The JX displays the arcs and voluptuous lines that will become signature features on future Infinities. Chic bright accents contrast well with darker body colours
| Car tested
|| 2013 Infiniti JX35
| Body style
|| Four-door CUV
|| 3.5L-V6 (265 horsepower)
|| Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
| Price as tested
|| $58,400 (Premium, Theatre, Deluxe Touring and Technology packages)
The early-release 2013 JX35 which went on sale in the spring of 2012 is essentially a long-wheelbase, seven-seater version of the Nissan Murano. Most auto manufacturers have offered a three-row Compact Utility Vehicle for years, but Infiniti was slow to join the mainstream. The platform that underpins the JX35 also underpins the new unibody Nissan Pathfinder.
Key competitors include the Acura MDX, the Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT, the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse triplets from GM, as well as the 2013 Pathfinder. The principal cross shop is likely to be the Acura MDX which dominates this segment among the Japanese brands. European-branded three-row CUVs like the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 are considerably more expensive than the JX., and can't really be considered direct competition.
Crisp, clear gauges flank a JX35 graphic indicating which drive mode the vehicle is in
With 265 horsepower, the JX's 3.5L V6 is not as strong as the unit that propels the Acura's MDX, but it does deliver plenty of power with refinement. The JX is a very relaxed highway cruiser.
The CVT transmission transmits the V6's power seamlessly to the drive wheels. The whiny, frantic soundtrack that sometimes accompanies hard-accelerating CVT-equipped cars with smaller engines isn't a issue in the JX35, as its abundant power and torque require few engine revs even when a burst of speed is requested. That said, the transmission does take a bit of acclimatization; drivers anticipate the shift that never comes and keep their foot on the throttle, which delays the transmission from attaining a cruising ratio once the desired speed has been reached. The JX35's CVT offers a shift setting that will mimic the operation of a conventional six-speed automatic transmission if that is what the driver desires.
The steering is nicely geared but very lightly weighted. About the only feel that comes through the steering wheel is some shuddering on rough pavement. The JX35 passes over most surfaces with a firm resilience, but like so many heavy, tall CUVs, the suspension settings needed for stability when heavily laden can lead to exaggerated vertical movements over surface disturbances like potholes and manhole covers.
The JX35 responds predictably, is reassuringly stable, and tracks straight on the highway, though its handling is a long way from involving. Its immense bulk is intimidating at first, but the JX35 proves to be quite easy to drive after a few miles behind the wheel. Braking is powerful, with good pedal feel.
The navigation system was easy to program and works very well. Our JX35 test vehicle was equipped with an impressive array of parking aids. In addition to the expected rear-vision camera, our JX35 included a camera at the front of the vehicle and a top view monitor that captures the area surroundings the vehicle, making parking this leviathan comparatively easy.
The benefits of the JX35's massive exterior become manifest inside the cabin. There is abundant space in all directions for occupants of even substantial dimensions in the first two rows of seats. Access to the third row of seats is quite easy, and except for GM's Acadia/Enclave/Traverse trio, occupant space is better than most vehicles of this type. The second row seats can be moved forward and aft to provide more third-row legroom. A cleverly designed passenger side second row seat can fold out of the way to permit access to the third-row seat, even if a child seat is in place. Large and supportive seats in the first two rows remain comfortable for hours on end. The third-row seats, while not as sumptuous, are more comfortable than in most of the vehicles in this class.
The dashboard is fronted by large, crisply-marked gauges, and a centre-stack which is simple enough to operate despite the plethora of functions it controls. Except for some oddly-shaped faux wood accents on the upper doors, the JX35's interior styling is quite elegant. Soft-touch trim panels abound, the faux alloy and wood accents look convincing, and assembly quality is impressive. The audio system delivers great sound and the DVD player works superbly. Computer gamers were happy with the hook ups and function of the equipment provided.
The voluptuous lines of the JX35 are offset by arc-shaped bright trim pieces. This combination of swelling forms and precisely-rendered trim accents reflect Infiniti's new styling philosophy. The bright body trim and wheels enhance the upscale look of the JX35, and work especially well on darker hued cars. The paintwork on our test vehicle was smooth and lustrous. The distinctive lines of the JX35 is likely to attract or repel potential buyers in equal measure, especially in this conservative segment where many vehicles resemble shipping containers.
Dashboard features convincing faux wood and alloy accents. Centre stack controls are quite simple considering the multiplicity of functions they are responsible for
Faux wood/alloy door accent shape is unrelated to the space it is placed in
The front console terminates in a second-row panel with rear-seat climate controls, vents and plug-ins for various entertainment devices
The Murano which the JX35 is based on is rated above average. Four years/100,000 km bumper to bumper warranty with six years/110,000 km on the powertrain. CVT transmission failures were an issue on early-production Nissan Muranos but fewer complaints have been received regarding later models. The Murano's heavy weight and powerful engine may have accelerated transmission wear on earlier cars. Nissan extended the warranty on the CVT transmission on all of its pre-2011 models to 10 years/200,000 km. The warranty on the JX35's CVT is now six years/110,000 km, like the rest of the powertrain. The massive 20" tires fancier JX35s ride on, will be very expensive to replace.
The second-row seats slide forward to allow access to the third row
Fairly generous cargo space with third-row seats in place
Good space with the third-row seats folded down
Long cargo bed can extend from the front seat to the tailgate
Pricing starts at $44,900 but the price of our test vehicle exceeded $58,000. The Premium and Deluxe Touring packages are reasonable value, but the Technology, Theatre and 20 inch wheel packages are very expensive for the equipment they contained. The base JX35 is priced nearly $6,000 less than a base Acura MDX, and a fully-equipped JX35 is roughly $7000 cheaper than a fully-equipped MDX Elite. Leasing terms offer good value.
The JX35 is equipped with dual front airbags, front seat-mounted airbags and side-curtain airbags. The JX35 has not yet been crash tested.
Gentle arcs of bright trim frame the rear license plate. The rear trailer hitch and electrical hook up are discretely located in the black rear bumper trim