By on February 6, 2013

 

Matthew Guy is a seasoned car buying professional who is fond of making money while offering loud opinions. Years of experience casting his critical eye across crapcans and luxury vehicles alike have left him critical of bad machines and appreciative of fine ones. Mark Stevenson, on the other hand, has an automotive history that would make an AMC Gremlin Owners Club member blush. From early-90s J-Bodies to somewhat respectful yet plebeian family cars, Mark’s purchasing patterns are reminiscent of a disease, for which there is no 12-step program nor neighbourhood support group. Fortunately for TTAC readers, they live in the same town and get to drive the same cars. This is Vendition Juxtaposition.

Our inaugural Vendition Juxtaposition is Infiniti’s soon-to-be renamed JX35. The 7-passenger luxury crossover slots between the current EX and FX models – even though it is larger than both – giving it a future designation of QX60. This murderously competitive segment is littered with sales-success examples that trumpet luxury and all-weather capability in equal measures. An opportunity, then, to test Infiniti’s assertion they can play with the best of them.

Styling

Matt: Three-row offerings in this genre range from the krill-hungry MKT to the teutonic Audi Q7. In this, the JX stands out, drawing a line at the intersection of bulbous and fluid. I think it looks like a Murano with breasts, and well developed co-ed ones at that. Spanning a vast nine inches, the belt buckle of an Infiniti badge dominates the front, drawing stares and the occasional crass comment from unwashed proletariat. In an effort to stand out, the side windows are terminated at the rear with an odd kink and slash, reminiscent of an inverted Z left by Zorro. Having used breast, co-ed, kink, and slash all in the same paragraph, I believe I’ll halt my assessment right now.

Mark: The competition in this segment and at this price point is pretty odd. The MKT and Q7 mentioned above are, as Matt eloquently stated, at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. The JX seems to be able to hit that middle ground sweet spot: not terribly forgettable like the Audi Q7 but it won’t make your kids lose their government approved school lunches when you pull up to the front door at the end of the day like the Lincoln MKT. While I would be remiss to call the JX sexy, it definitely has the right curves in the proper places, like an over-sexed female biology teacher with a strict workout regimen and a winky eye. You know it is wrong to like her, but you still do, even 15 years after she taught you the reproductive rituals of chimpanzees.

Comfort

Mark: Ride quality should be in the top 5 important things when developing a family hauler. The Infiniti JX is guilty of something done by almost all of its competitors: plaster on oversized wheels so the car will catch the eyes of people walking through the lot. They absolutely ruin ride quality.

The standard 18 inch wheels are large enough for a vehicle like the JX. As soon as you get to the Deluxe Touring package and above, the JX is festooned with gargantuan 20 inch wheels wrapped in 55 series rubber. They are the only thing holding back the soft, pliable suspension from doing its job. If you don’t need anything offered at this trim level, you’re lucky. Otherwise, see if you can get a set of 18 inch “winter” wheels as part of the deal. Your back will thank you as everything else about the ride is absolutely spot on.

Matt:  The driver’s seat is surrounded by great swaths of sumptuous leather, expected for a vehicle commanding 60 large. Soft surfaces abound, even on the leading edge of the centre console, a surface caressed only by the driver’s right leg. Buttons for the power liftgate and heated steering wheel were inexplicably located in a far flung recess of the dash, obscured by the driver’s left knee. In the front, headroom is vast and legroom is ample.

Conversely, this 6’6” author was absolutely miserable in the second row. The seat bottom is low to the floor yet the top of this author’s head was squarely against the glass roof. With the absence of toe room, slouching while splaying my knees only made me want to buy a pair of cowboy boots and tune the XM radio to Prime Country. Memo to Infiniti sales staff: be alert if your customer is greater than six feet tall. Plug them into the front seats. Show them the spacious cargo area. Tackle them to the ground. Anything – anything – to prevent them from experiencing the second row. For tall people, it is a total and utter Deal Breaker.

Performance

Mark: If seeking performance is your modus operandi in purchasing your next 7-passenger creature caravan, the JX is not going to be at the top of the list.

Power comes from the omnipresent VQ35 V6, which has been in everything from the Nissan Quest to the Infiniti G35. While the 3.5L isn’t a bad engine, there are better engines out there, including the 3.6L V6 in the Cadillac SRX. I am not sure on Nissan’s decision to forgo giving the JX the new 3.7L mill, but, I doubt the sales demographic of soccer moms and hockey dads will really care about 20hp.

