Throughout most of its existence, Infiniti has generously used its slogan “Inspired Performance” to describe their line-up of vehicles. The blending of luxury, technology and a pure driving experience were the hallmarks that they steadfastly worked within. So with the launch of their all new 7 passenger crossover JX35, the question becomes whether this vehicle fits within the “Inspired Performance” mantra or not.
To my mind, the answer lies not within how it performs on a test track, but rather how it performs through the tests, trials and tribulations of the target market that a seven passenger vehicle typically aims itself at, and it’s how I chose to asses this vehicle during my week with it as part of another Enviro Dad Test Drive.
AT FIRST GLANCE
Up until the launch of the JX35, Infiniti’s only 3 row offering was the behemoth-like QX56. Thankfully the JX proves that 7 passenger comfort doesn’t necessarily need to be housed inside of beefy excess. In fact one would argue that the smaller, leaner and more sculpted lines of the JX35 offer a feminine counterpunch to the over the top masculinity of the QX56. My guess is that this was a very deliberate move on the part of the Infiniti design team as it’s quite likely that sales of the JX35 will be largely driven by women who will see the attractive design and 7 passenger versatility combination as a big plus – especially when viewing this as a family vehicle.
The JX is attractive and distinct. It’s actually quite easy to notice a JX35 on the road for its long and low design resembles few other vehicles on the market at the moment. Put it beside an Acura MDX, it’s most likely direct competitor, and it would be very easy to distinguish between the two.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The Infiniti JX35 is powered by Nissan’s standard 3.5L V6 engine. It’s the same engine the powers the Nissan Murano for example. The engine puts out 265 hp and 248 lb/ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm. Combined with a 1st for Infiniti CVT transmission, driving the JX is a generally reliable and trustworthy experience.
While this isn’t a vehicle that fits in with the original performance-inspired vision that is encapsulated by the brand’s slogan, there still are ways to up the adrenaline when there aren’t little ones to shuttle around inside. The JX35 is equipped with Infiniti’s Drive Mode Selector, which offers drivers the chance to switch between four driving modes – Standard, Sport, Eco and Snow. By selecting different modes, the selector varies throttle response and shift selectors to optimize performance based on the setting selected.
Also available is an Active Trace Control system which utilizes the JX’s standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system to help improve cornering feel, such as at freeway speeds, by automatically applying the brakes or smoothing engine torque characteristics while accelerating.
THE GREEN FACTOR
Seven passenger vehicles, by their very nature to this point are not especially fuel efficient. The extra weight and typical demands placed upon a vehicle of this type require bigger powertrains than a typical sedan, so where fuel efficiency is concerned it’s often technology that makes any real gains.
With the JX35, fuel efficiency is improved primarily through the utilization of the CVT transmission. While official government ratings have yet to be published, Nissan/Infiniti expects the JX will have a rating of 8.5 L/100 KM or 33 MPG (Hwy) and 11.5 L/100 KM or 25 MPG(City) with a real world combined rating of 10.2 L/100 KM. If this holds true, the JX will sit amongst the segment leaders in fuel efficiency and will be significantly better than what Infiniti offered with its monstrous V8 powered QX56.
THE FAMILY FACTOR
Where Infiniti really aims to establish the superiority of the JX35 is in regards to family suitability and flexibility. As a true 7-seater as opposed to a vehicle with 7 seat capabilities, the interior design team behind the JX35 needed to keep in mind that buyers will typically be using the 3rd row for passengers predominantly and not folded down for cargo room.
The 2nd row has an impressive six inches of travel which allows for a significant amount of flexibility when adjusting the 2nd and 3rd rows. Equally impressive is the multi-mode 2nd row seat’s unique forward movement function which overcomes the typical problem of having to remove a 2nd row child seat for entry or exit.
Cargo capacity, as with most 7-passenger SUV’s is barely passable for any family that would need 7 seats. At just under 16 cubic feet with the 3rd row up, I found it challenging to place my weekly groceries inside with my family en tow. One of these days, automakers will realize that a family that actually needs 3 rows likely needs more cargo room than what you’d find in a compact sedan, but I digress
There is also one other aspect of the JX35 design, that where families are concerned I think completely misses the mark. When equipped with the Theatre Package, the JX35 includes 2 – 7” video monitors that are embedded into the back of the front row headrests. While this offers passengers in the 2nd row the ability to watch DVD’s, those sitting in the 3rd row have virtually no visibility of the monitors whatsoever. As a father of 4, I had some serious grumbling on the part of the two children who had to occupy the 3rd row as they couldn’t see anything on the monitors in front of the 2nd row. A set up like this works for 5 passenger vehicles like the Chevy Equinox, but for true 7-seaters, it’s a big error to place monitors anywhere but dropped down from the roof.
FOR THE TECHIES
To my mind, Infiniti has always been one of the leading luxury brands when it comes to using technology to enhance the feeling and sense of luxury. The JX35 is literally chock-full of impressive technology designed to enhance comfort, convenience and safety.
New with the JX35 is what Infiniti maintains is a global first with what it calls Backup Collision Intervention which is added to its existing Blind Spot Intervention technology. With this technology, when the transmission is in reverse, the JX will help the driver detect crossing vehicles and objects behind the JX, and, if necessary, the system can automatically engage the brakes to help avoid a collision.
Equally impressive is the Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD). Building on the capabilities of the AVM system, which shows the driver a virtual 360-degree image of the area around the JX, the new MOD function helps enhance the driver’s situational awareness by providing visual and audible warnings (front or back range object detection) if the system detects moving objects within the displayed image in situations such as when pulling out of a parking space. Using sophisticated image processing technology, the system detects moving objects within the “top view” (when the vehicle is in Park). When starting off or backing up, it detects moving objects crossing within the front or rear views.
In order to answer the question whether the new Infiniti JX35 will be able to effectively live up to Infiniti’s trademark branding of “Inspired Performance”, I think one first needs to re-define what inspired performance actually means.
If one is expecting an exhilarating driving experience, one that mimics what you’d get behind the wheel of an M56 or a G coupe, inevitably the JX35 will far short of the mark. However if you define inspired performance by a new set of parameters, one that represents a solid combination of leading edge technology, generally sensible design elements, attractive styling and enjoyable-but-not-adrenaline-pumping driving performance, than this would indeed be a luxury family vehicle that inspires while it performs.
To my mind, I’m willing to judge and asses the JX35 based upon the latter.
BY THE NUMBERS (Out of 10)
LOOK/DESIGN - 9.0
DRIVE - 8.0
THE GREEN FACTOR - 7.5
THE FAMILY FACTOR – 8.5
TECHIE STUFF - 9.5
VALUE - 8.0
(MSRP – Base $44,900
as Tested $56,100)
OVERALL SCORE - 8.0