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Infiniti JX joins the seven-seat crossover crowd

CHARLESTON, SC - It may have taken longer than some people expected, but Infiniti is ready to bring to market a seven-passenger vehicle for the 21st century with the brand new JX35.
You could be forgiven for not knowing Infiniti’s other three row vehicle, the mammoth QX56 SUV. Vehicles of its proportions and price range aren’t typically big sellers and with the launch of the JX35, the lumbering QX could be all but forgotten very soon.

No matter. The JX is a smart - sometimes too smart for its own good - vehicle that offers a ton of technology in a sleeker, more fuel-efficient package.

It feels like Infiniti specifically targeted aspects of competitors’ crossovers in order to create something that’s all things to most people. I hesitate to say “all” people because those looking for a rousing experience at the wheel will be left disappointed. More on that in a moment though.

There’s no doubt the JX35 can check off several key attributes in this segment - it’s roomy like Audi’s Q5, it has all sorts of technology like Acura’s MDX, and it rivals Volvo’s XC90 in terms of safety features.

Infiniti says this vehicle aims to challenge convention, though it feels more like the opposite. The thing is - playing it safe (literally and figuratively) isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a vehicle like the JX. One of its biggest strengths is that it provides such a quiet, comfortable, unobtrusive ride.

This is the first Infiniti to use a continuously variable transmission, while only one engine is available - an aggressive 3.5-litre V6 that gives a nice growl when you “floor it”. You can play around with shifting preset “gears” manually or setting the Drive Selector to “Sport”, but the JX can’t hide the fact that its main purpose is to move a group of people as comfortably as possible.

Its ability to do just that is helped by large second row seats and an easily-accessible third row bench. The second row seats slide fore and aft to accommodate passengers of different heights, while the seatbacks in all three rows can be tilted to increase comfort.

Infiniti is touting second row seats that slide forward even when equipped with a latched child safety seat, allowing access to the third row. I try it out, and while it’s a bit of a tight squeeze for me to get into the third row, I’m close to six-two; a young whippersnapper should have no problems getting in and out.

Infiniti has thrown just about every safety feature you could think of into the JX, and a few new ones to boot. You’ll probably feel exhausted just reading features such as Land Departure Warning and Prevention, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, and Blind Spot Warning and Intervention. Now, try driving with all those things activated - the amount of beeps and bloops and other warning signals the JX emits on an hourly basis borders on ridiculous.
To Infiniti’s credit, many of these systems are optional, and when equipped, can be turned on or off individually, but even then, doing so requires sifting through a menu found within the instrument cluster. Volvo makes things easier in its vehicles by having one-touch buttons available on the centre stack for most of its safety systems.

Another “plus” in Infiniti’s corner is that the JX starts thousands less than competitors. It comes in one trim level, though five option packages ranging from $2,200 to $5,000 can be added for those who need goodies such as second row colour monitors, intelligent cruise control, or a giant second- and third-row moonroof.

Like a lot of vehicles out there, the JX35 is very clearly focused on a certain segment of drivers. It’s the new kid on the block in the luxury crossover segment, which gives it an instant advantage over competitors, which will make it all the more interesting to see what happens when the other luxury brands update their offerings.
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