What prospective buyers will care about is the transmission. Another fixture of Nissan’s offerings has been the availability of continuously variable transmissions. Due to their lack of real gears, CVTs return great fuel economy, keeping their attached power plants at optimal revs for the load demanded by Mr. and Mrs. Driver. What they don’t deliver is exhilarating performance. Instead, your ears are assaulted with a continuously variable whine from the engine, similar to a groan from a black labrador retriever gargling gravel.

Matt:  Journosaurs asserting that the four settings on Infiniti’s Drive Mode Selector offer no difference in behaviour have clearly never driven the vehicle. On powder covered roads that resemble any flat surface in a record producer’s office, Snow and Eco Modes attempt to modulate throttle response, the latter annoyingly pushing back on the gas pedal.  Sensing wheelspin while seeking out maximum traction in the white stuff will save the bacon of ham fisted operators in northern climes but I never cottoned to an actively Eco-hampered throttle.

The Sport setting simulates gears within the CVT while offering appropriate throttle response. Normal Mode offers no distinct features at all and is, in fact, not even labelled. Sales people would do well to find places on their test drive to demonstrate all this. A two day average netted a 4mpg improvement between Eco and Sport Modes, 16mpg vs 20mpg respectively in mixed driving.

Features and Tech

Matt: Targeted at families, Infiniti is proud of the second row’s ability to slide uniquely, allowing access to the third row without needing to remove a full size baby seat. This works well, although it is recommended that one unholster their baby from the seat before doing so. The third row entry space here is understandably scant; the same entry point on the opposite side of the car is much better.

Over 15 cubic feet of cargo space was measured with all seven seats occupied, albeit most of it vertically. There’s a handy four foot wide hidden compartment underneath the cargo floor – a quarter of which is occupied by the optional Bose subwoofer. Storage hooks abound, useful for hanging shopping bags upon or as anchor points for unruly children. The power liftgate, expected in this class, works seamlessly and the button that prompts its operation is notably lit at night. Important Selling Points, all.

Mark: Ever go into a new job, walk into a meeting completely blind on the first day, and have everyone in the conference room use three letter acronyms which are completely indiscernible to you? That pretty much sums up jumping into the JX for the first time. BSW, BSI, LDW, LDP, RSTLNE, LMNOP. Seriously, it is an onslaught of acronyms. After a few days, you figure them all out, but they definitely aren’t intuitive. But, they are great safety features.

Radar guided cruise control is my absolute favourite. Set it and forget it cruise control is the best invention since cruise control itself and makes long journeys on the highway the equivalent of sitting in a luxury train cabin.

The upgraded Bose audio system sounds superb to the layman. Some audiophiles might nitpick. And if you don’t want to listen to the kids listening to The Wiggles right behind your head on the DVD screens, slap some earphones on the little buggers and crank The Wall for yourself.

Value

Matt: This example stickered at $60,695 – a sum which, when revealed to friends and neighbours, reliably caused them to bray in the manner of a sunburned donkey. Infiniti has chosen to stack their option packages like pancakes at IHOP, forcing customers to pony up $5000 for the Premium package before allowing them the privilege of spending $2300 on dual rear seat LCD screens, for example.

Want electronic nannies in the form of Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Intervention, Mr. Flush-With-Cash? That requires the $3500 Technology package … only after one has selected the $2700 Deluxe Touring package in addition to the two other packages already mentioned. That adds up to $13,500 – a Kia Rio worth of options. Deal Breakers all, as customers may not want to spend such extravagant sums for the privilege of rear heated seats, a feature notably found standard on mid-level Hyundais. All these prices are in Canadian dollars, taxes and maple syrup not included.

Mark: Matt makes some great points. Want to know the price of entry, though? $44,900. Try to find another luxury badged 7 passenger SUV starting at that price in Canadian pesos.

Yeah, the option packages are a house of cards at best. Remember those big wheels I mentioned earlier being the only thing that ruins the ride? They don’t come on the base model. And, honestly, the JX is well-trimmed in base spec. It isn’t a Nissan Versa sedan with roll up windows and no air.

If you are wanting to get into the entry-level of luxury, this is the best choice, bar none. Add $20,000 to your budget and there are better options in the marketplace.

Selling Points & Deal Breakers

Salespeople are apt to look for Selling Points in a product. They give us unique features on which to focus while crushing the competition. Deal Breakers are product deficiencies which must be counteracted or minimized. Vendition Juxtaposition is proud to identify them.

