The Truth About Cars » Infiniti JX35 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:51:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Infiniti JX35 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Vendition Juxtaposition: 2013 Infiniti JX35 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/vendition-juxtaposition-2013-infiniti-jx35/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/vendition-juxtaposition-2013-infiniti-jx35/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475824

 

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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Review: 2013 Infiniti JX35 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-infiniti-jx35-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-infiniti-jx35-video/#comments Fri, 23 Nov 2012 19:11:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465635

So you think you need to carry seven people in comfort with decent economy but you don’t want to buy a minivan? Enter the three-row crossover. Thanks to stronger fuel economy regulations there are plenty of three-row CUVs to choose from, but you want something with a better brand name under 55-large, what does that do to the playing field? You’re left with the Lincoln MKT, Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Buick Enclave and the newcomer in this phone booth sized segment: the 2013 Infiniti JX35. The new soft-roader Infiniti is already off to a good start coming in third in sales to the Enclave and MDX despite sales starting in April of this year. What’s it like to live with for a week and how does it stack up? Click through the jump to find out.

Before we dive into the JX, let’s look at the competition. The Volvo XC90 arguably started this segment in 2003 by jacking an S80 up a few inches and adding a third row. In 2006 Acura followed their lead by adding a third row to the Accord-based MDX. Buick got in on the party with their minivan-like Enclave in 2008 and Lincoln with their seemingly hearse-themed MKT in 2010. What do these CUVs have in common? They all have six cylinder engines under the hood and they are all front wheel drive vehicles with optional all wheel locomotion. Before Audi fans start flaming me, I left the Q7 out due to its SUV-like design, RWD biased Quattro system,  larger price tag, and  decidedly SUV-like 5,600lb curb weight.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Infiniti’s bulbous styling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a distinctive island in a sea of me-too crossovers. This new take on Infiniti’s “box fish” style isn’t as striking (or polarizing) as when the M debuted in 2010. On the bright side,  now that the design has aged, general opinion in my informal lunch group was overwhelmingly positive. Something I couldn’t say about the 2010 M. Despite heavy parts sharing with the new Pathfinder, the JX is better distinguished than the former generation QX/Armada was and indeed better differentiated than the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave. The MKT looks just looks downright peculiar front the front with the new Lincoln grille grafted on and the side profile just reminds me of an old station wagon based hearse from the 1970s. The MDX is quite possibly the best looking Acura available at the moment despite the rather prominent Acura beak on the grille. Meanwhile the XC90 is the only vehicle in this bunch that’s not based on a mass market vehicle or platform. While that does mean there isn’t anything on the road that looks related, the design is only modern when parked by itself. I still have a soft spot for the XC90′s upright grille and sexy Swedish hips, but this is one warhorse that should have been sent to the glue factory 5 years ago.

Interior

The JX35′s cabin is covered in soft-touch plastics, leather and acres of highly polished wood trim, just as you expect from Infiniti. In this segment, if you want an interior that doesn’t share parts with a mass-market brand, you’re again limited to the XC90 as every other design team had access to a corporate parts bin. Keeping this in mind, Nissan/Infiniti’s parts bin is a nicer place to spend time than GM’s button-bank. The new Enclave has a very competitive interior, but some of the parts choices fail to blend while the JX is a sea of harmony. Indeed one might say the Pathfinder borrows Infiniti parts and not the other way around. This top-down parts sharing is good for Pathfinder shoppers, but only time will tell if there is enough differentiation to make Infiniti shoppers happy. The XC90′s interior is still competitive thanks to continual tweaks over the past ten years, but that can’t forgive the lack of even a modest refresh from the Swedes.

As with the Pathfinder, JX seat comfort declines the further right and rearward you go. The front passenger seat lacks the power lumbar adjustment of the driver’s seat. The second row seats are comfortable, but not as padded as the front seats with cushions designed for children or shorter passengers. If third row comfort is critical, go back to looking at that QX56 or Escalade, as with most three-row crossovers the JX’s last row should be reserved for coworkers you hate or your mother-in-law. If you regularly carry passengers and progeny in child seats, the JX shares the sliding middle seat design with the Pathfinder allowing a child seat to stay strapped in while passengers climb into the third row.

Infotainment & Gadgets

The standard 7-inch infotainment screen does everything but navigation. iDevice/USB integration is of course standard as is Bluetooth and a 6-speaker audio system with a single disc CD player and XM radio. Opting for the $4,950 “premium package” gets you Infiniti’s easy to use navigation system with a high-resolution 8-inch touchscreen, a 13-speaker Bose sound system, voice control, and Infiniti’s slick all-around camera system. The system uses four cameras and some trick processing to stitch images together to form an “aerial view” making easy work of tight parking situations.

