Scores High: Upscale and flexible interior design, effective balance of power and fuel efficiency, sporty handling
Scores Low: Potentially jarring ride quality, expensive bundling of optional packages, limited rear visibility
Total Car Score Analysis
There’s a great conundrum going on in the premium and luxury family hauler segments, and it’s a conundrum the automakers are acutely aware of: an increasing number of family car buyers don’t want to buy a family car. While that sounds like an impossible situation it’s actually something the all-new 2013 Infiniti JX handles with aplomb. By simply eschewing all the traditional rules of family transportation (boxy shape, cushy handling, lackluster acceleration) the JX feels more like a large sports sedan than a family hauler – at least until you look in the rearview mirror and see all that interior real estate (and all those vision-hindering headrests) along for the ride.
The third-row headrests can be lowered to somewhat offset the vision issue, and the JX’s flexible interior space (along with its snappy drivetrain and confident handling) make it one of the more effective options for hauling people and cargo in both comfort and style. There are still relatively few luxury crossovers that offer three rows of full-sized passenger space along with responsive, car-like handling for a price starting under $50,000. The 2013 Infiniti JX effectively offers all of those things, making it a solid choice for upscale family transportation.
Infiniti deserves credit for utilizing distinctive design cues in an increasingly “me too” world of automotive shapes. Love it or hate it, you can at least identify a modern Infiniti product, and the 2013 JX is no exception. While the bulging hood lines, LED taillights and large wheels are trademark Infiniti features, what make the JX an appealing package is how these customary external traits conceal a large and functional three-row interior (with usable cargo area). A new design cue we’ll see on upcoming Infiniti models, the reverse-curving D-pillar, premiers on the JX and gives the rear a sporty – or squashed – look, depending on your personal perspective. Either way, it adds to the JX’s unique look.
Another common Infiniti design cue, the aforementioned large wheels, come in either 18-inch (standard) or 20-inch (optional) diameters. Our test car included the 20-inch wheels, and these contributed not only to the JX’s signature style but also to its responsive, confident handling…and occasionally bumpy ride. Our driving route, around picturesque Charleston, South Carolina, included a variety of road surfaces. And while none of them was overtly broken or damaged they did include the occasional pavement imperfection. The smaller ones passed under the JX mostly unnoticed, but the larger ones sent a jolt through the cabin that may not pass the “family-friendly” litmus test. Either stick with the standard 18-inch wheels or take the entire family on a thorough test drive if you’re ordering the 20s.
During that test drive you’ll notice the Infiniti JX’s capable performance from the 3.5-liter V6 with 265 horsepower and 248 pounds-feet of torque. Those numbers don’t suggest thrilling performance, and the JX will never be confused with a high-performance sports car. But this engine mates to an effective continuously variable transmission (CVT) driving either the standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive powertrain. The result is more-than-adequate acceleration, as well as 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with front-wheel drive (18/23/20 with all-wheel drive). These are impressive fuel economy numbers given the JX’s size and performance, and they surpass its primary competition.