Selling Points

+ Sumptuous interior trimmings

+ Third row access with a baby seat

+ Driving Modes that actually work

Deal Breakers

- Gets expensive quickly

- Second row not for tall people

- Odd ergonomic quirks

 

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33 Comments on “Vendition Juxtaposition: 2013 Infiniti JX35...”


  • avatar
    olddavid

    My next door neighbor is one of those guys , while loving his machinery, cannot even change his own oil. He owns a late model (2009, I believe) Porsche, which gets driven once a month, at most. He also has a C6, a restored XKE as well as a Prius for the daughter and a Ranger for hauling. My point is, that with this kind of automotive schizophrenia, how can Infiniti possibly compete in this demograhic with so many other models that have more cache amongst the people who can afford a $60k Crossover? Don’t get me wrong, he is generous enough to allow me to drive his vehicles whenever I want as he doesn’t want them to get lot-itis, but as his adviser, why would I recommend the JX35 over a similar Audi? I own a 96 Infiniti Q45 and love the car, but I couldn’t in clear conscience influence him to buy a new one. Poor Infiniti has seemingly lost their way, particularly among their core demographic. Well, sun today here so I’m heading off on his stock Fatboy for a shakedown run. And he pays me for this. Astounding. What was the question again?

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      Oh yeah, I forgot. The deal-breaker is a $60,000 Nissan – even in Infiniti clothes. I’ll stifle myself now.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      Simple.

      The Audi Q7 is ugly in all but the S-Line trim.
      The Lincoln MKT is ugly in all trims period.
      The BMW X5 with decent options is a LOT higher.
      The Porsche Cayenne with decent options is a LOT higher despite it’s entry point.
      The Lexus RX isn’t as spacious; The GX is a lot more expensive, thirstier, and not the target market.
      The Benz ML isn’t as good. I test drove one, including the diesel. Not a great car for the same money.
      The Benz GL with decent options is a helluva lot higher and thirstier by far.
      The Cadillac Escalade is a non starter, the SRX is too small.
      The VW Touareg doesn’t have the options this has, especially after its content neutering recently.
      The Volvo….??? Non starter.

      The only competitors the JX35 / QX60 has is the Explorer/Flex Limited, Buick Enclave and the Acura MDX. Infiniti knows this and that’s why this car exists. It will gain traction in due time.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh God, another one of these “I have a 20 year old varient of ________ and I can tell you based on this that ______ has lost its way.”

      Enough.

      Infiniti, as a brand, isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have the cache of the Germans or Lexus, nor is it as good to drive as a BMW. It’s interiors are nice, but not Audi-quality, and the powertrains are nice but often available in Nissans. However, beyond necessary but cynical attempts like the JX (which EVERYONE does because they want to make money), Infiniti has done a good job of staying the course. Their car lineup is RWD or AWD, sporting, fun, and nicely put together. Their designs present a more successfully brazen design language attempt than Acura, but they maintain the same value and reliability proposition that Japanese luxury cars are known for. So please, can we stop with the cliche “they’ve lost their way” line? Brands change as they need to, but Infiniti’s lineup over the last 7 years has been probably their most cohesive and interesting ever.

      • 0 avatar
        Maxseven

        Agreed on all points. However, I do feel that Infiniti has “lost their way” with regard to exterior styling, as some of their line-up has become too blister-bubbly and roly poly, with design cues that conjure up images of big metal cyborg insects or hollywood movie mock-ups for futuristic submarine vehicles. I soon expect to see an option for big multi-articulated robotic arms recessed into the body geometry that can extend out and be controlled by the driver. Useful for removing bug biomass from windscreen, snapping the ice from wipers and picking up and examining that “thing” we all see on the side of the road that MIGHT be valuable.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    ” three letter acronyms which are completely indiscernible to you”

    And which aren’t unique even within one’s particular division…. “which CDS?”

    I have no interest in this vehicle class, but great writing and I look forward to more.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A nine-inch badge on the front of a car is ridiculous, and out of scale with the rest of the vehicle. Even the QX56 (or QXM4002 as it will be renamed) does not need a nine inch badge.

    This car is just vulgar, and the outside is offensive. The “blends” of styling cues/types don’t work for me, as the whole thing just looks axe-chopped like a TVR.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    At the risk of babbling, how many of these do their sales projections say they will move this MY? I cannot imagine more than 25,000 since I’m sure their major market is the US. At that planning volume, how can they amortize the tooling, let alone the yen problem, the shipping and the advert campaigns? Surely some TTAC commentator is privy to these discussions. What do the insiders use for rationale? When I want unfiltered data, I subscribe to Crane’s Automotive News but have yet to read any breakdown on Infiniti other than MY 2012′s raw sales data.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      TTAC Fanatic answers the question: They’ll have no problem amortizing the tooling cost because there isn’t any. This thing is just a gussied-up New Pathfinder. Hence the proletarian 3.6 mill, the annoying CVT, etc.

