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Ponder this for a moment: Neither Infiniti, nor its parent company, Nissan, has a 7-passenger midsize crossover SUV. It's an obvious hole in both automakers' lineups and one that will be addressed in calendar 2012.
Due at dealerships in the coming weeks is the focus of this report: The 2013 Infiniti JX. Nissan will re-imagine its iconic Pathfinder using a similar basic design, and that vehicle should come online later this summer.
JX fills the gap in Infiniti's lineup between the midsize, 5-passenger FX crossover and the premium-large, 7-seat QX56. The former is a sportier SUV, offering the choice of a V6 or high-output V8 engine. The latter is a heavy-duty model boasting a robust V8 and the ability to tow more than 8,000 pounds.
Infiniti's marketing team is hoping the JX will draw buyers away from the likes of the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 (which we consider a premium-large SUV), and Volvo XC90. We'll throw the similar-purpose Buick Enclave into this mix as well.
How do they intend to do it? By offering more technology and luxury at a price that's comparable or undercuts those rivals.
Dimensionally speaking, JX is taller and narrower than either the MDX or Q7. In overall length, the Infiniti falls almost exactly between those two (shorter than the Audi, longer than the Acura). Within those confines, the Infiniti boasts the most interior volume, a whopping 16 cubic feet more than the Q7. Under the hood, you won't find the excellent 3.7-liter V6 engine from Infiniti's G and M midsize cars. Rather, it's the comparatively underwhelming 3.5-liter V6 borrowed from the Nissan Murano. In the JX, it produces 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. This puts JX at a 20-70 horsepower disadvantage versus the Enclave, MDX, and Q7. The Infiniti weighs up to 500 pounds less than its competitors, and that difference should equate to "extra horsepower."
Buyers get the choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. In a first for Infiniti, the JX gets power to the ground by way of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that behaves much like an automatic. Rather than just dropping the Murano's CVT into the JX, engineers are giving it special attention with lower-friction parts and wider gear ratios designed to impart a sportier feel.
Standard Infiniti Drive Select includes a console knob that adjusts throttle and transmission behavior among "Standard", "Sport", "Eco", and "Snow" modes. The Sport setting provides the sensation of the transmission changing gears, which is something that's lost with a CVT. A manual override allows for simulated gear changes as well. Note that the "Snow" setting is present on both front- and AWD variants.
Standard luxury amenities include leather upholstery, heated power front seats, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, keyless entry/engine start, and a power tailgate. JX's tri-zone automatic climate control includes independent temperature settings for the driver, front passenger, and rear seating area. Unlike many similar SUVs, 3rd-row passengers get their own air vents, so those in the 2nd row won't freeze or overheat just to make the rearmost occupants comfortable.
Few standalone options exist outside of exterior and interior trim bits. Per Infiniti tradition, most extra-cost features come in packages.
The "gateway" group is the Premium Package ($4,550), which is required if you want to order any of the other available packages. It includes front- and rear-obstacle detection, navigation system, driver-seat memory, a Bose audio system, and Infiniti's Around View Monitor, which uses a series of cameras to display a bird's eye image of the vehicle and its immediate surroundings. Infiniti Connection assistance has many features similar to General Motors' OnStar system, including automatic collision notification, emergency calling, stolen vehicle alert, and remote lock/unlock.
Infiniti's setup goes a few steps farther with "My Schedule" that works in conjunction with Google Calendar. Owners can set reminders on their computers or smartphones and have them sent directly to the vehicle. The car then can input the destination into the navigation system and start guidance from there.
That's just the basic service. Connection Plus adds destination assistance, along with what Infiniti calls Drive Zone, Valet Alert, and Speed Alert. Through a special online portal, owners can designate a maximum speed and driving radius. If the JX exceeds that speed or wanders outside the specified area, the owner will receive an e-mail, text message, and/or phone call notification.
The final service is Infiniti Personal Assistance, which is basically a 24/7 concierge service. Owners can call from their phones or directly from the navigation system and request pretty much any piece of information, from restaurant reservations to airport conditions and flight statuses. Connection and Connection Plus are free for the first year of ownership, while the Personal Assistance is included for four years.
The Theater Package ($1,700) includes dual-screen rear DVD entertainment and a three-prong 120-volt power outlet so you can plug in a video-game system, laptop, or other high-draw device.
The Driver Assistance Package ($2,200) offers brake assist, forward-collision warning, blind-spot alert and intervention, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel, remote engine start, and Infiniti's Back-Up Collision Intervention. A new addition to the brand's technological alphabet soup, BCI uses radar and a rearview camera to sense objects directly aft or coming toward the rear of the vehicle. If the driver doesn't take action after repeated audible warnings, the system will automatically activate the brakes. It's similar in nature to Volvo's City Safety, only Infiniti's system works in reverse gear.
Ordering the Premium and Theater packages permits access to the Deluxe Touring Package ($2,550). It includes an upgraded climate control system with ionizer, which helps filter out unwanted odors. Also part of this package are heated and cooled front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, rain-sensing wipers, a panoramic glass roof, 20-inch wheels (up from the standard 18s), and new Bose Cabin Surround 15-speaker audio system. This sound system is noteworthy for its "Waveguide" amplifier, which is designed to produce rich sound in a unit about the size of a small tackle box.
The final major option group is the Technology Package ($3,100), and it requires ordering the Premium, Theater, and Deluxe Touring packages first. It includes most of the features in the Driver Assistance Package but adds lane-departure warning and prevention, which can help guide the vehicle back into its lane should it drift.
The lone option package that doesn't require any others be ordered first is the Tow Package ($630), which includes a hitch receiver and appropriate wiring harness.
The 2013 Infiniti JX has a base MSRP of $40,450 with front-wheel drive and $41,550 for AWD. Add $950 for destination.
We took a fully loaded AWD JX (with its nearly $55,000 MSRP) on a tour in and around historic Charleston, South Carolina. Does this upstart have what it takes to knock the Acura MDX off its lofty perch? Here's our initial take.