audio, 20-inch wheels, second and third-row moonroof, power rear sunshade, advanced climate control system, climate controlled front seats, heated second row seats; Theater Package ($1700) includes dual seven-inch color front seatback monitors, two wireless headphones, wireless remote control, auxiliary audio/video input jacks, 120-volt power outlet, two rear headphone jacks with individual volume controls; polished forged 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels ($1600); roof rails ($370).
Infiniti JX35 AWD ($41,550).
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