Amid rising gas prices, consumers are turning to small cars, but some people still need big wheels. That's why Infiniti has introduced a new seven-seater people mover to the market.
The all-new JX CUV fills a gap in the Infiniti lineup between the massive QX and the smaller EX and FX crossovers.
The 2013 JX comes in one well-equipped model – the Infiniti JX35 AWD. At $44,900, it's reasonably priced for what you get: leather seats, an eight-way power driver's seat, a six-way power front passenger's seat, heated front seats, eight cup holders, six bottle holders, a power lift gate, HID bi-xenon headlamps, all-wheel-drive and three-zone climate control. But it stands out from the crowd thanks to innovative technology such as a Back-Up Collision Intervention system. When reversing, the system detects objects like strollers and kids crossing behind the JX and actually applies the brakes to help you avoid a collision.
There's also a Lane Departure Warning and Lane Departure Prevention system, which warns the driver if you're crossing the lane unintentionally and applies the brakes on the opposite side of the drift so the driver can return back to the centre of the lane. A Blind Spot Warning monitor tells you via a flashing light and audible sound when it's unsafe to change lanes. Intelligent Cruise Control uses lasers, throttle and brake actuators to measure the distance to the vehicle ahead and automatically applies the brakes and throttle as needed to maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead.
The only drawback with all this technology is the added cost. Plus it's bundled into packages that may include items you don't necessarily want. For example, the Driver Assistance Package comes with Backup Collision Intervention, Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning system, a heated steering wheel and remote engine start for $2,200. The price sounds like a steal, but this package requires a $5,000 Premium Package, which includes a navigation system with 8-inch touch-screen display, an around-view monitor, voice recognition and a 13-speaker premium sound system. Beware of adding too many options.
A big selling feature in the JX is the space in all three rows and the ease of access into the third-row seats. Often, you have to be small and nimble to squish and squeeze your way into the third-row seats. But it's not necessary in the JX thanks to wide door openings and a sliding middle row. The second-row seat slides on rails, forward or backward nearly six inches – even if there's a child seat in the second row – moving forward to provide space to get to the last row.
The second- and third-row seats are also split folding (60/40 in the second row and 50/50 in the third) and recline for added comfort. The third row isn't the typical penalty box either – there's ample headroom and knee room for adults and kids. Even with all seats in use, there's still 447 litres of room to stash stuff in the back.
Powering the JX is a 3.5-litre DOHC V-6 with 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is continuously variable transmission.
“This is the first Infiniti with the CVT,” says Tim Franklin, senior manager of product planning at Infiniti Canada. “But we spend a lot of energy tuning this vehicle to give it the Infiniti feel. The CVT optimizes the fuel economy and other efficiencies. We've had a lot of success on the Nissan side but in this vehicle and in this segment it makes a lot of sense.”
The CVT is bearable, but under hard acceleration it is a bit noisy. Along curves there is some body lean, but on the highway, the JX35 AWD is quiet and refined, soaking up bumps and other degradations in the road nicely.
A rotary switch in the centre console lets you choose between four driving modes – standard, sport, eco and snow. I'd skip the eco mode – it's very laboured, especially when people are inside. The fuel economy is decent for a vehicle of this size – it's rated at 10.2 litres/100 km combined highway and city driving.
But the JX is big and brawny to park. Thankfully, an Around-View Monitor on my tester helps with the feat. It lets you see 360 degrees around the JX.
The exterior is attractive with nice styling cues – including Infiniti's signature front chrome double-arch grille, a unique and distinctive crescent-cut rear D-pillar, and 18-inch, split five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels. Polished 20-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels are also available.
When it comes to seven-seaters it's a crowded market. But the JX fills a gap in the Infiniti lineup and offers a fresh, bold alternative with innovative technology and a decent price tag compared to the competition.
2013 Infiniti JX35 AWD
Type: Full-size, seven-passenger luxury CUV
Engine: 3.5-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 265 hp/248 lb-ft
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.5 city/8.5 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Audi Q7, Acura MDX, Lexus GX, Volvo XC90, Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, BMW X5