Today it’s hot here in Phoenix. Behind the wheel of the new for 2013 Infiniti JX35 three-row SUV is a nice place to be, enjoying three zone air conditioning and ventilated seats, genuine wood trim with leather. Hmmmm, it’s good day for a test drive.
Available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive, the JX35 comes with a 265 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 mated to a constantly variable transmission (CVT). Competing with models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lexus RX350, and Lincoln MKT the JX35 brings a variety of unique attributes to the table including seating for 7 which some do not.
First impressions stick. Walking up to the JX35 is a love or hate proposition. Infiniti’s styling is known of late for being sea creature like, and this crossover SUV is right in the same pool with the rest. It has artistic flourishes that stand out such as the reverse curve in the rear side glass with accentuated chrome trim.
The 20” alloy wheels that came with our tester filled the wheel wells tightly and gave it a nice planted presentation. Fit and finish, body panel alignment and design detail are well executed too, showing that built in America is not always a bad thing.
Inside, the cabin is lined with genuine wood trim with satin chrome accents, rich leather seating, and a good deal of soft touch trim. Technological features abound to the point one needs to spend a week learning them. All three rows of seats have an artful stitching pattern that complements the exterior styling.
Front passengers enjoy heated and ventilated seats. We found them to be comfortable, but the ventilation is only concentrated in a small area, leaving lower legs and upper back to sweat against the leather. Using the infotainment system and center stack controls is more intuitive than many, giving us few things to gripe about.
Likes included the all-around view monitor which is far more than a back-up camera. The monitor gives you real time side and front views also in a 3D presentation that makes everyone say “wow”. The myriad of lane keeping and object avoidance minders are helpful if set properly, with flashing lights and audible alerts. We did find this system a but over jumpy on the freeway in traffic and at drive-thru windows and decided to turn off the sound alerts.
On the road, the JX35 provides a solid and reassuring ride. We took a road trip with a full load of passengers and were impressed with its driving aplomb with a full load on. Handling is firm enough for highway driving and around town.
Push the JX35 on a bumpy mountain road however and the steering gets squirmy and light, the front suspension suffering from mild torque steer and. This is a very common issue with front-wheel drive based SUV’s as the high center of gravity and suspension geometry aren’t always friends. Optioning all-wheel drive often cures this malady.
Power from the 3.5 liter 265 horsepower V6 is adequate, but not sporting with or without a load. The CVT transmission is a downer in most vehicles. Because they don’t shift, you often get a sort of rubber band feel and droning sound. In the JX35 it is almost acceptable, but still if you are any kind of driving enthusiast, its a bit out of place in a luxury SUV.
It does however offer up a console mounted sport mode with emulates a six-speed automatic transmission with simulated shift points and console shifter manual mode to boot. It works amazingly like a six-speed auto, such that we wonder why they didn’t just put one in the the first place.
The EPA rates the Infiniti JX35 at 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined. We achieved 18.9 mpg combined which included a full load of passengers, air conditioning on at all times, and mountain driving.
Starting at $40,450, our front-wheel drive tester was fully loaded with four of the top option packages which brought the final price to $54,070. These included the Technology Package, Theater Package, Deluxe Touring Package and the Premium Package – all of which bring levels of luxury and technological gadgets to a cloud level high.
Given the JX35’s car based architecture, it is not an off-roader or much of a heavy duty towing machine. If you need three rows of seats for a large family, want better gas mileage, appreciate a car like driving experience, and want the step up in style and luxury then the 2013 Infiniti JX35 or soon to be QX60 is worth a look.