2013 Infiniti JX Rocky Mountain Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Infiniti JX35


By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
he Auto Channel

Infiniti had something of a gap in their lineup when it came to SUV’s.

There are the EX and FX – the EX essentially taking on the role of the G37’s wagon complement, and the FX37 being based, of all things, on the Nissan 370Z’s platform – they’re a blast to drive, but beset with compromises courtesy of their sport-forward nature, They’re cramped, stiff-riding, and rank somewhat low on the “utility” end of things.

At the other end of the SUV spectrum, Infiniti offers the QX56 – proper off-road chops and unapologetic about it, but too large for some and powered by a thirsty V8 engine.

What Infiniti was missing was a well-rounded entry to represent the family-friendly luxury midsize crossover – well-mannered, seats seven, powerful but not absurdly so, reasonably efficient, comfortable, with decent technology offerings – the sort of offering that compete head-to-head with the likes of the Lexus RX350, the BMW X5, and the Acura MDX.

Enter the Infiniti JX35.

All-new for 2013, the first instinct is to compare the appearance, JX35 to the FX37 (FX37 REVIEW). It’s natural to want to make the comparison – they’re certainly similar and there’s no doubting the familial relationship. Curves, trim, and overall styling are very similar. But the JX35 adds about 5 inches, 1 inch, and 3 inches in length, width, and height, respectively, providing a taller, more stretched appearance. Whereas the FX37 is striking in appearance but ultimately a smallish vehicle overhanging enormous 21-inch wheels, the JX35 looks no less striking, but more proportionate – in its side profile there is a distinctive bullnose appearance about the front – but feels much more appropriately sized to its 20-inch wheels.

Inside the cabin, soft touch materials abound. Infiniti’s soft leather is present as always, and armrests and other ancillary surfaces feel as if they’re coated in memory foam – surfaces yield gracefully to the touch and rebound. The cabin is blissfully quiet – it’s a challenge to hear even the horn when it’s in use. The full-length sunroof provides for a spacious feeling to the cabin, and rear seat passengers (even in the way-back third-row seat) are treated to tilt and slide adjustments.

Controls are beyond reproach. Yes, there are a lot of buttons, as expected in a vehicle as complex as the JX35. But the buttons do things. That seems like a fairly silly statement, so let’s talk about that. There is, of course, the standard touch screen, and you’re welcome to navigate around to find what you need, but there are also buttons. Real buttons. Buttons that do things. Like adjust the climate control, or change radio presets, or zoom the map. Without needing to use the touch screen. This is rapidly becoming a rarity, and it’s sorely missed. Even simply having six real buttons to quickly change to a preset radio station, as in the JX35, is appreciated. And for the seeming complexity that all these buttons would add… It really doesn’t. They’re in reach, well-labeled, and logical. Giving the driver the choice of their preference of buttons, touchscreen, or a combination of both as a means of control is an enormously appreciated distinction, and we wish more manufacturers would consider this – the act of seemingly increasing complexity by offering more options in fact ultimately reduces it.

Not all, however, is perfect with the JX35’s controls – in particular, the small color display between the gauges in the dash is, well, small – it’s a challenge to read. As it deals with the vehicle’s safety technologies, it presents a veritable acronym soup of information – BCI, BSW, LDA, DCA… In configuring various options, we found frequent consultations of the thick manual were necessary to make sense of it, to the point of needing a cheat sheet to help us to remember which acronym represented which safety technology. We hope that in a future revision Infiniti will consider making use of the space offered by the center display to offload some of these options in a manner that is more easily digestible by the driver.

We also particularly like Infiniti’s Around View camera system, which provides forward and rear visibility as well as a top-down all-around view. Visibility from this system is excellent and very much appreciated, as headrests significantly obstruct visibility through the rear window.

