Review: 2013 Infiniti JX35

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I can truthfully say that I haven’t driven a vehicle that had more technology and gadgetry stuffed into it than the Infiniti JX.

Is that a good thing? Well, I’m a techno-nerd, so I love gadgets, and I love car technology. And hey, these systems aren’t there to play with. They’re there to keep you and your precious cargo (namely your family) safe and alive.

The JX is Infiniti’s middle-of-the-line SUV. Cross-over. Whatever. There’s only one trim level and it starts at CDN $44,900, but you can tack on a whole bunch of packages. And they ain’t cheap. Loaded up like the one I reviewed, you’ll be asked to part with CDN $60,395 before taxes.

 

Exterior/Under the Hood

The styling of the JX is quite pleasing. The hood is high, and Infiniti’s grille paired with the HID headlights and nice integrated foglights gives it a serious, slightly aggressive appearance. Kind of like that stern uncle we all have. I found it interesting that Infiniti seems to be late to the LED driving lights game. None to be found here. The most noticeable feature is the rear side window – it has an interesting swoosh in it, and it’s what catches your eye. You’ll find a graceful crease line above the door handles, and the front fenders are beautifully sculpted into the hood. There’s a nice integrated rear spoiler, a huge swath of chrome near the bottom of the doors, and some lovely 20″ split 5-spoke rims. The vehicle looks solid and bulky without looking enormous.

Is it the kind of styling that will get second looks? Probably not. Although there are some interesting features, and it’s a handsome-looking ride, the package taken as a whole won’t really stands out when you’re driving down the street. That’s not a bad thing for most people. It’s a contemporary, classy and yet conventional-looking vehicle with a few interesting tweaks. By the way, this one came in a very beautiful Emerald Graphite, which is a deep, lustrous, metallic color and got a lot of positive feedback.

Infiniti’s 3.5-Liter V-6 powers the JX. It makes 265 HP at 6400 RPM and 248 lb.ft of torque at 4400 RPM. The jam gets routed through a CVT transmission to an intelligent all-wheel drive system. Those numbers seem small by today’s standards, especially when lugging a 4419 pound monster like this around.

Fuel economy is reasonable for a vehicle this size. The JX is rated at 11.5 L/100 km (20.5 mpg) in the city, and 8.5 L/100 km (28 mpg) on the highway. During my week with it, driving relatively economically and in almost exclusively city driving, I averaged a somewhat disappointing and wholly sobering 15 L/100 km (15.7 mpg). I never made any efforts to save fuel, and was driving as I normally would. Yes, it was mostly city driving but it still stings a bit if you think about using fuel at that rate on a day-in, day-out basis.

 

Interior/Tech/Convenience

The interior is a nice, premium-feeling place to be – it’s not over-styled – it’s classy. Materials are nice, but there’s a surprising amount of hard plastic on the dash. I liked the wood trim and Infiniti’s typical metallicized plastic bits. The power-adjustable, heated and cooled leather seats are very comfortable, and offer reasonable bolstering.

The power-adjustable and heated steering wheel is comfortable, and sits in front of a nice, clear set of gauges. Between them is a crystal-clear driver information screen. The upper dash is dominated by a nice touchscreen display. Below it sit some hard buttons related to the dual-zone automatic climate control system and the media system, as well as a joysticky/rotary/knob button to control things with. The screen handles navigation, media, vehicle settings and the back-up cameras. Yep – cameraS. There’s a rear camera, but also a front one and side cameras, and it stitches an image together on the screen, showing you what’s going on around the entire vehicle. This information is augmented with moving object detection as well as audible/visual front and rear sonar distance sensors. If you hit something with this vehicle, you’re probably blind and deaf.

The sound system is a BOSE one, with a crazy number of speakers, and it sounds pretty good. Sources are AM, FM, satellite, CD, auxiliary, USB and Bluetooth streaming audio.

The console houses the fantastic shift lever, two cupholders, the drive mode selector and a nice armrest.

Overhead, you get two sunroofs – a typical one above the front seats, and an enormous one over the rear of the vehicle. Everything is powered, of course, including the tail gate, the folding mirrors and the sunshade for the rear sunroof. Ignition is push-button.

The technology in this car is almost staggering. With a wealth of tech comes a bevy of acronyms. In addition to what’s offered on the screen as I already mentioned, you get lane departure warning (LDW), lane departure prevention (LDP), blind-spot intervention (BSI), tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and on and on. If all the techno-goodies are too much for you, you can turn almost all of the electronic grannies off, one by one. Not sure why you’d disable systems that can save lives, but the option is there for you.

Storage is reasonable. A big glove compartment, door bins with bottle holders, an open cubby under the center stack and a nice, large dual-level bin under the arm rest do the trick. The cargo area is actually quite usable, even with the third row in use. Fold the third row down (the seats fold flat in a 50/50 split) and you’ve got lots of room to work with. You can also fold down the second row seats should you need to move a small country. There’s an extra 12V plug and a nice big storage compartment under the trunk floor – you’ll sacrifice one third of it for the BOSE subwoofer.

