From the very beginning, Infiniti has considered itself a sort of ‘organic’ brand, and the past twenty years have proven that. With great success from the G-series coupe and sedan, and acclaimed M-series flagship, Infiniti has the passenger car segment well sorted. However, we live in the Age of the Crossover, and this is an area where Infiniti seems to have lost focus. Infiniti’s crossovers had consisted of the EX35 and FX50-fine vehicles with excellent driving behavior, but short on utility. Wait-isn’t utility the point of a crossover?
To address this oversight, Infiniti introduces the new JX35, a true three-row crossover with utility in mind. The premium three-row crossover market has few players, with the Buick Enclave the perennial sales leader. Infiniti is bent on turning that around. But in doing so, has moved away from some of the mantras of what defines an Infiniti. How this all sums up is interesting, so read on.
For starters, it helps that the JX35 is one handsome looking vehicle period, never mind that it’s a big family hauler. Sure, it can easily do the job of taking the kids and crew home from baseball practice, and be perfectly at home rolling up to a four star restaurant for dinner that evening. Our test car was finished in a rich, striking Black Obsidian, offset with gorgeous 20″ alloys and struck a perfect balance of style and luxury touches. Of all Infiniti CUV’s and SUV’s, the JX35 is far and away the best design of them all.
A handsome exterior on a crossover is a plus, but it’s inside that ultimate litmus test. The JX35 proved to be a luxurious oasis with comfortable seating, generous room, a plethora of features instilled with plenty of swagger. Attention to detail like the wavy stitching on the front seats, and elegant door handle hardware helped to add up to a special flair to the JX, something I found missing in the Acura MDX. Our feature-laden JX35 was still fairly easy to use, with intuitive controls. Our black on black test car may sound dreary to some, but with enough wood and bright trim accents and a panoramic moonroof, the JX35 was anything but. The JX shows that a three row crossover can be functional, fashionable and luxurious all at once, with little compromise.
The JX35 is powered by a 3.5L V-6 rated at 265hp, paired to a CVT (continuously variable transmission). Parent company Nissan makes the best CVT’s out there, but that is like saying Nissan makes the best of the worst transmissions. While the CVT has dominated Nissan products, Infiniti has stuck with manual and automatic tranny’s-until now. The CVT has made its way into the Infiniti line. I’ve driven plenty of vehicles with this miserable contraption, and in my experience, it works best with Nissan/Infiniti’s 3.5L V-6, which has enough torque so the engine isn’t roaring at 4,000rpm to maintain 70mph on a mild grade, as I’ve experienced in some CVT-equipped cars. True, 265hp is not a lot to push a vehicle this size, but the JX35 never felt pokey, and passing was never a problem. The ride was tuned for comfort, and the steering was ultra-light. Buyers have the option of front or all-wheel drive. Our all-wheel drive test car had an EPA rating of 18/23 MPG city/highway.
The JX35 AWD starts at a reasonable $41,550USD. For that price, you get a well-equipped, luxurious crossover. Our test car was fully loaded, adding the Technology Package (Back-up Collision Intervention, heated steering wheel, remote engine start, Intelligent Brake Assist, Blind Spot Warning & Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Distance Control Assist), Theater Package (dual 7″ color monitors, wireless headphones, aux AV jacks), Deluxe Touring Package (20″ alloys, Bose Premium surround sound audio, climate controlled front seats, heated rear seats, maple interior accents), and Premium Package (Navigation with voice recognition, NavTraffic, NavWeather, Zagat restaurant guide, Around View Monitor). The tally on our JX35 came to $55,170, including destination.
With such a luxurious ride at our disposal, a road trip was called for. While the old industrial town of Springfield, Massachusetts may seem an unlikely destination, there is plenty to do. The Student Prince is about as authentic a German dining experience you will find, and with my wife a true Pennsylvania Dutch girl of German/Austrian descent, she will attest it is the real deal. The Hungarian Goulash is to die for. The Springfield Museums was an unexpected treasure, with an outdoor garden of Dr. Seuss that must be seen to be appreciated. For the gearheads, you will be treated to a history of the automotive history of this city, and I was shocked to learn in the 1920’s Rolls Royce built cars here to satisfy demand in the US. We then headed off to tony Northampton, a funky college town filled with trendy shops and restaurants. The JX35 fit in perfectly.
With the JX35, Infiniti has finally brought a mass-market luxury three-row crossover that makes sense. The soft suspension, lifeless steering feel, CVT and hardly explosive acceleration may run counter to what we have come to expect from Infiniti, a brand that seemed concentrated more on style and performance over practicality. But the combination of smart, sophisticated styling, luxury and technology make the current sales champ Buick Enclave look obsolete in comparison. Infiniti has read what the premium three-row luxury crossover buyer wants, and has delivered in spades.