What used to be called the Infiniti JX might now be called the Infiniti QX60; but that won't change its place as one of Infiniti's best-selling vehicles. Its lovely looks and spacious cabin make it a great alternative to another strong seller, the Buick Enclave--and vice versa. But how do these luxury family wagons stack up against each other?On the styling front, both the Enclave and the JX have winning looks. The Enclave's been with us longer, and only mildly refreshed for the 2013 model year--but it's a curvy, classy shape that's aged very well, and now has an interior with the universally high-quality trim it's wanted since launch. The JX? It's what the Mercedes R-Class always wanted to be, a harmonious shape that fits a crossover body into a design language that's shared by other new Infinitis, down to the highly sculptured front fenders and the arrow-themed rear pillar. That signature detail points the JX forward distinctively, while other SUVs just round off the rear and leave it at that. Inside, the JX's dash has muted wood trim and a minimum of cutlines, the premium feel dialed up with luminescent gauges and marred just a little by inexpensive plastic "chrome" on the shift-mode selector and seat-climate controls.
Performance is a draw, for different reasons. Both the Enclave and JX rely on big V-6 engines for output, and both have a sole transmission. The JX sounds more urgent, possibly because its continuously variable transmission vaults the V-6 into the meat of its powerband and leaves it there for a more gutsy feel and a little more powertrain noise. The Buick's more relaxed drivetrain has more V-6 power, and a conventional automatic transmission with better shift logic this year than before. The JX may be shy on output, but drives with more involvement; it has better steering than the Enclave, which has a more hefty feel but a better sense of ride control than the Infiniti.
For 2014 the JX became the QX60--and added a hybrid model for even better gas mileage than the Enclave, where it already held a small EPA-combined advantage.
If it were always put to eight-passenger use, the Enclave would outpoint the JX every time for sheer capacity. The Infiniti's only a seven-seater, and its rearmost bench seat sits low to the floor, with less headroom, than the one in the eight-seat Enclave. Outside of that extreme duty, it's the Infiniti that holds the edge in flexibility. Its second-row seats slide and fold up to make third-row access much better than the Enclave, while both have reclining second-row bench seats, which in the Enclave can be swapped out for captain's chairs. Both have enormous cargo capacity, with somewhat high cargo floors balanced off by power tailgates and excellent small-item storage.
In safety, there's a clear winner between these pricey utes. The JX, in its first year out, scored a four-star overall rating from the federal government--good, not great--but does ante up one of the best new features we've sampled with its surround-view cameras. The QX60 carries those ratings over, and adds top 'good' ratings for frontal and side impact from the IIHS. However, the Enclave's scored flawlessly in NHTSA and IIHS crash tests, and offers a rearview camera and a new front-center airbag for even more crash protection.
Luxury features from navigation systems to voice-controlled infotainment systems earn the Enclave a nod over the JX as well. The Enclave's displays are brightly colored and more intuitive, with more smartphone-connected capability built into them. The JX has more complex controls on the dash, less voice control, and a less well-developed infotainment system in general--though every one comes with four years of Infiniti Personal Assistant, so that Web requests can be handled by humans other than the driver.
By our overall review numbers, the Buick Enclave wins this head-to-head comparison--mostly on the basis of its strong safety features and crash-test scores. The QX60 is a worthy alternative, though, and if it posts better IIHS performance and gains Infiniti's new infotainment system next year, or adds new features not expected at this time, the margin of victory for the Enclave could shrink--or disappear entirely.
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