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The missing link to Infiniti’s well-received line of crossovers and SUVs, the JX35 could very well be the game-changer the brand needs.

To test out the Southern-built crossover, we hit the roads around Charleston, South Carolina’s Low Country to explore this front and all-wheel-drive premium family hauler. Hop in.

Seven heaven
Within a brand pecking order that begins with the diminutive EX, moves up to the sporty FX and finishes at the top-end with the gargantuan QX, Infiniti had nothing in the middle. Families not interested in spending nearly $70,000 for a three row, seven-passenger crossover had to look elsewhere if they needed a roomy interior. Enter the JX35, which speaks with a decidedly southern drawl, as it will be built in Smyrna, Tennessee. The facility is located not too far from Infiniti parent Nissan’s corporate headquarters in Franklin and it is also where the JX’s kissing cousin Nissan Pathfinder will be built.

The JX aims for well-heeled buyers, while the Pathfinder goes at the heart of the market. To differentiate the two, Infiniti’s version is available with a full suite of driver assists including a blind spot warning and intervention system, lane departure warning and prevention and an AroundView monitor with moving object detection. A 360-degree view around Infiniti JX, it shows moving objects on a seven-inch in-dash monitor.

On the convenience side, JXs offer Infiniti’s Personal Assistant, which is a concierge-like service that helps to make an Infiniti owner’s day just a little less stressful. We were impressed as the operator checked on our flight schedules for our late afternoon departures. The service is available by subscription and it bookends nicely with Infiniti Connection, which utilizes an owner’s smartphone for functions like remote locking and unlocking, collision notification and parent-friendly Drive Zone monitoring.

JX35s will also be available with what Infiniti is touting as the world’s first back-up collision intervention system. Combining radar and sonar sensors to detect for cross traffic, it gives audible and visual warnings to the driver. If they are ignored, the system will brake the car to a stop. It appears to be well suited for back up usage in crowded urban situations or backing out from parking spots at the mall.

Signature DNA
Keeping with the brand’s DNA, the JX would not be an Infiniti without the trademark double arch grille, a wave-designed hood, and requisite 20-inch wheels. New to the look is a crescent-shaped D-pillar, which, to our eyes, doesn’t look half-bad. At the rear, a double-arch license plate area mimics the shape of the front grille. It is flanked by signature LED tail lamps.

At 196.4 inches long, the JX is 5.2 inches larger than the Acura MDX and 3.9-inches shorter than the Audi Q7, two of its chief rivals. Inside, the JX is at the top of its class with 149.8 cubic feet of interior volume, which comes in at eight cubes larger than the Acura and nearly 17 larger than the Audi.

The interior layout is typical Infiniti. Beautiful wood accents set off well-executed soft touch components that display a nice attention to detail. Our Premium Package-equipped tester included such niceties as ventilated and heated seats, a DVD package with dual seven-inch monitors in the second row, which allows one shorty to watch a movie while the other can play, as singer Lana Del Rey warbles, video games. Wireless headphones and 120-volt outlets are included, too, which shows that Infiniti isn’t missing out.

The JX is equipped with a standard power moon roof, and an optional fixed second and third row moonroof with power sunshade. A Bose 13-speaker Cabin Surround audio system is standard, but since tester goes to eleven, (with apologies to Spinal Taps’ Nigel Tufnel), it was outfitted with the Bose Acoustic Waveguide speaker located in the rear underfloor cargo well. The sound was concert hall-like in its quality.

Infiniti is touting superior third-row seating access, even with a child seat latched into the second row. As we experienced during our test drive, it’s certainly better than that found in the Acura MDX, but it still requires a bit of contortionism, ala a Cirque de Soleil artist, (which Infiniti has ironically joined into a marketing agreement with) to get in and out of the third row.

Motivating factors
The 2013 JX is equipped with Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 DOHC engine. Pumping out 265-horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, it is mated to a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission with a wide gear ratio that favors high fuel efficiency, and a manual mode with standard, sport, snow and eco modes. Infiniti estimates 17/23 mpg, with about 19 mpg combined.

The unibody construction of this crossover rides on a typical MacPherson strut system in front and multilink setup in back. The ride quality of the JX favors comfort over sheer sportiness, and there’s no doubt in our minds that owners will be thinking shopping mall rather than getting away from urban sprawl.

Driving through Charleston, we were impressed by the JX’s quiet, confident ride, which gave off nary-a-whimper nor untoward sound. Under hard acceleration, we heard the engine start to wind up, and the transmission really starts to dig in. We are still a bit cool towards the concept of a CVT transmission, but if it is the only game in town, it better be good. The Infiniti transmission is just that. At one point, a weird, whistling sound came into the cabin that had us alarmed that an air leak existed in the rubber window trim. Turning down all the radio and air conditioning noise, we ran windows up and down to re-seal everything. Instead it turns out that the car in the next lane was giving off a high-pitched whistle that disappeared when it passed us. It’s a testament to the brand’s noise, vibration and harshness engineers.

All the safeties in the world can’t make us absolutely bulletproof outside our own personal bubble. Still, the pack of assists in the Infiniti lineup continues to impress. But there are still things to get used to: It is a slightly disconcerting feeling having the gas pedal push back at you when you are getting too close to the vehicles in front of you. It’s even weirder still to feel the car slow down to a stop as its sonar and radar determine that you are closing in too fast on a stopped vehicle. Lane departure warning and prevention was well modulated, gently nudging us back in to our lane by applying a brake to the outside rear tire. The warning beep is still annoying, but does its job in a much less intrusive manner than it did before.

The future is here, apparently.

Leftlane’s bottom line
With a variety of smart personal assists, as well as a suite of vehicular safety assists, too, Infiniti has managed to fill its crossover and SUV lineup with nearly something for everyone… at least everyone with the resources for a luxury seven-passenger vehicle.

Infiniti doesn’t reinvent the game, but its JX35 does finally offer a mainstream design in a package that still looks pleasantly out of the ordinary.

2013 Infiniti JX35 base price range, $40,450 to $49,550.




 
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