Vellum Venom: 2013 Infiniti JX

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

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!

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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2 of 28 comments
  • Freddy M Freddy M on Sep 05, 2012

    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.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Oct 19, 2012

    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.

  • GregLocock Not interested at all. Apparently I've got Apple car play but I've never used it in 3 years. The built in nav is ok.
  • Corey Lewis Probably worth about what they're asking, given its condition. The color combo isn't a desirable one, they look sharper in non-beige shades. Like two-tone green, maroon, navy, or gray. The end of the time when MB built its cars properly. No shame in turning up in a clean W126, they'll always command respect.
  • Lou_BC Another way to look at this is the upgrading of hardware and software. ...............The average length of car ownership is 10 - 12 years ....................The average lifetime ownership of a cell phone is 2.5 years. ................................................................... My phone will remain up to date, my vehicle won't. Especially if you buy a new "end of run" model.
  • TheEndlessEnigma "...we could be seeing a foundational shift in how Americans and car buyers see Stellantis products." yeah, I view Stellantis products as being off the cross-shop list. Stellantis is doing an excellent job of killing the Chrysler and Dodge brands and turning Jeep into something it isn't.
  • 2manyvettes 495 hp in a base C8 is more than enough. 800+ hp in a ZR1 is not worth the extra $60k (plus dealer markups). Unless the buyer is going for bragging rights. I remember when the C7 Grand Sport came out, and a reviewer got his hands on one and put it on the track at Lime Rock. His conclusion? Save yourself $15k and skip the Z06 and get a Grand Sport.