Fuel economy according to the EPA is 18 city / 24 highway with front-wheel-drive and 18/23 with all-wheel-drive, similar to the numbers earned by large domestic crossovers. The trip computer reported about 21 on my largely exurban driving route (infrequent stops, speed typically between 40 and 60). Given the vehicle’s relatively low curb weight and CVT, it should be capable of better. Blame the aging VQ V6 engine.
The JX’s ride and handling are similarly sufficient for the vehicle’s intended mission. The steering is light but well-weighted, and even provides some feedback if you’re paying close attention. Body motions and lean are fairly well controlled, but rush the JX and it feels heavy and out of its element, lapsing into a safe, dull plow. Did I really expect otherwise, even with the Technology Package’s “active trace control”? Hope, perhaps. Expect, no. The ride is generally smooth and quiet, though there’s some “head toss” over uneven roads (a by-product of thick stabilizer bars) and some minor jitters over patchy pavement (the standard 18-inch wheels might help–the tested vehicles all had the optional 20s). One “feature” that few people will notice, or be bothered by if they do: the 60 side of the second row often vibrates, as if it’s harmonizing with a frequency in the suspension.
The Infiniti JX starts at $41,400. Add $1,100 for all-wheel-drive. Tick all of the major boxes and the sticker’s bottom line reaches $54,800, which is $540 below a 2012 Acura MDX Advance with Entertainment Package. But the ancient Acura lags in the safety nannies department, while the oh-so-2013 JX has them all (ICC, FCW, BCI, DCA, BSW, BSI, LDW, LDP, XYZ, PDQ, WTF). BCI—Back-up Collision Intervention—is a first: if the system detects that you’re about to back up into something, it automatically stops the vehicle. Between this feature and the around-view monitor Infiniti pioneered a few years ago (I’m a fan), the paint on the JX’s rear bumper should be good for the long haul. Use TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool to assign typical values to these features, adjust the price accordingly, and the JX emerges with a nearly $3,700 price advantage over the MDX. Compared to a loaded 2012 Buick Enclave, a similarly-equipped JX lists for $1,890 less before adjusting for feature differences and about $3,200 less afterwards. Even though the Infiniti can be optioned into the mid-fifties, it’s actually a good value. Willing to forego the fancy bits for a lower price? Nissan has a closely related Pathfinder on the way.
In the end, I’m not sure how to answer the question posed by the introduction. In the next few years, I’m going to take my kids on a grand tour of the western national parks from Arizona to Alberta. When I do, I’d like a roomy three-row vehicle with an athletic chassis. I like how Infinitis drive, my wife likes how they look and feel. They might have stuck to their characteristic way of doing things and created our ideal family truckster. But the entire auto industry has realized the pointlessness of catering to fecund driving enthusiasts taking once-in-a-lifetime Rocky Mountain road trips. The Cadillac SRX lost its barely-there third row and shifted to a front-wheel-drive platform. The relatively car-like Mercedes-Benz R-Class was vastly outsold by the clumsier GL. Lexus never delivered a planned driver-focused GS-based crossover, instead peddling the RX, GX and LX. Infiniti paid its car guy dues with the EX and FX; the former has sold poorly, the latter just a bit better. So the JX, which takes the emerging segment norm and dresses it like an Infiniti, is only a surprise in that it didn’t happen years ago. Unless you get off on safety nannies, there’s no wow, and little in the way of driving excitement. But there’s a lot of nice. The big question isn’t whether the JX will sell–it will–but how many other Infinitis will head down the same path.
Infiniti provided a couple of the tested JXs, fuel, insurance, airfare to Charleston, a fancy boutique hotel, and excellent food. Bill French at Suburban Infiniti of Novi provided another JX so I could test the ride on Michigan roads. Bill can be reached at 888-779-2907.