In its promotional material, the 2013 Infiniti JX is touted as having "inspired performance for seven." There's no doubt it handles better than the hulking, truck-based QX56, but the combination of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a tall body don't really make for sporty handling.
The JX has only a sole powertrain, a 265-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 248 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with the latest iteration of Nissan's CVT. Drivers can select among four different drive modes: Eco, Standard, Sport, and Snow. Each maps the throttle response and transmission control settings differently to change the performance characteristics of the car.
Eco is best avoided unless you're on long flat stretches of road; it can be frustrating in suburban traffic, and if you're trying to press on, the Eco pedal--which pushes back if you accelerate too sharply--quickly becomes annoying. We liked the Sport mode better; it's unusual in that it directs the CVT to mimic a conventional six-speed automatic, with defined shift points and a linear relationship between engine speed and road speed. The penalty is a few percentage points of fuel efficiency. We weren't able to experiment with the Snow mode during our test drive in Charleston, South Carolina.
On the road, performance is adequate but not particularly enthusiastic. The JX is quiet, with the CVT keeping engine speeds relatively low unless it's asked for full acceleration, when it gets somewhat louder. There's plenty of interior storage space for front-seat passengers, and we suspect most families will find it meets their needs--even if one parent prefers to take a sport sedan to work.
The base JX is front-wheel drive, and the optional all-wheel-drive system prioritizes drive to the front wheels until it senses wheel slip or other traction problems. Then it can shift up to half the torque to the rear wheels, making this a practical vehicle for muddy soccer fields and horse paddocks, but hardly an off-road rock climber. Infiniti projects that six out of 10 JX models will be ordered with AWD.
The 2013 Infiniti JX can tow up to 3,500 pounds once an accessory trailer hitch has been fitted (for $370). That said, serious trailer towers are more likely to opt for the larger, brawnier QX56, and Infiniti says only a fifth of JX owners will ever tow anything.