While we're evaluating it more in depth, our first stop is a little online cross-shopping. Before we put the JX blinders on for three months, we first took a look at the competition--to see what other big seven-seat luxury crossovers might be appealing to anyone looking at the JX in more depth.
What else could you buy instead of the biggest Infiniti this side of the QX56? Going from the least expensive option to the most, we'd start with the Toyota Highlander. It's a big seven-passenger crossover (the five-passenger model's been gone for a couple of years) and it's offered in a slightly more frugal Hybrid edition that adds a mile per gallon or two to its V-6's EPA numbers. Fully loaded with all-wheel drive and many of the safety features offered in the Infiniti, the Highlander will sticker well into the $40,000 range, even more for the Hybrid. But it's still a Toyota, and the interior trim and especially, the dealer experience will be significantly off the JX's mark. Handling isn't the Highlander's forte either: it's a little unsure of itself when the road goes anything but straight ahead.
Two premium crossovers strike us as more logical alternatives if you're ready to spend about $50,000 on a seven-seat family wagon. The Buick Enclave is an excellent choice, even more so because the JX's styling echoes it in some light ways--and because the two feel so similar in their overall size and handling. The Enclave's been refreshed for the 2013 model year and gets much better dash trim and new safety features like a center-front airbag. The ownership experience is improving, too. If in the past, Infiniti JX buyers might not even consider a Buick, the Enclave deserves their second look.The Acura MDX is the JX's other prime target. The current 2013 MDX is far less stylish, and has worse gas mileage and tighter third-row access, not to mention very light electric power steering and a techy interior that leaves some luxury shoppers a little cold. Shoppers should still check it out, but the timing is in Infiniti's favor, for sure--the JX is brand-new this year, while the MDX is in its last year. There's a concept version of the 2014 modelset to appear at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. Acura's told us precious little about the new version, but promises more details in a few weeks live from Cobo.
Next up, we'd suggest a couple of detours while researching the JX, if you're willing to step out a little further on the styling ice. We're big fans of the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT, but realize they're acquired tastes, from an aesthetic perspective. Neither has gotten much traction in the market, but surely the Flex's neo-Fairlane look has aged better than the Lincoln's massive grille. What lies underneath is excellent: great safety, great seating, very refined materials and fit and finish. Both have the option of Ford's complex touchscreen controls--and both can be priced easily in the $50,000 range. On the road they're a bit more taut and controlled than the JX--but you'll have to be prepared to be noticed a lot more.
Finally, there's a discreetly pricey option at hand. The Audi Q7 can be much more expensive than the JX, but base versions just cross over in appeal and price. It's the clear choice of hypermilers, with its optional TDI diesel engine and its remarkable fuel efficiency. Back to back, the Q7 feels more more carlike, much lower and much more attuned to the Germanic driving philosophy--so if that's a priority, be prepared to overcome sticker shock.