2013 Infiniti JX35 FWDPosted on August 27th, 2012
Seven-passenger crossover with sporty performance
By Nina Russin
Infiniti always puts the driver front and center. The 2013 JX crossover which debuted at last year’s LA auto show offers driving enthusiasts with large families an alternative to full-sized sport-utility vehicles.
The JX has a smaller footprint than the full-sized Infiniti QX, despite similar passenger and cargo capabilities. The test car fit in my garage with room to spare.
As the brand’s new halo, the JX also offers some innovative safety features, including backup collision intervention, which automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to see an obstacle in back of the car.
The “35” designation indicates engine size: in this case, a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 265 horsepower. The standard continuously-variable transmission can function as a traditional step transmission when the driver shifts into “sport” mode.
Base price is $40,450 for the front-wheel drive model, excluding the $950 destination charge. The test car has five option packages, which add the backup collision intervention feature, blind spot monitoring, keyless start, roof rails, rear-seat DVD, 20-inch wheels, Bose surround-sound audio system, heated and cooled front seats, navigation, enhanced internet features and around-view cameras. Final MSRP is $54,070.
Test drive in Phoenix
I spent the past week behind the wheel of the new JX. Although Phoenix weather is typically sunny and dry, seasonal monsoons gave me the chance to test the car on wet roads, as well as some areas where dirt had overflowed from the surrounding hills. My 100-mile drive included suburban surface streets, highways through the east valley and two-lane roads in the Superstition Mountains.
Although I’m generally not a fan of big crossovers, I have to admit that Infiniti engineers gave the JX appealing performance. The front-wheel drive chassis can feel a little nose-heavy in the corners, but in general, the vehicle feels pretty nimble.
The fact that the JX feels more like a sedan than a high-profile crossover is no accident. Infiniti makes it a practice to spend as much time finessing aerodynamics underneath the chassis as over the roof. These enhancements are the result of the automaker’s Formula-1 racing experience, and they are a performance game-changer.
A front underbody spoiler, tunnel rear spoiler and deflectors around the rear tires, not only minimize aerodynamic drag, they also eliminate any tendency for the JX to lift at speed. In layman’s terms, the car feels glued to the ground at times when the laws of physics would otherwise work against the driver.
A V-6 engine might sound on the surface to be inadequate for a 4300-pound chassis, but the 3.5-liter block in the JX handles the job with aplomb. I was very impressed with acceleration off the line and on highway entrance ramps.
The continuously-variable transmission is equally impressive: as crisp and responsive as a traditional gearbox. A rotary dial on the center console adjusts performance for four modes: sport, normal, eco and snow.
The engine develops peak torque, 248 foot-pounds, at 4400 rpm, which is just over half throttle. This gives the JX good performance on hilly roads, such as those in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains I used for the test drive. In sport mode, the CVT mimics a step transmission so the driver can manually select gears. I found that it worked very well to add some power on steep uphill grades and slow the engine down on steep downhill descents, rather than relying on the brakes.
A variable assist rack-and-pinion steering system provides plenty of assist at low speeds while maintaining a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. The turning circle is about 36-1/2 feet, which is pretty good for a car with a 114-inch wheelbase.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of independent struts in front and multi-links in back. Stabilizer bars on both axles minimize roll in the corners. Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes offer plenty of stopping power.
Perimeter camera systems completely change the way it feels to drive a big truck, simply because they eliminate the blind spots which are common to all high-profile vehicles. The LED warning lamps in the A pillars illuminate when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. They also warn the driver about cross traffic to the rear in parking lots. Since the rear glass on the JX is small, I would strongly recommend the technology package which adds both features, despite its considerable cost.
Aerodynamic enhancements also minimize wind noise intrusion to the passenger compartment. Road noise is also minimal, despite the 20-inch rims. Passengers in all three rows should have no problems conversing, or enjoying the audio system.
Seating for seven
Designers did an excellent job of finessing the interior, offering comfortable seating for up to seven passengers, with good access and egress to all three rows. The right-hand second-row seat collapses flat and slides forward in one fluid movement. This creates a large entry path to the back, which is big enough for adults.
Two-position memory enables multiple family members to save driver’s seat positions. I found the driver’s seat very comfortable for my two-hour test drive, with plenty of lower lumbar support. Redundant audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
A large center console bin and glovebox provide concealed storage for first-row occupants. All four doors have map pockets and bottle holders. Video screens for the optional DVD system are in the front seatbacks, so as not to interfere with the optional panoramic sunroof.
Because the JX has no floor tunnel, all three second-row seats have enough hip and legroom for adults. Theater-style seating raises the second and third-row passengers up for a clearer view to the front.
Vents behind the center console and adjacent to the third-row seats circulate air through the back of the cabin. Climate controls behind the center console keep rear passengers comfortable. A 120-volt outlet in the same location enables second-row occupants to plug in games or a computer.
With the third-row seats in place, there’s enough cargo space for a weekend’s worth of luggage or the weekly groceries. Families who plan to take larger gear on road trips should opt for the roof rails ($370), so they can add a carrier up top.
Both second and third-row seats fold flat to create an uninterrupted cargo floor. The JX easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The Infiniti JX comes with front, side and side curtain airbags with rollover sensors. Other standard safety features include four-channel antilock brakes, traction control and tire pressure monitoring. Standard bi-xenon headlamps provide brighter beams of light which are closer to natural daylight than halogen.
Infiniti builds the JX at its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Like: The JX combines appealing performance with interior versatility, with similar passenger and cargo capabilities to larger, heavier vehicles. Innovative safety features such as rear collision intervention should put the JX on the short list for families with small children
Dislike: Small rear glass creates large blind spots in the back corners.
Model: JX35 FWD
Base price: $40,450
As tested: $54,070
Horsepower: 265 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 248 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy*: 18/24 mpg city/highway
Comment: *The manufacturer requires premium unleaded gasoline.
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