By on September 3, 2012

Sometimes we work too hard for success.  We listen to others, constructive criticism or not, doing our best to make a change for the better.  But are we really accomplishing that?  I’ve always wondered if the ends justify the means. Not for me at CCS in Detroit: after trying to change myself to fit a certain mold and failing, I realized I’m totally okay with (most) everything I do. On or off the vellum.

I wonder if vehicles like the Infiniti JX are the byproduct of a design studio trying too hard to address criticisms.  Or maybe this is just a common case of “over-styling” a vehicle.  Either way, here we are.

Is that a big-ass badge in ‘yo grille, or are you just happy to see me?

Since when did we let vehicles get so big (or tall) that emblems make a statement by being the size of a license plate? I’m not sure if I love/hate the lumps and bumps on the hood, bumper and the strange wraparound curves of the headlights.  The wings at the ends of the hood are a bit much, but nothing compared to that XXL grille.  Silly makes the wrong statement for a luxury car brand.

 

While Lexus’ “spindle” grille has a certain presence from its sharp curves and layers of texture/elevations, this flat and flabby grille shows why Infiniti always plays second fiddle to that other premium Japanese brand.

 

When you need textured light/wind diffusers in such an obvious location on the headlight, you did something wrong. Maybe there was a last minute legality issue with the light output, or maybe those things were needed to smooth out the aerodynamics.  Or maybe something else. Whatever that design problem is, this was the wrong solution.

 

This Mustang-esque lower valence treatment looks too sporty for a truck. Or SUV. Or CUV.  But when you have a face as tall as this, you got a lot of real estate to style.  At least the chrome fog light trim and not-solid plastic grille looks suitably upscale.

 

Hello Mr. Front Fascia, I’d like you to meet Mr. Hood and Mr. Fender.  You guys obviously hate each other, but that’s what happens when you add too many curves with no real place to merge elements cleanly.  For a fine example of this concept, check out the 1984 Corvette. It tucked away every panel gap behind a protective rubber stripe.

 

I love how this pointy styling element at the end of the headlight is cleanly and thoroughly filled in with an amber signal light. It adds sanity to an otherwise insane lighting pod.

 

The Gatling Gun look of the third generation Infiniti Q45 is alive and well in the JX.  And that’s a good thing.

 

I enjoy directional, twisty wheels on vehicles with boring sheetmetal, it brings visual excitement where needed. The JX’s voluptuous curves don’t need them: it adds too much noise to an already noisy body. Furthermore, can you believe how short (yet tall in height) the overhang is on this machine?

Like Disco music in 1983, car based trucks are wearing really, really thin these days.

 

No DLO fail and the fender/door/A-pillar meeting point is pretty logical.  Until you see just how much dead space there is between the A-pillar and the hood.  That’s one oddly shaped fender!

 

The negative area highlighted here may become a significant design element as you walk further back, but it starts in a horribly undefined/arbitrary location.  I’d move it much farther away from the door’s cutline, so it’d be less of an afterthought and “part of the whole” package.

 

The little tumor at the bottom of the side-view mirror doesn’t please the eyes. Considering the size of this part, there wasn’t enough real estate for a cleaner installation?

 

There’s a tacked-on mud flap up front, a clever chrome moulding (when nobody woulda minded ordinary paint) and a flared lower moulding at the bottom.  I hate the latter, as they are usually so big that they require “notching” so you can actually open the door without squishing the moulding.  Pontiacs of the 1990s were terrible about this, and it’s sad to see this trend continue apace.

 

More moulding notching.  Nothing says “We don’t really try very hard” quite like a severely notched moulding.

 

The notch doesn’t go away when you step back. Even worse, the wavy sheetmetal is a unique element to the JX.  Waves are a slippery slope, so to speak.  The more waves you add, the uglier the door cut line becomes.  I liked the aggressive (yet symmetric) coke-bottle profile of the 1996 Taurus from this angle, perhaps that’s the upper limit of good taste.