Should you desire the latest in nannies, Infiniti is happy to oblige with radar cruise control, collision warning and prevention, lane departure warning and prevention and an accelerator pedal that fights back. The accelerator pedal is perhaps the nanny that people find the most fault with, despite crossovers not being “driver’s cars.” The feature can be disabled, but left on it will fight your right foot, forcing the pedal back at you if you’re driving uneconomically, if it thinks you are getting too close to a car, or if it feels like it needs to stop the car NOW. While I dislike the thought of a car that drives for me, honestly at least half the drivers on the road need this pedal stat. Not that I condone distracted driving, but if you feel the need to text and drive, the JX helps you accomplish the feat more safely.

Lincoln’s MKT slots in just behind the Infiniti on the gadget tally thanks to Ford’s bevy of collision avoidance options, inflating seatbelts, and the slow but feature-rich MyLincon Touch system. Meanwhile the Enclave’s new Intellilink touchscreen system is sharp, responsive and has more natural voice commands than SYNC. Better yet, Buick’s system is standard on all Enclave models. The MDX puts on a good fight, but Acura’s tech suffers from old school graphics and a confusing control joystick despite being the only other entry to offer voice commands for your USB/iDevice music player. The XC90 has finally been updated to offer the basic infotainment features you would expect from a luxury vehicle including Bluetooth, USB/iDevice integration and blind spot notification, but that’s where the goodies stop. The XC90 still uses Volvo’s “olde” pop-up navigation system from 1999 and cannot be had with radar cruise control, pedestrian and obstacle detection, and a myriad of other features found in the smaller XC60.

Drivetrain

The JX shares its 3.5L VQ-series V6 with the Pathfinder and everything from the Altima to the Quest. In the JX, the engine puts out 265HP at 6,400RPM and 248lb-ft at 4,400RPM, a mild bump over the Pathfinder but notably lower than the Maxima’s 290HP/261lb-ft tune. Like the Pathfinder, the JX sends power either the front wheels or to all four via a Haldex-style AWD system, but this is where the similarities end. While the Pathfinder uses an all-new heavy-duty continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a chain, the JX35 still uses the second-generation Xtronic CVT shared with the Muran0.

When it comes to towing, transmissions choices are important, but so are chassis and suspension design. In the case of the JX, we can logically infer the lack of the Pathfinder’s heavy-duty CVT is the reason for the reduced 3,500lb towing capacity. Meanwhile the Enclave and MKT will haul 4,500lbs while the XC90 and MDX tie at 5,000lbs. Of course, I seem to be the only one who ever tows with a mid-size SUV so this is probably the least important part of this review. That being said, the XC90 despite being down on power would be my towing partner of choice because it has an available load leveling rear suspension.

Drive

Out on the road the JX35 is as nimble as a tall 4,500lb vehicle can be. While the handling crown in this segment still goes to the MDX, thanks to Acura’s SH-AWD system, the JX can handle winding roads faster than your third row passengers will tolerate. The JX’s steering is moderately quick, fairly firm and as numb as any of the other luxury crossovers. Should you be on your own after the school run, the JX’s well sorted suspension will soak up the ruts should you decide that gravel road shortcut you like.

Front wheel drive JX models suffer from mild torque steer from a stand still but once underway the pulling stops and the JX settles down. Opting for the AWD system quells the torque steer daemon and is a further differentiator from the Pathfinder cousin. The Pathfinder’s AWD system allows the driver to lock the system in FWD mode for better economy, lock the center coupling for better grip, or allow the system to decide when to send power to the rear. Instead the AWD system in the JX always operates in Auto mode, which is just as well since I suspect no luxury SUV or CUV shopper will ever notice the difference.

The biggest difference between the other luxury CUVs and the JX35 is the transmission. The effective ratio spread on the JX35′s transmission isn’t as broad as the 6-speed units used in the competition and seemed to be skewed to the higher end of the ratio spectrum for fuel economy. This is most obvious when you look at the JX35′s relatively slow 3.7-second 0-30 time, but thanks to the infinite ratios the JX catches up to the rest of the pack crossing 60MPH in 7 seconds even. Despite the 0-30 sloth, my  real-world fuel economy tests seem to be kind to CVT equipped vehicles with the JX besting its 20MPG combined EPA score by 7/10ths of an MPG over a week. Meanwhile the other CUVs averaged 1-2MPG below their combined figures for me. So many publications spout their MPG figures as gospel, but as with 0-60 times, observed fuel economy is only as good as the driver, driving style and commute.

The JX represents an interesting move for the brand I like to think of as “the Japanese BMW.” But putting practicality and economy before performance they have created a most un-Infiniti crossover. The combination of a nearly perfect interior, smooth CVT and 32% better fuel economy than Infiniti’s QX SUV make a compelling argument for the JX35. While the Enclave plays to a slightly different demographic, MDX shoppers would do well to put the JX on their short list as it is quite possibly the best three-row luxury crossover in America.

 

Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.7 Seconds

0-60: 7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.4 @ 90 MPH

 Average Fuel Economy: 20.7 MPG over 765 miles

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