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2013 Infiniti JX Review By Steve Purdy

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2013 Infiniti JX

Filling a gap in the Infiniti lineup

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

I’m wondering if we really need another 3-row, 7-passenger CUV when there are many great products in that category already like the Audi Q7, Lincoln MK-T, Acura MDX, all the GM entries and a few I missed. Well, Infiniti thinks so and brought a bunch of journalists to lovely Charleston, South Carolina to explain why, and to let us experience their new one – the 2013 Infiniti JX.

Answering my own question, I’ll say it’s not a matter of whether we need one. Rather, does this new one add to the mix something that gives us another good choice in the market? See what you think.

Infiniti already has two 5-passenger CUVs in their mix - EX and FX – both derivatives of their more modest Nissan siblings. Their existing 3-row, 8-passenger QX is bigger and more trucky than many customers want. So, the new JX slots nicely in the gap - a three-row, 7-passenger, unibody CUV on an all-new platform. A very important product for Infiniti, they expect the JX will be second in sales only to the ‘G’ series of sedans.

While this platform is new it will underpin the next generation of Maxima and certainly many other Nissan and Infiniti products. Standard in front-wheel drive it will also be available with intelligent all-wheel drive. The chassis, suspension layout and geometry are conventional with McPherson strut up front and a multi-link system in the rear.

The Smyrna, Tennessee-built new JX looks like just what it is - a luxury crossover with distinct Infiniti character. The size and profile remind me of the popular GM 3-row CUVs – Acadia, Traverse and Enclave. With rounded front fenders, domed hood and curved rectangular grill, the front view looks to me like a chipmunk with stuffed cheeks, though a cute chipmunk to be sure. This Infiniti design language looks better, I think, in smaller vehicles. The striking squiggle-shaped d-pillar makes it instantly recognizable to those paying attention. From the rear it looks rather plain with the license plate recess surrounded by rectangular trim that mimics the grille. Big standard 18-inch wheels (20-inch optional) with split five-spoke alloy wheels balance the external visuals nicely.

Inside, we’re enveloped in a good measure of luxury with fine materials and simple but elegant design. Just enough wood trim accentuates the leather and shinny parts to provide a sense of style and comfort. The navigation and information screen tops the center stack with an attractive, if a bit busy, array of buttons beneath the screen. In our short drive we had little difficulty managing the functions we needed, but it would certainly take some serious exploration to learn all the in-depth functions available to us. Perhaps when we get some more time with the car for a thorough review we’ll have more to say about that. For now, suffice it to say, this is another luxury vehicle with scads of infotainment functions that answer dozens of questions I never asked. Someone must be asking those questions, I suppose.

Roominess and smartly designed interior space are the JX’s forte. We feel pampered by generous amounts of space in the front and second row seats. Ingress and egress into the third row seems better than most with second row seats moving easily forward out of the way, even if a kid seat is mounted where you think it would interfere. Seat releases and structures are ergonomically well done and the JX is certainly kid seat friendly. Second row seats have a 5.5-inch range of travel and the third seat even reclines.

Only one powertrain is available, the venerable 3.5-liter (VQ35) engine with a fairly sophisticated CVT transmission. Tuned specifically for the JX, this version of the V6 engine makes an adequate 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque using regular fuel. EPA mileage estimates are 18/24/21 for the FWD version and 18/23/20 for the AWD. The extra 139 pounds added by the AWD components make for that tiny difference in mpg numbers.

Pricing begins at $40,450 but we don’t expect many will sell for that. Most of the charm of the JX is the technology that comes with the optional packages. Navigation, the rear view monitor, Bose audio and memory seats come with the $4,950 Premium Package. Then for another $2,200 you can get a dual DVD Theater Package that will keep the spoiled kids in the back seat happy with their own individual games or movies. A Driver Assist Package with remote start, Intelligent Cruise Control, forward and backup collision intervention and heated steering wheel costs $2,200. A Deluxe Touring Package and Technology Package let you load it up even more. With the most popular extras the average JX will probably be pushing or exceeding fifty grand.

Infiniti’s “Personal Assistant,” a real person at the end of the phone or through the vehicle’s telematics, comes standard for four years, though only for the first can you access it through the car with the technology option unless you extend that by paying a subscription fee.

In our real world driving experience around Charleston, South Carolina we found the JX with a curb weight of about 4,420 pounds to be quite gratifying though a bit disconcerting at first. Within a couple blocks I noticed that the JX was braking for me as we approached a stoplight with cars in front of us. As it turned out I needn’t even touch the brake pedal and it would stop gently a car length and a half back of the car in front of me. Cool. If I touched the gas pedal it released the brake. If you’ve been watching the NCAA men’s hoops finals you’ve seen the ads for their rear collision avoidance system that applies the brakes even before you do if it senses something while you’re backing up. The same collision avoidance works to the front as well, independent of adaptive cruise control. I think I like that feature, but it might take some getting used to.

JX also offers a lane departure warning system, blind spot warning and an array of dynamic driving assistance technologies that are becoming expected in luxury vehicles.

We found the power to be quite good for normal use. We never felt we needed more even when trying to pass dawdlers on some of the twisty two-lanes. Now, if we were driving in the mountains or towing a trailer (3,500 pound limit when properly equipped) we would probably want more. The CVT (continuously variable transmission) did not call attention to itself. In lesser vehicles a CVT can be a bit wheezy and unsatisfying to drive but this one is well calibrated, behind a decently-powered engine and equipped with a good manual mode. It also has four driver-selectable driving modes that balance engine rpm to your particular wants or needs. With these four modes available, including a “Sport” mode, and the ability to pretend to manually shift the CVT, we never felt we needed any more power.

While not the quietest luxury vehicle we’ve driven, it is darn close. We did not get to experience any bad roads or other adverse conditions so we’ll not make a full judgment on the ride quality and sound deadening until we have the JX for a full test, but what we experienced in our limited drive was impressive.

Infiniti’s warranty covers the whole vehicle for 4 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.

A vehicle like this cannot compete in the luxury CUV segment today without incorporating all the infotainment functions available to man – premium Bose audio, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB and iPod connections, DVD (in this case a dual system) and extra power outlets.

Infiniti JX is at dealers now – in fact, they just sold the first one a couple days before our Charleston event. Officials would not speculate on sales or production numbers but simply reiterated what an important product it is in their portfolio.

Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Lincoln MK-T, Mercedes R-Class, BMW X5, Mazda CX9 – there are no shortages of great 3-row CUVs. For the buyer with deep pockets and an appreciation of luxury, functionality and technology here’s another fine entry – Infiniti JX.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved