Charleston, SC – Infiniti is going full steam ahead with the launch of the JX35 Crossover, gearing up for an all-out blitz that will consume 60% of their marketing budget in an effort to cut themselves a big slice of the crossover market. This is Infiniti’s first foray into the seven-passenger market, and it’s largely by popular demand. The JX will be the fourth SUV in their roster, taking its place alongside the EX, FX, and the Herculean QX56.
In order to be part of the JX launch I travelled to the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina, known not only for its southern charm and hospitality but equally for its rich history and tradition. After driving around the cobblestone streets of downtown Charleston and later through the quiet gated community that surrounds the Kiawah Island golf resort, I quickly came to see why Infiniti had chosen this location: itís the natural habitat for a vehicle that exudes luxury in a quiet, restrained way, not unlike many of the high-priced homes that surround the resort (whose ocean course will host the 94th PGA Championship later this year).
To judge from all the commercials and promotional info I absorbed throughout my stay, innovative technology for the purpose of comfort and safety was one of the guiding principles behind the JX’s design. Witness the Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) system, a technology pioneered by Infiniti to automatically apply the brakes when you’re reversing if it detects anything in your path (including golf carts, as testing confirmed). The system is designed to work at speeds between 0 and 5 km/h (i.e., for standard driveway and parking-lot reverses); if you start backing up at 10 to 15 km/h, as some journalists did, you may get different results. Nevertheless, the BCI system is a promising addition, and will no doubt be adopted by many other manufacturers.
Besides BCI, the JX is equipped with an array of radar and sonar sensors that monitor the vehicle’s surroundings and register any threats. For instance, it periodically sounds advance warnings as pedestrians walk in front, beside, or behind the vehicle. It also issues lane-departure warnings if it detects any inadvertent drift, but while this feature has tremendous potential for transport trucks, it can be a nuisance on a routine drive.
Safety may be first, but the technology doesn’t end there. There’s plenty of connectivity as well, and I’m not just talking Bluetooth: the JX comes with your own personal assistant. It’s not quite as resourceful as KITT on Knight Rider, but the computer uses Google Calendar to access your schedule and help you reach your destination with the aid of Google Maps. It can also provide you with valet alerts and be configured to limit your drive zone and driving speed, which can be useful when your kids want to borrow the vehicle.
Comfort and flexibility are the other hallmarks of the JX. The front-row seating has ample room for passengers to relax and enjoy the drive, but even more impressive is the amount of space in the second- and third-row seating: I’ve been in plenty of seven-passenger vehicles and typically never volunteer to sit in the third-row, which is often suited only to small kids. But after easing into the third row in the JX, I was pleasantly surprised by the leg and head room, which is head and shoulders above any third row I’ve sat in thus far. Tri-zone climate control also allows all passengers to be comfortable, including those banished to the third row.
As for flexibility, the JX’s second row can slide forward so as to adjust the amount of leg room you need for perfect comfort. The manoeuvrability of the second row also allows passengers to get in and out with ease. The second row can even slide all the way aft without having to remove a child seat, which can save a lot of hard work. Finally, if you fold the second- and third-row seats flat, presto change-o: you now have best-in-class volume.
The JX is powered by a 3.5-litre DOHC V6 that churns a respectable 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. of torque, all tapped by Infiniti’s first continuously variable transmission. These specs aren’t quite up to par with those of competitors like the Acura MDX and Audi Q7, but the JX bests them both when it comes to safety, technology, and style. The JX has been built with families in mind, and the power should satisfy the responsible parentís limited need for speed while also allowing the vehicle to excel in the fuel-economy department. Throughout my day with the tester, in the city and on the highway, the JX combined for an impressive 11.6 L/100 km.
The JX has four drive modes to choose from: standard, sport, snow, and eco. Overall it was a smooth drive with silky handling, but the eco mode doesn’t have much pop. Looks have never been an issue for Infiniti, and the JX bears the stamp of its creator. For a seven-seater, it’s pretty stylish, with Infiniti’s signature double-arch grille and double-wave hood. It stands out without being ostentatious, and if you’re looking to make any waves with something flashier, chances are you’re not in the market for a seven-passenger crossover.
Given the luxury brand and technology on board, it’s hard to believe the JX starts at $44,900, considerably more affordable than the MDX and the Q7, which come in at $52,690 and $59,200, respectively. Five trim levels are available, with the most popular expected to be the premium package, which includes navigation, the so-called “Around View Monitor” system with moving-object detection, and, for an extra $5,000, a BoseÆ 13-speaker premium sound system with an acoustic waveguide subwoofer. The BCI system is available in the Driver Assistance Package for an additional $2,200.
It looks like Infiniti may have scored a winner in the JX, which goes on sale in showrooms this May. At the very least, it promises to hold its own in the seven-passenger crossover market. It may not have the same power as the MDX or Q7, but itís perfectly suited to the needs of the family-oriented buyer.
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