1. The JX features the world's first Backup Collision Intervention system that can detect objects behind the car and apply full brakes.
2. Perfect for teen drivers, Infiniti Connection lets owners set speed and distance limits on the car, notifying you by text, email or a call if any "rules" have been broken.
3. A unique 2nd row passenger side seat still allows easy access to the 3rd row, even with a baby seat installed.
4. JX models start at $40,450 or $41,550 for AWD and come well-equipped from $46,350.
Ask anyone at Infiniti and they'll tell you the new JX35 three-row luxury crossover is poised to become the brand's second best seller overnight.
Sean McNamera, project manager for the JX, will tell you even more forcefully, commenting that until now the Acura MDX has sat as the segment leader by default, compared to vastly more expensive, truck-based German models like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7.
"We have ticked every box possible with this car," he says. "There is no reason anyone should go anywhere but JX at this point."
That's a lot of confidence, even at a PR-spin press intro, but Infiniti has good reason to be optimistic, especially with the MDX growing old in its product cycle.
A DIFFERENT SORT OF PERFORMANCE
As a brand, Infiniti's tag line is "Inspired Performance". "The JX isn't about 0-60 times or hitting one g of cornering force," explains McNamara, commenting that conventional buyers for this type of vehicle also usually own a sports sedan. Instead, the JX gets "Inspired Performance for Seven", including everything from luxury, to technology, to safety, to fuel economy.
Starting under the hood the JX35, as the name suggests, is powered by the brand's familiar 3.5-liter V6 engine, making a modest 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. For a three-row luxury crossover, it's not overly heavy and so that power is sufficient, though less than engaging.
A first for the Infiniti brand is a CVT transmission. Known for delivering high fuel economy and a smooth drive, such transmissions are also criticized for numbing the driving sensation. That's party true here, though the incredible smoothness of a CVT is perfect for a luxury vehicle in this segment and fuel economy is rated at best-in-class 18/24 mpg for the front-drive version and 18/23 mpg for the all-wheel drive model. We saw an average of 19 mpg during out test. The CVT is arguably one of the few compromises made on the JX and is one that's both understandable and acceptable.
To help inject a little more passion into the powertrain, Infiniti has fitted the JX with its Drive Mode Selector, with a default "Normal" mode, as well as Snow, Eco and Sport. Adjusting the throttle sensitivity and CVT characteristics, it's noticeably different in each setting though the Sport mode is a bit of an exaggeration. When combined with the Eco Pedal in the Driver Assistance Package ($2,200), the throttle pedal will actually push back to help curb lead-footed driving.
PLENTY OF STYLE
More engaging is the car's design. Even if the JX was a dud, which it most certainly is not, Infiniti would sell tens of thousands based on looks alone.
There's high-grade paint, plenty of chrome and Infiniti's unique style, with a flare for the dramatic that none of its Japanese rivals have ever been able, or willing, to match. Of particular note are the crescent shaped D-pillars, which Infiniti says is a style element that will trickle down into the rest of the lineup.
Infiniti is a brand that prides itself on big wheels and the JX continues that tradition. Standard are 18-inch rollers with 235/65/18 tires, while the model we tested was fully loaded with the optional 20-inchers with lower profile tires - available in the Deluxe Touring Package ($2,550) with a panoramic glass roof and upgraded audio system or as a stand-alone $1,600 option. The ride proved whisper quiet and ultra smooth.