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Review: 2013 Infinti JX35

Kamil Kaluski July 17, 2012 Featured, Infiniti Reviews 20 Comments

Target in sight. Set, aim, fire! The new Infiniti JX35 takes on its tough competition

Like it or not, crossover utility vehicles have become the primary transportation choice for modern day parents. While minivans are more functional, they are still uncool, boring, my-life-is-over minivans. Wagons are awesome; we love them, but bigger cross-overs offer more space, a confidence inspiring raised-seating position, more safety (based on weight alone), and simply more comfort. Just accept these facts which are backed up by sales numbers.

Infiniti’s JX35 is the latest entry into this niche-within-the-cross-over-niche, which is the three-row luxury cross-over. Infiniti makes no secret that it has positioned it to go directly against cars such as the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, as well as the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. After watching years of successful sales for the other brands, will this luxury version of the equally new Nissan Pathfinder be a hit?

Perspective from the driver’s seat:

Front and side vision is excellent but headrests obscure rear vision. In a tight situation, Infiniti’s awesome top/around-view display is there to lend a hand, along with sonar beepers. Blind-spot detection helps when switching lanes but all come as a part of a $3100 Technology Package. In that same package is Intelligent Cruise Control which keeps a safe distance from the vehicle in front but I found it way too conservative to be useful.

The infotainment system, while a few years behind the German brands, does most things well. Some addresses and smaller roads, such as resorts around Disney World, were missing from the Nav system’s database. It could also use more POIs and make searching for things such as the nearest Starbucks easier. If Infiniti wants to stay competitive in this market they need to step this up as it’s features like this that sell cars these days, just ask any seasoned OnStar user.

dash layout will be familiar to any Infiniti driver

The dash layout is almost the same as any other Infiniti. All gauges are easy to read, but car set-up is distributed between the center cluster and the infotainment display, and therefore somewhat confusing when reaching deep into the settings. A lot of small buttons for HVAC and radio and one has to stretch to reach the main control knob or the touch screen. I am being somewhat picky here but these are the things that should have been perfected in an all-new vehicle which is slated for a very competitive market.

Where the infotainment main knob should be, a la BMW’s iDrive, is a Sport/Normal/Eco/Snow knob that does not do much. It switches between various throttle input and “shift” algorithms, which are ironically served up via a CVT transmission. Keep it in “sport” and you’ll feel guilty about using all the extra fuel, “normal” will leave you wanting more sport, and “Eco” will frustrate you when trying to accelerate. Why does this even exist? It’s a gimmick, which 99% of buyers will set to “normal” or “sport” and never touch again.

Once on the way power comes smoothly and evenly but the JX35 may feel a bit underpowered at times. Its 265hp engine falls a bit short compared to its competition, but the car would need to be really loaded up to notice the powertrains’ short comings. The CVT transmission takes a little more getting used to; it has oddly spaced fake “gears” and those, at times, when combined with the CVT’s feeling of slippage, further makes the engine feel inadequate or at least sound like it. A little more power combined with a conventional six-speed automatic would make for a smoother and quieter ride, such as that in the MDX.

The good news, once you stop being picky about all of the above, is the rest of the car is pretty damn good. The interior is of high quality; all materials are nice to touch and on par with the best of its competition.

Interior:

The front optionally ventilated seats are comfortable, even on long trips. In a typical luxury fashion they adjust in more ways that I can count, as does the optional heated steering wheel. Middle row seats are split 70:30-ish, recline, and slide which allows either more leg room or more cargo room. That feature is very helpful if you have kids in car seats and you want them either closer or further away from you.

In the middle, the seating has one feature that’s better than anything in its class. It’s the nifty way in which the second row seats slide to allow access to the third row. When the second row seat is slid forward the bottom cushion rises, allowing it to get even closer to the front seats, and thereby maximizing the access space.

The third row, two passenger, seat is surprisingly comfortable. While there is not a lot of leg room, sliding the middle row forward increases that space to where even a six-footer can fit. Those seats, split 50:50, fold flat for increased cargo via simple strings. Behind them is a storage bin, and on top of it is enough room for a folded stroller and some duffle bags.

Other Stuff:

  • Remote start, part of the Technology Package, is perfect on hot days, and the remote works from far away too.
  • On the highway I obtained just less than 20mpg in this front-wheel-drive model. The vehicle was loaded with people and things, the A/C was on all the time and it was ridiculously hot outside.
  • The power tailgate did not open all the way up, which I noticed by bumping my head on it. Three times. After the third time I learned to give it a little push every time I opened it.
  • Wide rear doors make for easy third-row seat access and make it easier on parents who have to put kids into their seats.
  • The very bright HID headlights annoyed some drivers on the highway but were otherwise excellent.
  • The glove-box is huge, with a special bin for the owner’s manual. The center console storage bin is big too but the placement of the USB/aux connectors could be better.
  • Very effective A/C, the whole car cooled down within moments of the engine being turned on.
  • Big panoramic moon-roof is nice, but we kept its sunshade closed the whole time while in Florida sun.

