A funny thing happened along the way to our three-month road test of the Infiniti JX--but now, we're back on track.
By now, you've probably heard that Infiniti is changing the names of all its models. It doesn't affect many shoppers yet, but the 2013 Infiniti JX we have parked downstairs? Next year, even if it doesn't change, will become the 2014 Infiniti QX60.
Cue some soul-searching right at the beginning of our stint with the big seven-seat luxury crossover. What do we call it for the rest of the test? After deciding on that and some technical issues, we're pressing ahead with our Three-Month Road Test under its current name. Just the same, start looking ahead for our 2014 Infiniti QX60 page as soon as any details are confirmed.
Now that we've spent a few weeks with the JX, on short trips and long, it's pretty clear what the newest member of the Infiniti clan does best. It's not the delightful open-air tourer that is the G37 Convertible (or, Q60 Convertible), and it's lacking the silver-dusted wood of the big M56 sedan (henceforth, the 2014 Q70--we're totally all over this).
What it does best, is squarely linked to being the plushest Nissan Pathfinder you've ever driven. And that makes itself known in at least five ways we can point out:
2013 Infiniti JX Six-Month Road Test
Surround-view cameras. The JX is our first longer-term exposure with this relatively new system. How did we ever park in a garage cluttered by power washers and a stray replacement sink before it? The system of cameras on the nose, tail, and under the mirrors generates a few views, which you can select from a piano-style key on the dash while in reverse or park. Ditch the tennis ball hanging by a string, and stop worrying about curbing the tires--the cameras show you everything. There's a tendency to collect raindrops that gives their readout on the LCD display a wicked Instagram-like effect, but almost all of the time, the surround-view camera is a home run.
Styling. It's tempting to look at the Infiniti JX and not see cues of crossovers with less happy outcomes (cough, R-Class). The JX perfectly picks up cues layered on other Infinitis and scales them up without going into cartoonish extremes. The jagged rear pillar? Brilliant. The soft, sculpty interior? Perfectly on point for the class and the price.Big, wide doors. Imagine our surprise when we pulled up next to a five-seat Volvo XC60 and saw the JX is just a couple of inches longer--but significantly taller, with much wider rear doors. The Volvo loves to haul cargo; the Infiniti's all about excellent second-row accommodations, and its wide rear doors are helpful for making the most of the fairly roomy second-row seat. Forget how the same design choice makes Camaros and other coupes a problem in parking lots. The JX's doors are just about ideally sized to open fully in all but the tightest spots, and they leave enough room for adults to step in to the second row without clambering.
2013 Infiniti JX Six-Month Road Test
Ventilated seats. Yes, we know, this one's not an exclusive, but our JX is a Johnny Cash special--black paint, black leather. Even in the depths of winter down south, it can still be 70 degrees outside. A fresh draw of air from under the cushion makes long-distance road trips more comfortable. The JX's controls are logically baked in with the seat heaters on rotary knobs, right there on the console--no fiddling with touchscreens or hunting for them on the side of the seat cushions, either.
The flexy-foldy second-row seat. The fold-forward second-row seat makes the Infiniti JX's third-row seat more usable than most. It tilts forward even with a child seat in place, which means less of the daily juggling of car seats parents grow to hate, right along with after-school scheduling and Dora The Explorer. Of course, as we'd like to point out, it's really not ideal to move the seat with child seat in place--with the actual child in it. And we've found the second row doesn't have maximum room for the tallest adults; I rub my head on the sunroof mounting, and the low seat cushion leaves some of my leg unsupported if I choose to sit in the middle row. But the sliding along a 5.5-inch track, and the 14 inches of space opened to access the third-row bench make the JX's second-row seat one of the most clever in the segment.
Gas mileage: our JX hasn't seen more than 18.9 miles per gallon combined since we first topped it off--and on its current tank of premium fuel, run entirely on city errands, it's hovering around an indicated 15.4 miles per gallon. Against an EPA-rated 18/23 mpg, or 20 mpg combined, our observed fuel economy is fairly dismal, though in line with the EPA's rule of thumb that real-world mileage is usually 20 percent lower than its pie-in-the-sky lab numbers.
Audio displays: the JX's Bluetooth connection is fairly stable against the hit-or-miss combination of iPhone 4S and iOS 6. However, there's not enough of a data pull to display track names, artists, or cover art on the screen. When you select "AUX," all you get is a rudimentary set of play and pause buttons. It's time for a firmware upgrade, and something more richly presented.
Interior noise. Big crossovers with big V-6 engines aren't the engineers' dream case for quietness. The JX could use a little more damping in its wheel wells and thicker glass, to block out more road noise. It's more noticeable than annoying, but a $56,000 luxury crossover should be as quiet as a $35,000 luxury sedan.
We'll be checking in a half-dozen more times in the coming weeks with our JX as it hits the road for the beach--we're giving spring a hard nudge of encouragement--and as we put it through our fuel-economy and video road tests.