By Neil Moore,
Metroland Media/Wheelstalk.com -
Prior to the spring launch of Infiniti’s 2013 JX, I questioned their need for yet another all-wheel-drive utility vehicle.
At the bottom end, Infiniti offers the sporty but impractical EX crossover that starts at $40K. It’s nimble and fun to drive, but offers little in the way of cargo room.
Next up is the FX, which is one of the more fetching CUVs in its segment. But it’s pricey, at more than $53K to start, and due to the swoopy styling also comes up short on cargo capacity.
The flagship QX SUV, on the other hand, is cavernous inside, but tips the scales – perhaps crushes them – at a whopping 2,656 kg (5,855 lbs). And at $73,200, this luxo-barge is beyond most budgets.
Perhaps that’s why they’ve sold only 307 so far in 2012.
What I’m getting at, is there’s a hole in the company lineup about the size of an Infiniti JX, arguably the most practical and best value of the bunch.
It’s a seven seater, like the QX, but without battleship proportions.
The JX gives up about a foot in length and seven inches in height when compared to its larger sibling, but more importantly, does so at a far more reasonable starting price.
The JX starts at $44,900, and even with the $5,000 premium package (which adds a pile of useful tech and is expected to be the volume seller), it hits a sweet spot that should attract many premium SUV buyers.
In particular from competitors like the Acura MDX, which starts at $53,190, and the optional three-row Audi Q7 at $58,200. The JX provides more interior volume than both and tops each of them in second- and third-row leg room.
Practicality, as much as a long list of premium amenities, is why many buyers opt for mid-size luxury SUVs, and in these areas the JX does not disappoint.
Up front, occupants enjoy loads of room in all directions from their wide, power adjustable seats that are both heated and optionally cooled. The driver is treated to additional lumbar support, as well as a heated steering wheel with power tilt/telescopic adjust.
I also appreciate the standard leather upholstery, but as temperatures drop, I’m thankful for the electric warmth on my hands and backside. Such features are a tonic as you emerge each morning from a toasty home and into a cold metal box.
Second-row passengers also ride in comfort, with plenty of head and leg room, along with available heated seats. The latter feature comes as part of the Deluxe Touring Package ($2,700), that also includes a 15-speaker Bose Cabin Surround sound system, second- and third-row power moonroof, Plasmacluster air purifier and cooled front seats – along with 20-inch alloy wheels.
The third row is less commodious, but thanks to 14-cm seat travel up front, my five-foot-nine frame was fairly comfortable. At least for short trips.
This 50/50 split folding bench is reasonably well padded, and reclines. And getting back there doesn’t require the flexibility of a gymnast, as the 60/40 second row gets well out of the way in a single motion. Raise a lever and the seatpan flips up to allow the entire row to move further forward than you’d expect.
One practical feature is you can leave the child seat fastened. Before deciding on whether or not this is a big deal, consider how much easier it is lifting kids in and out of the second, rather than the third row.
Also handy is the amount of cargo space behind the back row – a generous 447 litres. You’ll appreciate this feature with a couple of kids and aging parents in the vehicle, with still enough room to squeeze in a load of groceries.
Drop the third row and this expands to 1,339 litres (1,155 with second row in rearmost position). With all seats down you get 2,166 litres and a flat cargo floor. There’s also a storage tray beneath.
I’ve already mentioned a few of the standard items, but the base JX includes plenty more, such as tri-zone climate control; multi-info display with seven-inch colour monitor; illuminated cruise and audio controls on the steering wheel; smart key with pushbutton start; sequential welcome lighting; power rear liftgate; power moonroof and six-speaker audio system.
My tester came with the 15-speaker Bose unit as part of the Touring package, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon never sounded better. The system really kicks out the bass, thanks to a powerful subwoofer, which uses surprisingly little room in the rear cargo tray.
I won’t list all the standard safety items, which include the usual array of airbags, brake and traction systems. What’s interesting here is the range of available “nanny technologies” as part of the $5,000 Premium and $3,500 Technology packages, also included in my vehicle.
One of these, as part of the Infiniti Connection telematics system which also provides navigation, crash notification and synched calendar functions, is Drive Zone/Speed Alert. This will keep an eye on young drivers who you may want to restrict to certain areas.
Set the limits and it will send a text, e-mail or phone message if your kid has crossed the boundary, or has been a bit heavy on the go pedal.
Blind spot intervention is brilliant when you’re parked between two family barges – as I so often am. Rather than backing out slowly and hoping for the best, this system will warn you of oncoming traffic, and even clamp on the brakes if needed.
The engine, although not as much a story as this vehicle’s electronic wizardry, is more than up to the task of delivering passengers and cargo smoothly and briskly to their destination.
Infiniti’s 3.5-litre DOHC V6 (265 hp and 248 lb/ft of torque) is a proven performer. Step on the gas, particularly in “Sport” mode, and the JX reacts quickly, and with the linear acceleration that is common to CVT powertrains.
There’s even a little growl in the exhaust note, although overall, the JX performs a lot like a minivan. Which isn’t a bad thing, in my books, as long as it doesn’t look like one.
And it doesn’t – from its double-arch front grille to its crescent-cut D-pillar.
Indeed, the 2013 Infiniti JX is as stylish as it is comfortable and practical.
The company has done its homework with this vehicle, and for those mid-size SUV buyers also doing theirs, it will probably be on the shortlist.
Infiniti JX35 AWD crossover 2013 at a glance:
BODY STYLE: mid-size luxury crossover
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, all-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 3.5-litre DOHC V6 (265 hp and 248 lb/ft of torque)
TRANSMISSION: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Sport, Eco, Normal and Snow modes
FUEL ECONOMY: 11.5/8.5/10.2L/100 km (city/hwy/combined)
CARGO: behind third row 447 litres, behind second row 1,155-1,339 litres, max 2,166 litres
PRICE: base $44,900, Premium Package $5,000, Theatre Package $2,300, Deluxe Touring Package $2,700, Technology Package $3,500, as tested $58,400