Thumbs Up: Hauls seven passengers in comfort
Thumbs Down: Handling not up to Infiniti’s usual standards, CVT is the only gearbox option
Buy This Car If: Comfort and capacity outweigh your need for speed.
The Infiniti brand earned its stripes by building cars that blended performance and luxury, usually for thousands of dollars less than its German rivals. The Infiniti G37 sedan remains one of our favorite sport sedans, especially when price factors into the equation, and the same thing can be said for Infiniti’s FX crossover. While the styling may not appeal to everyone, the FX delivers a surprisingly entertaining ride, and we’d easily take it over the rival Lexus RX.
Infiniti went to great lengths to promote its latest crossover, the three-row, seven-seat JX, prior to its reveal at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was teased from every conceivable angle, and a video starring the JX and Cirque du Soleil is best described as “just plain weird.” The JX, on the other hand, is arguably more mainstream than any other vehicle in the brand’s current lineup. Sure, it carries over now-familiar Infiniti design themes like the muscular front fenders, but it seems a bit more pared back than its siblings.
In fact, don’t be surprised when others ask you how you like your new Toyota Highlander, since that’s the mainstream model that the new JX most closely resembles, on the outside, anyway. You can point to the pinched Infiniti grill and prominent logo all you want, but only die-hard Infiniti loyalists will know what your driving.
The profile view may be the JX’s edgiest, since the sloping greenhouse and kinked C-pillar combine to break up the traditional box-on-box crossover design. The character line atop the doors adds a bit of style, as does the thick chrome trim strip along the door bottoms. While we generally aren’t fans of heavy chrome, it works well to add a bit of style to the JX’s side view, especially in light of the crossover’s bulk.
The rear of the JX, like the front. is best summed up by the descriptor, “conservative.” Aside from the thick chrome strips at the top and bottom of the license plate and the narrow, contemporary LED taillights, there’s nothing stylistically interesting with the back of the JX. Not that this is a flaw, since we suspect that Infiniti designed the JX to appeal to a broader audience than its FX and EX crossovers.
Climb inside the cabin, however, and those familiar with the Infiniti brand will instantly recognize their surroundings, The shape of the dash, the materials used, the steering wheel and even the Infiniti controller (with redundant HVAC and audio controls) are common throughout Infiniti’s product line, so don’t expect anything groundbreaking from the JX. That’s fine with us, as we prefer Infiniti’s take on contemporary luxury over many of its competitors.
We’re not sure why Infiniti opted to give the JX a 160 mile per hour speedometer or an 8,000 rpm tachometer, other than these gauge faces were already in the product catalog. We like the bright white-on-black information display, which can easily be toggled through with a steering-wheel mounted button.
Front seats are every bit as comfortable as they look, and models equipped with the Deluxe Touring Package (like our Infiniti-supplied tester) get heated and cooled front chairs. Oddly enough, you need to opt for the Premium Package to get a two-way adjustable driver’s lumbar support and a two-position front seat memory.
Second row seats offer up abundant head and leg room and are heated (in the outboard positions) for winter comfort. The Theater Package ensures that second row passengers stay amused, regardless of trip duration, and a rear seat HVAC system lets them set their own microclimate for comfort.
Even the two-passenger third row seat is better than most, although we wouldn’t want to spend the duration of a cross-country trip in the last row. We like Infiniti’s tumbling second row seats, which make third row access much easier than on other three-row crossovers we can name. With the third row seats in place, there’s a decent amount of cargo room; fold these chairs flat, and the cargo area is ample.
Power comes from a version of the tried-and-true Nissan 3.5-liter V-6, mated to a continuously variable transmission. We’re pretty sure this is the first time a CVT has been used in an Infiniti vehicle, and we sincerely hope it’s not the start of a trend. While the average JX shopper won’t object to the use of a CVT, many enthusiasts will, and we can’t help but wonder when CVTs will start finding their way into other Infiniti products. When they hit the G Sedan lineup, we’ll mourn the passing of a truly great sport sedan.
Nonetheless, the combination works well enough in the JX to satisfy the average buyer. Output is a respectable 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, which is good enough to get the plus-sized crossover from 0-60 in around 8.3 seconds. Despite the fuel-saving CVT, fuel economy is merely adequate, likely due to the JX’s sheer size. The EPA says to expect 18 mpg around town and 24 mpg on the highway, and we realized 18.3 mpg in mostly-city driving.
Unlike other Infiniti crossovers, there’s little sport to go with the JX’s utility. While no one will shop the JX for its ability to carve canyons or dazzle on an autocross track, we were startled at how poorly the JX handled. Carry even a bit too much speed into a corner, and copious understeer is the result. In fact, when we first experienced this, we immediately dialed up the tire pressure readout, sure we had an outside front tire losing air. That wasn’t the case, and we guess that the JX’s handling is tuned to account for more than two passengers (and a very conservative driving style).
To be clear, the handling isn’t dangerous, it’s just not sporty in any way, shape, or form, and not at all what we associate with the Infiniti brand. Lift off the gas, and the front-drive JX immediately regains its composure. When pushed hard, we expect that electronic stability control systems would intervene, too, keeping driver and passengers safe. Perhaps the all-wheel-drive version would have presented less push, but we didn’t have the opportunity to sample this variant. If you’re shopping the JX, we encourage you to drive both FWD and AWD versions before making a purchase decision.
While we weren’t fond of the JX’s handling, we had no complaints about its ride comfort, steering feel or braking ability. Granted, we didn’t sample each and every seating position, but we seriously doubt the luxury-car ride would be that much different for rear-seat or third-row passengers. In fact, we suspect the JX’s blend of comfort and capacity is going to lure in a significant number of full-size luxury crossover shoppers, and we think Infiniti was smart in providing a lower-cost, more fuel-efficient alternative to its other seven (or eight) seater, the QX56.
Infiniti provided the 2013 JX35 FWD for our evaluation. Base price on the luxury crossover was $41,400, including a destination charge of $950, and the extensive option list included the $370 Roof Rails, the $290 Roof Rail Crossbars, the $3,100 Technology Package (back-up collision intervention, heated steering wheel, remote start, intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning, blind spot warning and intervention, lane departure warning and intervention, intelligent cruise control), the $1,700 Theater Package (rear DVD system with dual seven-inch monitors), the $2,550 Deluxe Touring Package (20-inch wheels, Bose Cabin Surround audio, advanced climate control, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, second and third row moonroof, maple trim), the $4,950 Premium Package (navigation system with eight-inch touchscreen display, Infiniti Connection, Around View monitor with moving object detection and front and rear sonar, Bluetooth audio streaming, dual occupant seat memory, power adjustable driver lumbar support, enhanced intelligent key) and the $295 Illuminated Kickplates for a total sticker price of $54,655.
For comparison, a similarly equipped (but AWD) Acura MDX with the Advance and Technology Packages would list for $55,700, while a comparable Lincoln MKT (with AWD and the EcoBoost V-6) would sticker for $57,205.