The 2013 Infiniti JX seven-seat crossover, launched this fall, gives Nissan's luxury brand a direct competitor for the long-lived and very successful Lexus RX.
Through three generations--with a fourth coming soon--the mid-size Lexus not only pioneered but continues to define the luxury crossover market.
Now, Infiniti is planning to compete directly with the hybrid RX model, with its own Infiniti JX Hybrid.
The company let journalists drive a prototype of the hybrid JX at its Advanced Technology Briefing held in Japan last week.
Infiniti engineers project a 20-percent increase in fuel economy over the standard 2013 JX model, which is rated at 21 mpg as a front-wheel drive vehicle, or 20 mpg if buyers opt for all-wheel drive.
Rather than the standard 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, the Infiniti JX Hybrid will use a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine of unspecified power.
It's paired to the Nissan single-motor hybrid system and a modified version of the company's continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In a short drive of a prototype vehicle, the JX Hybrid was suitably peppy on acceleration, but proved almost incapable of running on electric power alone at virtually any speed.
That stands in contrast to the 2013 Lexus RX 450h hybrid crossover, which runs solely on electricity at low speeds, under light loads, up to roughly 30 mph.
The RX 450h is rated at 30 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 29 mpg in all-wheel drive format, although some owners have complained the real-world gas mileage of the hybrid Lexus RX doesn't match its ratings.
So if Infiniti's projections of a 20-percent increase are correct, the JX Hybrid will still fall short of those ratings, coming in at perhaps 24 or 25 mpg combined.
Green Car Reports has more details on the prototype JX Hybrid from the Nissan briefing.
The Infiniti JX Hybrid will most likely be launched next year as a 2014 model.
For more details on the current Infiniti JX, see our description of the seven-seat, three-row luxury crossover as well as the full 2013 JX review on The Car Connection.
Nissan provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-hand report.