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2013 Infiniti JX35 First Drive

The 2013 Infiniti JX is a solid player in a field filled with solid competition.

What It Is
Infiniti's latest crossover caters to the upper-middle class in need of a less-sporty yet still posh people mover.

Best Thing
The JX's interior is analogous to its big brother, the QX56, but without the hefty price tag that comes along with the full-size SUV.

Worst Thing
The third-row of seating is hardly a place for anyone over the age of eight to log miles on. Legroom is at a premium and getting into the third bench is not easy.

Snap Judgment
Despite a slow-reacting continuously variable automatic transmission, the 2013 Infiniti JX35 promises to be a strong contender in a hot segment.


The luxury crossover segment has seen exponential growth over the past four years, and Infiniti is looking to leave its indelible mark on it with the introduction of its latest entrant, the all-new 2013 Infiniti JX35. For five months Infiniti held the world in wait after introducing its latest luxury crossover at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, and later, the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show. In a rare move, the automaker showed off a vehicle that wasn't set to hit the open market until the spring of 2012, five months after its initial unveiling. During that time however, Infiniti began taking orders for its all-new crossover and amassed more tha 2,700 reservations in the first three months of doing so.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Infiniti already has two luxury crossovers but felt the need for a third and that's where the 2013 Infiniti JX35 comes in to play. Slotted to sit below the full-size QX56, but on a slightly more family-friendly branch than the five-passenger FX models, Infiniti expects its seven-passenger JX crossover to compete against the likes of the Acura MDX and Audi Q7. The JX35 starts at $40,450 while the JX35 all-wheel drive commands a base price of $41,550, both priced just below the competition in an attempt to steal away sales.

Just exactly where the JX35 will end up in the ever-expanding luxury crossover segment remains a mystery though. Infiniti expects the JX to compete against the likes of heavyweight contestants like the Acura MDX and Audi Q7 and it shows, with both exterior and interior measurements nearly identical to the Acura and Audi. Infiniti also hopes the JX's ability to fit seven passengers will draw more customers away from the competition and into its all-new crossover. In addition to style and the whole first-one-on-the-block advantage, the JX has technological features that makes both the MDX and Q7 look like a pair of stripped down executive rental cars. With features like the Infiniti Personal Assistant and Back-up Collision Intervention system the JX35 has a real shot at taking the title for top luxury crossover in the foreseeable future.

Walkaround

At first glance, the JX35 resembles a smaller version of a QX56 that was caught wearing the G sedan's front-end. The JX's profile looks bigger from a distance than it really is, and from its grille shape to its swooping rearmost window pillar, it shares exterior styling cues found on all of Infiniti's new or redesigned models. Without question the JX35 blends in with the rest of Infiniti's lineup, and that's not a bad thing. Infiniti is moving towards implementing bolder exterior styling for all of its vehicles and that includes the automaker's soon-to-be-signature double-arch grille, wave design hood, and larger wheels than those found on the competition. While the JX35 doesn't stray far from its FX and EX crossover siblings, being the new kid on the block always garners attention-even for a little while.

Sitting Down

While some may disagree on its alluring exterior styling it only takes a few seconds to realize the interior makes the 2013 Infiniti JX35 shine brighter than nearly all others in the luxury crossover segment in which it competes. Every panel fits together like a carefully crafted jigsaw puzzle and every detail down to the chromed-accented air vent knobs have been taken into consideration. The front seats of the JX resemble those of a larger SUV as you sink comfortably into them but still sit upright and high enough to see the whole road. The second and third row seating is also plush yet supportive, but legroom gets tighter with each subsequent row. The third row of seats proved to serve little purpose as only small children without a car seat could barely sit comfortably back there. Gaining access to the third row of seating was easy and can even be done so while a child seat occupies a second-row chair. In spite of this, actually squeezing a full-grown adult back there proved to be quite cumbersome. On the plus side, there's still ample cargo room behind the third row seatbacks.

