So many brands are filling in the gaps these days to have the right vehicle for every niche, segment and customer. For 2013, the Infiniti JX35 jumps right into the fray to fill the gap between entry-level and high-end for families across the country.
Boasting an innovative interior, toned-down styling and the brand's first front-drive platform in quite a while, the JX35 might be just what Infiniti needed.
Is it a home run or an in-the-park double? Read on.
What is it?
Just when you thought Infiniti’s SUV shelves were totally stocked, the brand reveals a new seven-passenger wagon. The JX35 is a totally new, Nissan Pathfinder-based unibody SUV joining three others in the lineup, sitting atop the EX and FX, but just below the top of the line QX SUV. With the QX flagship’s bulk, stretching 12-inches longer than our JX, it has become an unwieldy choice amongst the urban, and suburban dwellers looking for such. In this case, the JX35 becomes the anti-QX.
The JX35 is singularly powered, utilizing the company's well-respected 3.5-liter V6 engine. Striking a balance between power and economy, the engine and Infiniti’s first-ever continuously variable transmission (CVT) manage to motivate the JX even when fully laden. Infiniti’s parent company has long been on the cutting edge of CVT technology, and their expertise is witnessed here with a gearbox that is suitable for most situations and even manages to save a gallon or two of fuel. The gearbox offered faux cogs that could be shifted in a manual fashion by moving the shift lever into a shift gate, for some slap-stick fun. Unfortunately, our tester was not equipped with paddle shift levers.
The suspension offers reliable, but not groundbreaking, technology with its MacPherson strut front end and a multi-link rear. Steering is enhanced by the use of a hydraulic-electric unit with vehicle speed-sensitive controls for ease at slow speeds and more road feel at higher velocities.
An extra $1,400 nets all-wheel-drive, but our flatlander front-drive tester should serve sun belt buyers just fine. Our JX35 came further loaded with the Technology, Theatre, Deluxe Touring and Premium Packages, which offered features and refinements from those various disciplines.
Innovations included Backup Collision Intervention, which automatically apply braking if movement or objects are detected. Blind spot intervention returns as well, with the Around View Monitor for a bird’s eye view of objects and people in the immediate vicinity of the JX.
Other safeties include Infiniti’s now familiar Lane Departure Warning system and Lane Departure Prevention, which effectively use outside/opposite braking to pull you back in, should you find yourself drifting left or right.
On the inside, the Infiniti Connection telematics makes its debut, offering 24-hour automatic crash notification, emergency call, enhanced roadside assistance, stolen vehicle reporting and remote lock and unlock features. And Big Brother lives! Infiniti Drive Zone and Speed Alert can send text, email or phone messages that help to monitor young driver behavior including driving beyond a specified perimeter or in excess of a predetermined speed. This and the enhanced Infiniti Connection Plus service, which will be added to other models in the future, are by subscription, and are complimentary for the first year of ownership.
Finally, as a convenience, Infiniti is including its Personal Assistant. The concierge-like service can make restaurant and hotel reservations, as well as fill special requests. Using an owner’s smartphone for cellular connection, it bookends nicely with the Infiniti Connection and its combination of connectivity options.
What’s it up against?
Somewhat late to the dance, the JX comes to a segment that is mature with a full complement of seasoned competitors. Those going head-to-head include the soon-to-be-revised Acura MDX, the refreshed Buick Enclave, the Lexus GX 470 and the Lincoln MKT. Meanwhile, from a European standpoint, the JX even competes a bit with the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GL.
There really is something for every buyer in this particular marketplace. The choice will ultimately come down to your comfort level, and that of your checkbook.
How does it look?
Infiniti’s familial resemblancepenned under the supervision of the brand’s head designer, Shiro Nakamura, continues with the JX35. While other brands have moved on to spindles and honeycombs, the chrome double-arch grille and double-wave hood lend immediate proof to the origins of this vehicle.
With the nature of most SUVs a two-box design, there is little to set vehicles apart. Infiniti’s use of a crescent-cut D-pillar with chrome surrounds lends just the right amount of bling to an otherwise stately conveyance. A high-waisted crease and chromed rocker strips help to break up the visual mass of the side panels.