 

Toyota is pretty bad about over-styling the sheetmetal beneath the door handle to give a unique appearance, and now Infiniti is following suit.  Somehow, some way, this trend needs to stop.

 

No hate here, the JX is quite the looker from this angle.  All the waves and curves work mighty fine.

 

But (and there’s always a but) I can’t stand this plastic swoop holding the quarter window at the base of the C-pillar.  Maybe this smooths out the aero at highway speeds, but it sure is hideous.

 

And the big plastic triangle for the rear door’s window isn’t especially beautiful.  But at least it adds a little hard-edged blockiness to an otherwise frilly and frou-frou package.

 

Ack!  The plastic triangle bends up the window seal!  Infiniti is far from the only automaker doing this bit of design sin, I just wish I could banish this to the land of tailfins, open fenders and other outdated design elements.

 

I needed to snag an EVOX image to really show off the side.  From afar the JX looks much cleaner.  The fender flares and side sculpturing are not just appealing, they are unique.  But, as I’ve tried to show in the last few pictures, they over-styled the hell outta this vehicle. And for no good reason!

 

Speaking of…I normally like a radical looking side window, but this one tries way too hard.  The logical crease that sweeps back to the tailgate is a nice touch, ditto the plastic tailgate trim emulating the window’s curve.  But it’s not enough: this is such a silly design element.

 

Yup, still very silly.  Plus, it makes a rather impressive blind spot.  Remember when people bought SUV’s for their excellent view of the road from all corners? That died sometime around the Explorer-Firestone tire debacle.

 

While the front can get away with the curves and bubbles, the business end of a CUV needs to be boxy. Infiniti tries harder than most to hide that truth, and the overall look is contrived and counter-intuitive.  The lower curve of the rear glass gives the rear end a silly smile, while the rakish lighting pods have no business on a CUV.  Infiniti’s signature upper and lower license plate chrome mustaches are similarly out of place.  When it comes to the business end of any vehicle, being simple (or at least functionally honest) in the design is the right move.

 

More to the point, the JX’s rear hatch has too many elevation changes. I like the design on the tail lights from this angle, if they were flush with the body.  Stop trying so hard to be different!  There’s not enough room for creative expressions at this point!

 

Here’s an EVOX image since mine was too washed out from this angle.  You can’t see the elevation changes from here, which makes the JX look cleaner.  Flattening out most of the elevation changes would make the JX look this good at other angles.  But there’s really no hope in saving that rear glass treatment: this isn’t a Nissan Murano.  It doesn’t work here.

 

Bumper protection is usually an extra-cost option, but it shouldn’t be this much of an afterthought. If you can’t flush this part into the bumper for all models, at least chop it off before it melts down the bumper.  I’m fine with this treatment on a Hyundai CUV or similar, but Infiniti is a luxury brand!

 

When your emblem sits this close to your chrome trim, either the badge needs a shrink or your painted real estate needs more acreage.  Shrink the badge down, we know this isn’t a Honda! We promise!

 

This oval element is a nicely integrated item.  Kudos.

 

My favorite part of the JX is the sleek and functional components making up the rear wiper arm.

 

Now that I think about it, not only are there too many elevation changes on the rear end, but the lights are too narrow for this gigantic ass.

 

Yup, they need to be inches thicker. Inches, because the dead space between the bumper and the tail lights is rather extravagant. And not in a good way.

Combine all my other beefs with the two different textures presented in the tail lights, and I really grow weary of this back end. Simplify your life!

Thanks for reading, have a wonderful week!

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28 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2013 Infiniti JX...”


  • avatar
    oldowl

    At least those design glitches are on the outside. The ones on the inside of a vehicle are more consequential. Misplaced or ill-lit instruments and controls; fiddly pieces of distracting trim; poorly configured seating; poor sight lines; overly elaborate anything else. But then, I started driving when dashboards were simple and metal and steering wheels were skinny.