At the heart of the JX35 is Nissan’s venerable 3.5-liter V6, found in everything from the Altima to the Xterra to, well, the JX35. In this implementation, the platform produces a hearty 265 horsepower – remember when 265 horsepower was a lot? It’s still nothing to sneeze at, but for comparison, it’s 5 hp less than the 2013 Lexus RX350(Lexus RX350 Review), and 35 hp less than we find in the BMW X5 xDrive35i.

That said, the JX35 manages the power very well, by means of its CVT, which doesn’t feel like it’s slogging the engine down. The engine is responsive and fun with power readily available, particularly for highway passing, and the beauty of a CVT in the Mountain West is it avoids the gear hunting we sometimes see in SUV transmissions in mountain highway passes. That said, don’t expect FX37-like performance here – this is a family-friendly, economy-minded crossover. That CVT does have a selector for Normal, Sport, and Eco modes, the latter also enabling Infiniti’s exclusive Eco Pedal, which pushes back at the driver to remind them to tread lightly – a neat feature no doubt, but tiresome in day-to-day use.

The JX35’s ride is firm without being jarring. We did find the steering effort to be lighter than we care for – bordering on mushy – but generally responsive. The all-wheel drive system kept us out of trouble. The vehicle felt competent and predictable at all times, with no surprises.

The acronym soup mentioned above includes a number of unique safety features. Of particular note are the Blind Spot Warning and Prevention, and Lane Departure Warning and Prevention. Note the “Prevention” piece of these technologies, which will actually steer the JX35 back into the lane on the driver’s behalf. While undoubtedly making our highways a safer place, it’s an unsettling experience to have the vehicle steer of its own volition – changing direction without the steering wheel turning. Combined with additional features like Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, the JX35 causes us to wonder if it approaches the grail of being essentially uncrashable. And while we considered designing tests to determine if this was in fact the case, fortunately, common sense prevailed.

All told, we welcome the JX35 to Infiniti’s lineup. In aiming to add a more mainstream premium midsize crossover, the JX35 certainly hits the mark. It’s a great addition deserving consideration not only by crossover buyers, but minivan shoppers may also find its combination of luxury and utility to be a compelling package.

Specifications

2013 Infiniti JX35
Base Price: $41,250.00
Price as Tested: $55,170.00
Engine Type: V6
Engine Size: 3.5-liter
Horsepower: 265 @ 6,400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft): 248 @ 4,400 RPM
Transmission: Continuously-variable with manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length (in): 114.2 / 196.4
Fuel Capacity (gal): 19.5
Fuel Requirement: Premium unleaded
Tires: Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport AS; 235/55HR20
Brakes: Ventilated disc
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson Strut / Multi-Link
Ground clearance (in): 6.5
Drivetrain: Infiniti Intelligent All-Wheel Drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 18 / 23 / 21
Towing capacity (lb): 3,500
Base Trim Price: $41,550.00

Options and Charges

Premium Package: $4,950.00 (Infiniti connection, Infiniti hard drive navigation, 8-inch VGA color touch-screen display, Infiniti voice recognition, NavTraffic & NavWeather, Zagat Survey restaurant guide, Around View monitor with moving object detection and front and rear sonar, Bose 13-speaker premium sound system with streaming audio via Bluetooth, dual occupant memory system, driver’s seat 2-way power lumbar adjust, enhanced intelligent key)

Deluxe Touring Package: $2,550.00 (20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, Bose Cabin Surround sound system, advanced climate control system, climate-controlled front seats, heated second row seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, 2nd/3rd row moonroof with power sunshade, maple interior accents)

Theater Package: $1,700.00 (Dual 7-inch color monitors, two wireless headphones with remote, auxiliary audio/video input jacks, 120v power outlet for 2nd row, rear headphone jacks and volume control)

Technology Package: $3,100.00 (Back-up collision intervention, heated steering wheel, remote engine start, intelligent braking assist with forward collision warning, blind spot warning and intervention, lane departure warning and prevention, intelligent cruise control, distance control assist)

Roof rails: $370.00

Delivery: $950.00

Price as tested: $55,170.00

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