2013 Infiniti JX — new entry in luxury crossover SUV market

By Lary Coppola
2013 Infiniti JXThe 2013 Infiniti JX is a totally new mid-luxury crossover sport-utility vehicle from Nissan’s luxury division. Larger than the five-seat Infiniti FX, but smaller and significantly cheaper than the eight-seat, top-of-the-line QX56, it boasts three-row seating, a base price just over $40,000, and a wide variety of luxury features. The Infiniti JX delivers that perfect balance between self-indulgence and practicality.
Offered in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive, the JX rides on a stretched version of Nissan’s D platform — which also supports Nissan’s redesigned Altima sedan, and will accommodate the next-generation Nissan Murano crossover SUV, and the newly redesigned 2013 Pathfinder SUV. While there are at least 13 mid-luxury crossover SUVs with three-row seating, the vehicle in everyone’s crosshairs — including Infiniti — is the popular Acura MDX.

Starting from scratch with the MDX as their target, the Infiniti JX design team ended up with width and height slightly smaller than the MDX, but at 196.4 inches the new Infiniti is 4.8 inches longer, and sports a distinctly longer wheelbase — 114.2 inches, versus 108.3. The combination of longer wheelbase and additional length gives the JX slightly more cargo and/or passenger room than the MDX, and the longer wheelbase delivers better ride quality.

Walkaround: The challenge in crossover SUV design is making your basic box look like something else — without significantly compromising interior room. To do this, the design team gifted the JX with Infiniti’s prominent signature bull nose fenders and grille, flanked by High Intensity Discharge xenon headlights, with a pair of foglights positioned below. They added a raked windshield, curving roofline, and a forward-leaning rear hatch highlighted by a z-shaped rear roof pillar. In spite of being a new vehicle, the JX is hard to ignore, and hard to mistake for anything but an Infiniti.

Interior: For $40,000, you expect more than a modest list of standard luxury accoutrements, and the JX doesn’t disappoint. Highlights include high-quality materials, leather upholstery, soft-touch surfaces, a standard power glass moonroof, electroluminescent instrumentation, a seven-inch color info screen, three-zone auto climate control, power rear liftgate, heated power front seats, four 12-volt power outlets, an above-average six-speaker audio system with USB connection for iPod and other devices, and a power tilt-telescope steering column. There’s also touch-screen secondary controls coupled with some conventional buttons.

Available in the numerous option packages are navigation, Infiniti Connection service, heated steering wheel, a 360-degree view camera monitoring system with moving object detection, and two kickass, Bose sound systems — a premium 13-speaker system or 15-speaker Surround Sound.

Technology options include remote engine start, Driver Assistance Package with Backup Collision Intervention, adaptive cruise control, brake assist, forward collision warning, blind spot warning, distance control assist, active trace control, lane departure warning and blind spot intervention.

The Theater Package comes with dual seven-inch color front seatback monitors, two wireless headphones, wireless remote control, auxiliary audio and video input jacks, a 120-volt power outlet, and two headphone jacks with individual volume control.

Other options include roof rails, a Tow Package, polished 20-inch forged wheels, and a maple accents package (no charge). Dealer-installed accessories include a dual-DVD entertainment system and crossbars for the roof rails.

The spacious interior and accessibility to second — and third-row seats are courtesy of a middle bench that slides 5.5 inches, with seatbacks folding forward to make access easy, rather than the awkward struggle required in most other vehicles.

Cargo room is another major advantage the JX boasts over the MDX, with almost 16 cubic feet behind the third row, as much as 47 cubic feet with the third row folded down and the second row adjusted all the way forward, for a total of over 76 cubic feet. Minivans offer more, but they’re still minivans.

Under The Hood: The Infiniti JX35 is powered by Nissan’s world-class 3.5-liter V6. Rated at a modest 265 horses and 248 pound-feet of torque, it’s paired with Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT), a first for the Infiniti division. Like CVTs employed in Nissan passenger cars, the JX version has artificial steps programmed into its control chip if the driver elects to operate in manual mode.

Behind The Wheel: The Infiniti JX is exceptionally quiet, very comfortable, and exhibits excellent road manners. However, while the workhorse V6 delivers pretty lively acceleration in the Murano, in the heavier JX it’s more deliberate than spontaneous, with methodical passing acceleration.

The CVT is part of the reason. In standard drive mode the CVT keeps up with the engine in unhurried situations, but sudden acceleration demands produce that slipping-clutch sensation that’s been a drawback for all CVT’s since their invention. Nissan has done a much better job with CVTs than other automakers — and there are distinct fuel economy advantages — but it scores low on the fun-to-drive meter.

Whines: The electro-hydraulic power steering could use some improvement, and handling isn’t particularly quick either, with hard cornering resulting in both understeer and body roll (lean). Driving the JX is in many respects, more like driving a big Lexus sedan than an Infiniti.

Bottom Line: While the Infiniti JX scores well against the Acura MDX in many ways, it concedes some degree of fun if you’re a serious driver. That said, the Infiniti JX35 is one of the more attractive offerings in this market segment. Standard equipment is comprehensive, options are tempting, and optional safety features are innovative. It’s abundantly appointed, quiet, smooth, and roomy, with versatile interior adaptability, and priced competitively well for this class.