Rear Seats

The second row is the one you want to be in. There are three seats, seatbelts and headrests. There’s headroom and leg room, but I found it a bit tight under the front seats for my feet. The heated seats, which completely lack any bolstering or support, are highly comfortable, slide fore and aft, and recline. You’ve got a nice set of goodies at the back of the center console – an automatic climate control zone, a 12V plug AND a 120V household plug. When I say it’s the row you want to be in, I should mention that it’s the two outboard seats you want to be in. The middle one… maybe if you’re a little person.

Oh, and there are 7″ screens built into the back of the front seat headrests, complete with remote control, wireless headphones and volume controls. The screens feed off the dash-mounted DVD player or a set of old-school RCA plugs.

The third row is a different story. It’s meant for kids. Sitting behind myself in the second row left me without enough leg room back there, and headroom is tight. My kids were plenty happy though, and there’s enough room for two of them.

You can get plenty of people into the JX, but as noted, the ones sitting in the back would be much more comfortable if they’re small people. LATCH anchors are offered in the two outboard seats of the second row.

 

The Drive

It’s a bit of a step up into the JX, and you get a nice high seating position which gives you a commanding view of the road. That’s nice, because the visibility out the back isn’t so great. The rear view is crowded by the headrests in both rows of back seats, and the huge rear pillars make shoulder checking quite a task. Good thing for the blind spot monitoring system.

I’ve been quite clear about my feelings on CVT transmissions. I hate them. I guess I have a tough time letting go of what I think a car should feel like when it shifts through the gears. The CVT in the JX is the best one I’ve driven yet. It is highly intelligent, and is extremely responsive during every day driving while remaining perfectly smooth.

I mentioned that the engine specs seem a bit lacking. But the drivetrain felt very satisfying around town. There’s no hesitation off the line, and getting up to speed is very quick and without drama. Passing on the freeway is a different story. There’s definitely a lag while it gets to the right ratio, and then it starts accelerating. As long as you’re not passing a lot of people, it’s perfectly good on the highway too. There is a manual mode, but it’s not particularly fast and therefore seems a bit pointless.

Wind, road and drivetrain noise is exceptionally quiet during all driving situations, including high speeds travel. The ride is fantastic. It’s smooth, luxurious but just firm enough so that the vehicle doesn’t get completely sloppy around corners. Yes, there’s body lean when taking corners, and no, this won’t win any slalom races, but considering how high it is, how heavy it is, and comfortable the ride is, I was quite surprised at how competently it handles.

There’s a driving mode selector. You can switch from Normal to Sport, which likes to keep the revs up a bit and will stay more in the meat of the torque curve. There’s an Eco mode, which feels like you’re driving through molasses, and retards the throttle response. It’s not a lot of fun. There’s also a Snow mode. The all-wheel drive system is completely transparent during normal driving.

 

Details

The second row has a great feature for families. It allows you to easily slide the seat forward to allow access to the third row, while accommodating a baby seat. As in, you can keep the baby seat in place, and still slide the seat forward instead of the whole thing folding out of the way. It’s great – we have three kids, one of them in a baby seat – we used it and loved it.

I love that Infiniti put nicely padded and upholstered panels EXACTLY where you rest your knee against the center console. Very thoughtful.

 

Nitpicks

As sharp as that beautiful driver information screen is, it is set back from the gauges AND tilted away from the driver, and I often had to squint to read it because it seemed far away. Too bad, because it’s lovely to look at.

Once again, I found a dead pedal that would be great, except the top left corner of it has some strange intrusion, which makes it basically useless for my size-13 feet. Or any feet over size 7.

This is not so much a slam against the vehicle. It’s an opinion against an option. I just don’t understand why anyone would get a permanently installed in-vehicle entertainment system. It’s way too limited and way too expensive. Get an iPad for each kid. They’re bigger, better, portable and far more versatile.

 

The Verdict

The JX35 is a darn nice vehicle. I found it hard to come up with things I didn’t like about it. I really enjoyed the ride, and commuting with it is a pleasure. I appreciated that everything about the JX came across as well-built, solid and had a premium feel to it. I loved all the gadgetry. It provides enough room for bigger families, and accommodates road trips with ease. It’s got enough power to be satisfying, and is a cocoon of safety and technology. I couldn’t even bring myself to hate the CVT. And I hate CVTs!

I give the JX an 8 out of 10. I’d find this vehicle very easy to live with, and an extremely competent competitor in the up-level SUV segment. The fuel economy is terrible, but that’s very alarming once you start shopping within this class. It’s pretty typical, and when you’re moving this much mass around, it’s to be expected. Take it or leave it. My guess is that hybrids will slowly be coming to the category, and they’ll be more efficient but also pricier.

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She loved the high seating position and the view of the road, and how she sat above the commoners around her. She really enjoyed the smooth ride and performance, and of course, the power lift gate was a big hit, especially when it’s a portal to cavernous shopping bag transport. My wife said this could replace her minivan, which she loves very much. So that says something. The one thing she took issue with is the size – she found, even with all the beeping and flashing and death-star shields around this vehicle, it was still tough to park because of its enormity. Yet it’s smaller than her van. Go figure.

Disclosure:  Vehicle was provided by Infiniti.

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.

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