  • avatar
    Clarence

    Thanks for writing this. Love the detailed analysis.More please!

  • avatar
    dme123

    By God that is one hideous over styled pig of a thing. I cannot imagine the team that designed that abortion standing back, looking it and saying “Yes, this is exactly what the world needs”. I thought the trolls that Peugeot sell in the EU were bad, but this is like a caricature of modern overweight and over styled cars.

  • avatar
    tced2

    This thing is about 50% over-styled. This is true of many recent cars – they have too many stylists spending too much time on styling under the guise of sophistication. The full-employment-stylists-society has succeeded.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Sajeev, I’d like to coin a new term: FLO Fail – Fog Light Opening Fail. While it doesn’t apply so much to this vehicle, I drove by a 2012 Camry the other day with foglamps and the chrome triangle surrounding the tiny round lamp was just an eysore to look at.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    A body shop dream/nightmare. A dream, because good gracious they will charge a fortune to get all those creases correct (or chopping them all out) and a nightmare because they will earn their hourly rates getting it close to correct. A fender bender in that puppy could be a “total”.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    30 years ago a Japanese designer said the details on Japanese cars were overwrought because, with such heavy traffic, no-one ever saw a car from more than two feet away and they wanted to provide something interesting to look at. Now everything is overwrought and it’s not just Japanese vehicles that are guilty. Sajeev, can you explain why, despite new design freedoms in areas like headlights, grilles, sheetmetal stampings, all current cars look simply like mashups of each other? I blame it on automotive design schools that teach that a car is no different than a toaster when it comes to design. As a result, we have a whole generation of would-be Frank Gehrys instead of a generation of would-be Larry Shinodas. I want Shinodas designing my cars!

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not necessarily the designer’s fault, it’s the fault of people above their head. Design professors demand a sort of conformity, and Design departments have to answer to the CEO/Board of Directors/Stockholders/Dealers who want a vehicle that sells like their competitors…this happens all the time. Look at the Chevy HHR and the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Same designer, different company.

      Follow the money.

      It’s all about the money, honey.

  • avatar
    Huey Valentine

    I think the benchmark for over-styled automobiles was just about anything produced in 1958 though I doubt the JX will be held in quite the same high regard 54 years from now.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    Back in the days of the FX45, G35…

  • avatar

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!

    KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!

    .
    This Cthulhulian-monstrosity has Got to be maybe in my Top 1 Least Favorite Vehicles on the road today.

    It looks like an interpretation of a beached seafloor-creature done by Ultraman after seeing his first Dali painting.

    .
    Infiniti lost their clean, bmw-esque ways starting with the G37. And unfortunately, Nissan is following-suit.

    Clearly someone over there was brainwashed, Clockwork-Orange-style, and is hopelessly stuck on, “Nope. Needs more Sigmund The Seamonster.”

    .
    Great walkthrough of all the individual details, Sajeev!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “This Cthulhulian-monstrosity”

      +1. Excellent reference to the dark lord.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you, He will be pleased.

        Of course, the symbiote that’s welded itself to my medulla demands such offerings at least 1x/day.

        If not, I am once again assaulted by the tinnitus-migraine of mountains of oyster-shells clicking.

        ~About 24-hours later, I usually wake up with little recollection other than the faint whiff of vaporized anglerfish in the air.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Nice analysis.

    The one positive coming out of the JX is the backwards curve at the inside of the top of the D pillar. My understanding is that this will become a signature across the Infinity line, like the Hoffmeister (sp?) kink is for BMW. At least it’s distinctive.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      I for one don’t like that curve. It feels totally counter-intuitive to the flow of the greenhouse. Almost like someone photoshopped reality and used the warp tool on the back of the car.

