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Infiniti’s 2013 JX 35 is a big crossover SUV that breaks the brand’s self-imposed rules and gets by with the transgressions.

JX is a front-drive chassis, available with a simple all-wheel drive. Foul called: Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, has said over the years that it would stick with rear-wheel/all-wheel drive for better-balanced handling. And it’s been lavish with hardware and software, so its AWD could anticipate need, instead of only reacting when the wheels spin, as the JX does.

JX is almost minivan-like in its handy features and people-oriented layout. One look at Infiniti’s smaller, style-first FX SUV makes clear how radically different is the JX approach.

JX uses a CVT (continuously variable-ratio transmission) instead of the conventional automatics the brand has embraced. CVTs usually make a vehicle feel as if it has a manual gearbox with a slipping clutch — yuck.

We didn’t expect to like JX one bit. On paper, it reads like a dumbed-down cop-out from a purveyor of scintillating machinery.

Not so. JX quickly became a favorite. Its appeal is in its balance of attributes:

•Ride quality. JX dispatches broken pavement with a shrug. No thumping from the suspension or tires.

•Handling. Not Infiniti-sharp, but not sloppy. Steering’s firm, well-centered. Brakes bite quickly, surely. Heavy front end wants to understeer a bit, but responds to a firm hand on the wheel.

•CVT. Infiniti discovered that the best thing to do with a CVT is get rid of it. So the JX mode-selector knob sort of gives you that option. In “sport” mode, it tries to mimic a conventional six-speed automatic with defined ratios. Feels as if there’s still some slipping-clutch-style slur within each ratio. Inferior to a real gearbox, but no longer a deal-breaker. The other modes are normal, eco and snow.

A separate program activates “eco pedal” — the gas pedal resists when you try to push it, arguing with you about using more fuel as you do when pushing on the throttle. Now that really is anti-Infiniti.

•All-around view. If you’re willing to spend thousands, you can get packages that give you cameras and sensors to show you everything on all sides. The setup even tries to stop the JX, if you don’t, when something’s sneaking up on you.

In full alert mode, you wind up with three views over two screens. It can seem like too much information; confusing.

•Space. Lots of it in the first and second rows. Not so much in the third, but that’s par for this course.

Second row has more legroom than some vehicles do in the front row, and that’s a ton. Second row also slides fore-aft to help tailor people and cargo space to your needs of the moment.

The second row also can slide far enough forward to provide an alley to the third row, even if a child seat is strapped into the second row.

•Interior presentation. Very classy trim. Generally simple, wide-open dashboard layout. No gimmicks.

The twist-jiggle knob that controls the stereo and other features is easy to work, though some procedures aren’t intuitive.

You get the sense that some of the junk that automakers lard onto today’s cars is done just because they can. And once one does it, others have to keep up.

•Comfort. Remarkable, for the most part, often the direct result of vehicle size. Seats have silly squiggle patterns, but were restful, nonetheless.

Head restraints will cause neck aches for some physiques. It’s because of whiplash regulations that require the restraint to all but whack the back of your skull.

Ford has managed to create legal adjustable head restraints that solve the problem. Why others aren’t willing to pay to use the idea, or change it just enough to claim they didn’t copy it, is unclear.

Perhaps that doesn’t seem like a litany of praise, but in truth, it was barely moments after sliding into the JX in Midtown Manhattan that it began warming the cockles. And it kept on doing so on the highway, in the ‘burbs, sitting at idle.

It’s not cheap: about $50,000, typically outfitted. Nor is it a fuel-sipper, showing about 20 mpg on the highway, 16 in the suburbs, so it won’t make a lot of shopping lists.

But buyers in that neighborhood would do well to knock on JX 35′s door and ask to come in.

About the 2013 Infiniti JX 35

•What? New full-size, seven-passenger, three-row crossover SUV. Available with front- or all-wheel drive.

•When? On sale since March.

•Where? Made at Smyrna, Tenn.

•Why? Not a lot of competition.

•How much? FWD starts at $41,400 with shipping. AWD: $42,500. Loaded: mid-$50s. Pre-production test vehicle would have had $54,800 sticker.

•What makes it go? 3.5-liter V-6 rated 265 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, 248 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400. Continuously variable-ratio automatic transmission has normal, eco, snow and sport modes. Sport mimics a conventional six-speed automatic.

•How big? Think Acura MDX/Audi Q7. JX is 196.4 inches long, 77.3 in. wide, 67.8 in tall on a 114.2-in. wheelbase. Weighs 4,280 lbs. (FWD) or 4,419 lbs. (AWD). Passenger space: 149.8 cu. ft. Cargo space behind third row: 15.8 cu. ft.

•How thirsty? FWD rated 18 miles per gallon in town, 24 highway, 21 combined. AWD: 18/23/20.

Trip computer in AWD test vehicle registered 20.4 mpg (4.9 gallons per 100 miles) in highway driving, 16 mpg (6.25 gal/100 mi) in frisky suburban driving.

Burns premium. Holds 19.5 gallons.

•Overall: Lovable, if the size suits.
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