The JX35 ushers in new technology for the automaker with the introduction of the Infiniti Personal Assistant and Back-up Collision Intervention system. The Infiniti Personal Assistant is a concierge service that is available to the JX's owner 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year no matter where you are in the world. The IPA can do everything from check the weather at your destination to making dinner reservations at the local hot spot for the evening. The most intriguing part of the IPA is that you don't need to physically be inside the JX to use the service. It can be called upon at a moment's notice no matter where you are in the world. Upon purchasing a JX35, the new owner can set up an account with the IPA that includes basic information like a contact and credit card number. The IPA can be reached by simply pressing a button while inside the JX, but if a situation arises and you're not in the crossover, you can call a phone number too.

The Back-up Collision Intervention system is another first for Infiniti and can be found on the 2013 JX35. This system uses sensors and sonar to "look" for an object crossing the vehicle's path while in reverse. A series of visual and audible warnings alert the driver, will push back on the accelerator pedal, and even apply the brakes if the driver doesn't do so in time.

Driving

In an hour and 45 minutes of wheel time with the JX35, we covered more than 90 miles of highways and byways that snaked through Charleston, South Carolina and other surrounding areas. While we only got a taste of how the luxury crossover would handle on long, flat, straight roads the JX sailed along with a hitch.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

The Infiniti Drive Mode Selector offered up four different ways to configure the JX's suspension and engine responsiveness. Standard, Sport, Snow, and Eco are all accessible by the twist of an oddly small knob positioned between the driver and passenger's seats. When left in Standard, the JX's 3.5-liter V-6 engine is lackadaisical and numb to the driver's wants, leaving you to scratch your head as the continuously variable transmission hovers around 6000 rpm even after reaching a desired cruising speed. However, turn the knob one click to the right and the crossover quickly comes to life unleashing the better half of 265 horsepower. Engage the JX into manual mode while still in Sport mode and the crossover channels its inner G sedan, delivering a much livelier ride, albeit not one quite up to the level of its FX sibling. Eco mode proved to be less satisfying as the V-6 engine became much tamer than when in Sport mode. The CVT's operation doesn't actually "shift" gears, but instead, it acts as if it has one big, long gear. It takes some getting used to. As for the Snow mode? It was early springtime in South Carolina, in the low 70s. Sadly, Infiniti wasn't able to arrange the weather patterns to deliver snow for our drive. The EPA rated the 2013 Infiniti JX35 at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg on the highway for the front-wheel drive variant. The all-wheel drive configuration varies slightly with 18 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.

The JX's overall ride was smooth even as the CVT transmission seemed to work hard to keep fuel economy figures high. While the JX was slow to get to highway speeds, bringing the all-new luxury crossover to a halt wasn't as hard to do; when we slammed on the brakes to avoid missing a last-minute turn on our driving route, the brakes bit quickly and hauled the JX down to a safer speed without drama. Overall the JX's ride was comfortable while cruising down the highway, but that was without any cargo or more than two passengers.

Summary

Overall we came away from our abbreviated time with the 2013 Infiniti JX35 impressed but with more questions. The JX is only offered with the 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a CVT transmission, and while it can get the job done, it takes some fine-tuning by the driver to feel out what setting best-suits their specific style. While Acura's MDX and the Audi Q7 feel much bigger than the JX while driving down the road or maneuvering through a congested part of a city, you can just jump into each as they stand and drive off without fiddling with different settings. However, while all three vehicles have an opulent interior, the JX goes the extra mile inside to make you feel special.

At first glance the JX has a tall order ahead of it if it seeks to dethrone the MDX and Q7, and an even steeper climb to reach the Volvo XC90, but by no means is it an impossible goal. With help from the likes of ground-breaking technology like the IPA and BCI, Infiniti has a real shot at dethroning the aforementioned competition. We're anxious to log some more seat time with the JX on familiar roads here in Los Angeles so we can really get a full sense of what Infiniti's latest crossover is all about. Still, if brisk acceleration isn't your first priority, we think the Infiniti JX35 is worth a look if you're in the market for a luxury crossover. The all-new 2013 Infiniti JX35 will begin making its way to dealerships nationwide this spring so check back soon for more driving impressions from the rest of the staff here at Automotive.com.

Basic Specs

3.5-liter V-6 engine, continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive, 265-hp, $40,450, 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy 3.5-liter V-6 engine, continuously variable transmission, all-wheel drive, 265-hp, $41,550 18 mpg city/23 mpg hwy

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