2013 Infiniti JX quick spin
An Infiniti for the upper-middle-class masses
What is it?
The JX is the right vehicle at exactly the right time for Infiniti. It has put a lot of effort into becoming Japan's most performance-oriented luxury brand, but its crossovers and utility vehicles have a bit of a Goldilocks problem: the EX and FX are too small for most families, the QX too big. But beyond being the right size, the JX also has the right numbers: it seats seven, has good fuel economy figures, and of course, has the right price tag to lure customers into Infiniti showrooms.
To achieve these desired figures, Infiniti had to change its main recipe. With the exception of the truck-based QX, all Infiniti products share the same FM platform, which is also used in the Nissan 370Z sports car. Not the JX. Sure, it may have standard all-wheel drive, but it's really more of a lengthened Nissan Murano than anything else. It also shares its powertrain — a 3.5-litre V6 and CVT transmission — with the Murano; the CVT is an Infiniti first. Nissan will also commandeer the JX's underpinnings for the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder.
Beyond the new platform, the JX also seeks to make life easy for the busy modern family: the third row can accommodate adults (at 5'10" I easily fit there), and the second row can still tilt and slide to provide third-row access even with a LATCHed child seat in place.
We did, however notice that the JX's interior isn't quite up to the standard of other Infinitis; there's a lot of sheen on the plastics, not to mention contrast in plastic colour, texture, and finish between those used on the dashboard and doors. A rap of the knuckles on the dash-top reveals hard plastic, and the leather trimming the steering wheel is coarse in texture — both fine in a Nissan, but not so in a near-$60,000 luxury crossover. On the plus side, the cabin is tastefully styled, equipped with just about every toy you can think of, and the centre console controls are well-marked and easy to use.
What's it like to drive?
While the JX might look like a slightly softer and curvier — feminine? — FX, it doesn't drive anything like one. Where the FX encourages the driver to chase down corners, the JX, with its soft suspension and slow-geared steering doesn't. If you have the drivetrain selector in "Eco" mode, the car literally discourages you from spirited driving by pushing back on the accelerator pedal in a bid to help you save fuel. Squash this imaginary egg, and the engine revs stay pegged at high rpms as its speed catches up. Normal and Sport modes sharpen the throttle response a bit, but an athlete it ain't.
No, the JX is much happier at a relaxed pace, schlepping kids and family around. It cruises quietly, and cossets with comfortable seats and a positively plush ride. The JX is happier still when it's protecting you. Like when your parents were teaching you to drive, the active electronic aids will remind you to keep your distance (the car brakes by itself, even without cruise control engaged), and will pull you back into your own lane if you don't indicate. It will even slam on the brakes if it detects a passing car while reversing — it's a smart system, but perhaps a bit too eager to save your butt; it got in the way several times while parallel parking. Unlike your parents, it reminds you with a subtle, polite 'beep' — no hysterics here. If you find that too invasive, you can mute it.
While I'm all for safety systems, I can't help but wonder if those on the JX will lull its drivers into a sense of false security — especially given the button to active all the controls has an icon of a car surrounded by a force-field.
Should you buy one?
Given that the JX is one of the fastest selling new vehicles on sale in Canada, the answer would appear to be yes, and if you're one of many Canadians looking for a three-row crossover, it certainly isn't a bad choice given its space, features, and that it's slightly lighter on fuel than its main rivals. But the biggest convincing factor is likely the price: at $44,950 to start, it's in the same neck of the woods as a mid-level Pilot or Highlander — not an Acura or Lexus. A fully loaded model such as our test car costs no more than $60,000, whereas other premiums will easily stretch into the $70s. So while the JX might not be what we've come to expect from Infiniti, Infiniti has read the market and delivered a vehicle that's exactly what middle-upper-class families want.
2013 Infiniti JX
Price (base/as-tested): $44,950 / $58,400
Type of vehicle: AWD full-size crossover
Engine: 3.5-litre, 24-valve, DOHC V6
Horsepower/Torque: 265 hp / 248 lb.-ft.
0-100 km/h (est.): 8.3 seconds
Fuel economy (city/hwy/as-tested): 11.5 / 8.5 / 12.9 L/100 km
Competition: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Buick Enclave, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Ford Flex, Land Rover LR4, Lincoln MKT, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC90
QUICK SPIN SUMMARY
Spacious and versatile interior
Plenty of technology
Good value for money
Interior details lack the typical Infiniti polish
Sometimes-intrusive electronic aids
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