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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
+ Sumptuous interior trimmings
+ Third row access with a baby seat
+ Driving Modes that actually work
- Gets expensive quickly
- Second row not for tall people
- Odd ergonomic quirks