A sunshade/spoiler-equipped rear gate offered ease of entry to the rear cargo area. Our JX came equipped with a standard front moonroof, while the Deluxe Touring package added a second and third-row moonroof with power sunshade,for an additional sense of airiness in the “way-back.”
And on the inside?
If you have seen and liked the dashboard in the Infiniti M, you will love the dash in the JX. Virtually identical to the sedan, it uses most of the same fitments from that car, but in some cases with harder plastics. The in-dash 8-inch monitor and dashboard controls should be familiar to previous fans, including the command dial in the center of the dash. It allows control of the navigation and audio functions as well as the rear and side view cameras that give complete 360-degree looks around the car.
The seats were just the things for roadtripping across town or across country. Resplendent in cocoa brown leather, they offered heating and cooling in the front seating area and heated outboard seats in the second row.
A Bose Cabin Surround audio system took the place of a standard Bose Premium sound system. Part of the Deluxe Touring package, it was the perfect complement to the Theater package with dual 7-inch monitors tucked behind the headrests of the front seats. The Theater set includes a pair of “mother's little helpers” in the form of wireless headphones to keep little ears occupied in the middle-row seats.
A new innovative way of getting into the third row is now standard, operating even with a child seat attached. Tracking forward far enough for most children to get into the way-back is now a breeze. The second row seats slide back and forth up to five inches for more legroom (at the expense of the rear seats), but both second and third rows recline as well.
With the third row seats in the upright and locked position, the JX offers up to 15.8-cubic feet of cargo space. Folding down the second and third row yields an impressive 76-cubic feet of cargo capacity.
But does it go?
The JX35 does manage to motivate itself pretty quickly, thanks to the 3.5-liter V6 making 265 ponies at 6,400 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Using a less-expensive sequential multi-point fuel injection system, we can only imagine the additional power it could realize as a directly-injected mill. A downside is the 3.5 requires premium fuel. Power is not sluggish by any stretch, but may require a period of familiarity for those not used to operating Nissan's CVT. A better unit simply does not exist.
Four modes of driving are available with the Infiniti drive selector: Standard, ECO, Snow and Sport. Standard offered rather conservative tuning and power aspects of the JX, while Sport became our go-to gearing choice. Remapping “shift points” to hold gears longer, it presented a peppier response when squeezing the go pedal. While it’s likely only the most enthusiastic soccer moms will drive it hard in the Sport mode, it is there if needed. While we were tooling around in ECO mode, the electronic nannies were reminding us that we were not being ECO smart, at least as far as our right foot was concerned.
Handling from the MacPherson struts and hydraulic-electric power steering offered slight understeer, which is typical of the breed, while the FWD system helps to guide (pull) us around turns. While not as big, nor as unwieldy as the QX56 (and not encumbered with the large fuel bills), it offered an impressive ride with a quiet cabin from the unibody construction. Baffles underneath helped to settle the vehicle and isolate road noise to a greater extent than we have seen in many other SUVs.
Considering the substantial size of the JX, its acceleration is spritely. It is primarily suited to the soccer-parent republic, as well as the urban dweller, and with 6.5inches of ground clearance, it sits high enough to hop curbs to get to the nearest Starbucks.
The EPA rates the JX at 18/24 mpg with a 21-mpg average, which seemed about right in our testing. Properly equipped, the 4,280 lbs. semi-behemoth is capable of towing up to 3,500 lbs, which makes it a weak hauler for those so inclined.
Why you would buy it:
Because you harbor no safari delusions and you see the JX for what it truly is: A luxury seven-passenger wagon with all the safety and convenience that a modern family could desire.
Why you wouldn't:
It’s Land Rover or nothing for you in your urban jungle.
Leftlane’s bottom line
Infiniti’s newest SUV adds to the lineup with a full suite of features and conveniences that seem to be on everyone’s checklist of what a crossover should be.
On the downside, JX's reasonable base price climbs high when all those whiz-bang options are added and it also makes us think it’s time for the Infiniti brand to thin out the flock of its lesser performing SUVs.
2013 Infiniti JX35 FWD base price, $40,450. As tested, $54,655.
Roof rails, $660; Technology Package, $3,100; Theater Package, $1,700; Deluxe Touring Package, $2,550; Illuminated kickplates, $295; Premium Package, $4,950; Destination, $950.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.