      But I do agree it is distinctive – and will probably remain such for all time as I don’t think anyone else would want to copy it.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    I like the G37 enough to talk my wife in to buying one when she was in the market for a new car, but every single one of their SUV/CUVs is hideous. I get nauseous every time I go in to that dealership.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Well…at least they’re trying. I give credit for that, but there are too many design details to make any sense. It is not cohesive at all. I’ll take bland over something like this.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    That front shot and the view of the D-pillar made me physically ill when I looked at it. There is no excuse for making a vehicle this ugly.

  • avatar
    mmartel

    Excellent and enjoyable critique, Sajeev.

    As a future owner of one (well, my wife will own/drive it), I didn’t notice most of these “micro” styling details while checking out the vehicle on three separate occasions (not that it would have changed the final decision at all). My attention on the outside was drawn towards the “macro” elements — the overall shape and form of the sheet metal, glass and lights, and the large creases and chrome elements. For me, the most challenging design elements was the front grill. To me, it does seem almost comically exaggerated. But it’s consistent with the Infiniti FX and QX grills, so it’s familiar even if it doesn’t strike me as properly proportioned.

    Overall, I greatly prefer the Acura MDX external design and styling in this class (perhaps you’d consider doing a critique in the future as well)? But the 3rd row access, minor fuel economy advantages, and competitiveness in other areas of consideration were sufficient to win for Infiniti this time around.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I’m not a designer (no sh!t right) but I get a chuckle reading stuff like this. Cause for ever 1 person that agrees with it, there’s a dozen or more that will actually go out and buy it. Me? it’s ok, I’m kinda busy for the next 10 years trying to send my kids though school and college so buying a new car is out. But who knows, maybe in 2022, I’ll get a good deal on one of these babies!

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    As a product designer with an automotive background, I think “Vellum Venom” will quickly become my new favorite topic at TTAC. The stock-photo relief images help capture the big picture and provide a base for the reader to really pick up the nuances of the design.

    I’d love to see a breakdown on the Beluga whale of the automotive landscape, the JX’s big brother… the QX56.

    More of this please!

  • avatar
    KindaFondaHonda

    As an Infiniti owner (2010 M35) and future purchaser of something like this vehicle in a few months (my wife’s new car), I was interested in this exercise.

    While not overly concerned about every little “fail”, I also think there is something about this JX35 that tries too hard to be all curvy and surface-flamed. I loathe this trait in Hyundais as well.

    My M35 is (I think) beautifully styled and has terrific proportions. I love all the subtle details and straightforward overall shape. But quite honestly, it’s all about the driving experience and cabin for myself, along with most buyers.

    While the JX35 is not my cup of tea style-wise, it drives beautifully and is chock full of features, luxury, space, and comfort. All aspects my wife loves… and I too can appreciate.

    The other Infiniti in the running for us is the QX56, which I think looks fantastic. There I said it. While huge (and utterly capable), it has simpler lines and more classic proportions… with just a few styling quirks to make it a bit offbeat.

    I wish Vellum was a weekly feature!

  • avatar
    rodface

    We’re getting so close to this:

    http://www.fugly.com/media/IMAGES/Strange/puffy_car.jpg

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Now comes that awkward moment when I have to try to pull my foot out of my mouth.

    I just a few minutes ago saw one of these things in person. And it’s actually not THAT bad in person. I don’t know, maybe all this critical review and closeup shots helped me to digest it, but all in all, it looks… well still overstyled, but not too terrible.

    Still don’t like the kink in the back windowlette though.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Where I work, someone plunked down the cash for one in Nissan’s dark metallic purple. I noticed it immediately in the parking garage, and I notice it each day when it annoys me with its excess design features. I agree with Freddy M about the rear window kink. Kind of looks like they had a nice line back there, and someone fat came and sat on top of it.

    It’s entirely too chintzy, and I feel this model will go the way of the M from around 2005.

    I always think of the base of tasteful Japanese luxury design as the ~99 LS400. I see those today and always notice their elegant lines and simple styling, which together convey a substantial, dignified, formal presence.


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