Conclusion:

With the JX35, Infiniti created a vehicle which it needed for a long time. While all new, it does not bring anything new to the market, nor does it standout in any particular way from its competition. Infiniti played it safe, and the end result is a very nice vehicle which will undoubtedly take a few customers away from the above mentioned, quickly aging, competition. While I think that the JX35 could use a few improvements, the most important thing in this whole review should be the one which I haven’t mentioned yet.

My wife, who did not drive this vehicle but drives an aging Acura MDX everyday, loved everything about it, or at least as much as passenger who sat mostly in the rear seat with two little kids could love.

That, above everything else, is what makes the JX35 an ideal vehicle to me and many other married men out there.

Nissan was kind enough to lend me this JX35 for the purpose of this review while I was in Florida with my family. I drove it around Palm Beach area and on a quick trip to Disney World. I paid for all gas, tolls, parking, etc. I returned the vehicle cleaned, vacuumed and fueled up.

 

  • RichardKopf

    To quote Bartleby the Scrivener, "I would prefer not to."

  • Scandinavian Flick

    A crossover will never be an enthusiast "car." It wasn't meant to appeal to people like myself, thus it does not. It's made for people who are impressed by convenience features and perceived practicality, thus this seems to nail its intended market. I'll pass.

    • I think everyone can agree that a CUV will never be an enthusiast vehicle. It's meant to be a comfy family and utility vehicle.

      Having said that, the goal of an old Vista Cruiser was the same and it wasn't until recently that we deemed to be cool.

      • Scandinavian Flick

        Interesting parallel and definitely food for thought. There are a few awesome classics that were not considered cool in their time. While I can kinda predict a few future classics, it's hard to think of what will be collectible in the future. However, in the same way Justin Bieber will not be considered classic pop music on senior citizens' iPod Nano 19, I seriously doubt CUVs will become cool.

        …except maybe those 20 GT-R Juke things…

        • FuzzyPlushroom

          Maybe all Jukes, in the same way that Azteks are nearly rolling around to 'so uncool they're cool' and, more historically, the way the Pacer has been ironically seared into the minds of generations young enough to grow up with Wayne's World.

          The Cube/Soul and xB, especially the early xB, may be similar. This? This is a modern conversion van.

  • MrHowser

    How much does this particular model cost, Mr. K?

    • That's an excellent question and perhaps one that shouldn't have to been asked.
      The base FWD starts at $40,650 and $42,050 for the AWD.

      This particular FWD model was loaded with every option imaginable, including the rear seat DVD player, with a total price nearing the $55,000. I think it's a safe bet to say that most of these will be leased.

      • MrHowser

        That is… a lot of money. I understand that there are people who will buy it, but we won't be that family.

        Aside from my lack of appropriate income, my problem is that, when I first got hooked on cars, you could get a brand-new Corvette or Boxster for $40k. Now, a loaded Accord gets close to that. This rig can get optioned up to $55 grand, which just blows my mind.

        • The PC answer would be that you can get a Nissan Pathfinder or a Honda Pilot for less money… but yes, I agree with you, car prices have gone up faster than most salaries. That said, there is a lot more stuff in cars than there was twenty years ago and the cost of natural resources has gone up too.

          In the end, most people are still shopping for a monthly payment.

          • MrHowser

            It's very true that now, all but the most stripped-out loss leaders have A/C, CD player with iPod input, 4+ airbags, ABS, and lots of other goodies that either weren't invented or were premium products 20 years ago.

            I don't know what the lease rate is on this model, but a typical auto loan (0 down, 60 months, 2.99% interest) would put the payment at nearly $1000/month. You could buy a ten-year-old Range Rover or Escalade every 18 months, pay for maintenance, and give it away when you're through, and still be less than cost of ownership for this SUV.

            I know, dealing with car repairs isn't something a normal person likes. And, if you lease, the payment would probably be $600 a month, not a grand. Still, that's a $5k car + maintenance every year, and your insurance, registration, and taxes would be negligible.

            I know I'm not the target market for this car, but the numbers don't make sense to me at all.

  • Age_of_Aerostar

    I'll be picky here too, but one thing I hate, especially on a $40,000 vehicle, are dummy switches or "blanks" in the dash where an option you didn't ordered could have been. Note the picture with the 8 switches, except one is a dial, and one isn't anything. (that and the door below it doesn't look like it fits)

    • You think that's bad, wait until you see the Porsche Cayenne.

      That's the fuse panel. The first time I noticed that was in the picture. Things like that usually bother me too, especially like you said on a pricey new vehicle… so if I haven't noticed that, it must have been down low on the dash, as were the eight buttons. It's probably just needed a little nudge.

  • Anyone who thinks this is cooler than a minivan has a very loose grasp on the meaning of the word.

    • stickmanonymous

      Of "cooler' or 'minivan'?

    • I would have this over Sienna or Quest.
      :shrug:

      • The choice reminds me of an ad I once saw for a tanning salon – "Because tan fat looks better than pale fat".

        That said, I prefer minivans. They're all generic people movers and the vans are incredibly versatile.

        • Right…. but many people still despise minivans. Having choices is a good thing.

    • Age_of_Aerostar

      here here!