  • avatar
    TTACFanatic

    Couple of things:

    The 3.7 would add a lot more than 20HP … more like 40+. Hell even the Infiniti version of the venerable VQ35 was producing 300+ HP (depending on application).

    … But I suspect they stuck with the less stressed Nissan variant because it still uses the older version of the CVT. Supposedly this was corrected by its platform mate the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder. So the QX60 (?) might be able to squeeze a few more ponies without snapping the band.

    Finally, I think the real competition for the JX35/QX60 is the Nissan Pathfinder. The price on the Infiniti is obnoxiously high on its own but is just plain silly when you can easily compare it to the Nissan version for $15K less (Platinum Premium AWD stickers at $44,295). It looks pretty much the same inside and out, plus I don’t think there are any options that are Infiniti exclusive.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    LOVED IT…..more please.

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    Any particular reason this is labeled “Vendition Juxtaposition” (whatever that means) rather than what it is, a “Review”?

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Long-term car buying experiences (vendition) of two guys set side by side (juxtaposition).
      Probably absorbed too much Schoolhouse Rock while raising their kids :-)

      • 0 avatar
        missinginvlissingen

        Did they both buy (vendition) the car, or just review it?

        Don’t mean to be pedantic, I’m just easily bothered by word choices that go beyond clever to the realm of awkwardness.

        Every other review on this site is simply labeled “Review”.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark Stevenson

        The cancellation of School House Rock is what is wrong with kids today.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      Vendition … act of vending/selling. Matt’s a former salesman (should have made that a bit more obvious in the lead in) so he looks at these cars from that perspective. I buy a lot of different vehicles, so I guess I’m writing from the view of the opposite side of the coin. That’s the juxtaposition part.

      Clear as mud?

      • 0 avatar
        missinginvlissingen

        Fair enough. But next time I’m at a dealership, I’m going to ask the salesman whether he will offer venditioning, and then watch him respond that he’ll have to check with the shop to see if it’s available as a dealer-installed option on this trim level.

  • avatar
    wmba

    I think this review lacks context.

    Since this vehicle is a development of the Altima/Murano, it has a transverse engine and front-wheel drive. All wheel drive is optional.

    What drivetrain did the tested vehicle have?

    The transverse engine means you get the 3.5l engine and CVT. The 3.7l is only made for the rear wheel drive Infinitis (they of course do have AWD optional) which have a north-south engine installation and a 7 speed auto.

    This is the only Infiniti with cheap car guts and transverse engine. It is a clone of the new Pathfinder as mentioned above. Seems like a cynical marketing exercise for all that money.

    A purely personal note – in dark colors in low light conditions, where the blowsy curves are not noticeable, and as I first saw one, this vehicle looks box-like. I thought it was a hearse. the chrome Z on the back side window looks like the usual styling cue of hearses. Ugh.

    The review I found a bit light, fellas. No mention made of the handling with the basically front wheel drive layout. No context for a possible buyer, and most of the well written prose devoted to the interior really. I’m glad it’s sumptuous. For the money it darn well should be.

    Finally, this vehicle is assembled in Tennessee, not Japan. Past information from Infiniti has stressed the special assembly for Infinitis, particularly the paint job. How does the fit and finish compare to other Infinitis?

    I’m afraid this thing is the mere commodification of the Infiniti name. A bit more digging next time for a TTAC review, please.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      In Canada, the JX comes standard with AWD in the most plebeian of trim. We reviewed it in Canada. It is a Canadian model. Because Canada.

      Also, it’s a 7-passenger crossover, not the X3-battling Infiniti FX. There’s no mention of handling because those who buy one won’t care about how many G’s it can hang in a corner.

      But, if you want to know, the handling is adequate.

    • 0 avatar
      EX35

      My thoughts exactly. TTAC reviews are lacking, as of late, with respect to the handling of the cars reviewed. Enough with copy/paste feature and specs and more in-depth analysis of how the car actually drives.

  • avatar
    rbmojo

    test drive in this vehicle revealed lower power and van like handling … I really wanted to want this car, but at the sticker cost I could not. Bought top of the line MDX (again) and saved some dough.


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