- Elegant styling minimizes bulk
- Excellent third-row access
- Fuel economy good for a seven-seater
- Rear Collision Intervention safety system
- Not particularly compelling to drive
- Eco Mode is only for masochists
- Unintuitive interface for telematics display
- Despite electronic wizardry, six airbags is minimal
The 2013 Infiniti JX offers families appealing style, decent fuel economy, ease of access, and the right mix of features.
The 2013 Infiniti JX marks the first time the Japanese brand has sold a seven-seat luxury crossover not based on a full-size truck. As such, the JX sits solidly in a larger market segment than the performance-oriented FX series or the large, V-8-powered QX56. The 2013 JX competes directly with the Acura MDX, which has pretty much owned the luxury seven-seat market for several years.
The company expects the JX to be one of its top-selling vehicles, saying its customers are seeking a more luxurious family transport that still lets them express individuality. In designing its newest crossover, Infiniti says it focused on three areas: a spacious, flexible, luxurious interior; confident handling and excellent safety; and better fuel economy than its competitors. The JX is definitely stylish outside and spacious inside, with handsome lines that downplay its size.
Performance is adequate if not all that sporting. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission, which improves fuel economy (and can be made to mimic a conventional six-speed automatic in Sport mode) but divorces engine speed from responsive acceleration. There's nothing objectionable about the JX on the road, and it proved a relaxing distance car during a 100-mile road test, but it's nowhere near as compelling as the company's sport sedans.
It's the second and third row that makes or breaks the purchase decisions for seven-seat vehicles, though, and here the JX excels. The adaptable rear seat folds, tilts, and collapses in several combinations, giving good access to the third row even if there's a child safety seat latched into it--which no other three-row vehicle can claim, Infiniti says. The first and second rows are comfortable for real-world adults, though the third row (no matter how easy it is to reach) is better used for children than more adults.
The Infiniti JX comes with a full suite of safety systems, and a new Rear Collision Intervention system that watches for approaching objects from the sides and rear when the vehicle is in reverse. It can detect objects in the vehicle's path up to about 5 mph, and will identify cross-traffic approaching from the rear at up to 15 mph. The company expects it to be a defining feature, and a very popular feature with young families--and has made it available as a stand-alone option across most trim levels. The NHTSA rates it at four stars overall, while the IIHS hasn't yet crash-tested one.
Beyond the $40,000 base JX, there are five trim levels and option packages that can take the car over the $50,000 level. As always, the mid-range Premium level is likely to be the most popular configuration.
Infiniti says the JX offers best-in-class fuel economy, which is true if you don't include hybrid crossovers--which either don't have a third row or aren't from luxury brands. We saw a real-world 20 mpg in a 100-mile test drive, which is respectable for a vehicle this large.
2013 INFINITI JX
The 2013 Infiniti JX has all of Infiniti's design cues in a stylish package that belies its seven-passenger size.
The lines of the 2013 Infiniti JX include all the brand's recent styling cues, with large chrome double-arc grille up front and a crescent-shaped rear roof pillar.
Considering how large it is, Infiniti's styling team has done an excellent job in minimizing the bulk of the seven-seat vehicle. The long hood removes any hint of minivan, and "haunches" over the large 18- or 20-inch alloy wheels swell gently. At the rear, the roofline drops slightly. The result is a long, tall vehicle with a relatively athletic appearance and sleeker looks than the shorter and more slab-sided Acura MDX.
The luxury continues inside as well. While the analog clock verges on becoming a design cliche, the dashboard, door panels, and seats are rich but restrained--and designed to accommodate family needs as well.
Even the base JX models convey an air of luxury inside, although it's practical luxury for families--this will be a working vehicle--rather than over-the-top opulence. While all-black interiors are available, Infiniti has an array of two-tone treatments that lighten the space and add luxury without crossing into garishness. Chocolate brown and beige is likely to be popular, we suspect. Accent trim is wood or matte silver metal.
2013 INFINITI JX
The 2013 Infiniti JX is hardly a driver's car, but it's not meant to be; as family transport, it moves and handles well enough.
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.
2013 INFINITI JX
Comfort & Quality
The 2013 Infiniti JX has all the usual near-luxuries you'd expect, and its third-row access is exemplary
The 2013 Infiniti JX was created as a family vehicle first and foremost, with the goal of maximizing interior volume, safety, and convenience. Its designers spent a lot of time making the third row not only hospitable but easy to reach--and to escape.
The front seats are comfortable and well bolstered, and the second seat offers ample space for real-world adults. The second-row seat slides 5.5 inches forward or backward, producing class-leading legroom in the second row when all the way back--but giving third-row occupants more legroom if needed. The one caveat we noted is that if the front seats are fitted with optional seat cooling, there's virtually no room underneath them for second-row passengers' feet.
The company touts its class-leading 14 inches of space between the second-row seat back (when folded forward) and the door frame, which really does make it easier for kids and even adults to clamber in and out. The second seat has been articulated so that the bottom cushion tilts up as it folds forward. The third row is tolerable for occasional adult use but, like many, has its cushion low to the floor, leading to a knees-up position that's less than comfortable for those adults over the long haul.
Unusually, the second seat can be folded forward for third-row access even with a child safety seat latched into place using the Isofix anchors--unlike any other three-row crossover, Infiniti says. The seat back is split 60/40 in the second row, with the third row split 50/50.
Total interior volume is 149.8 cubic feet, more than either the Acura MDX or the Audi Q7. There's 15.8 cubic feet of space behind the third row, as much as a decent-sized compact sedan's trunk.
Two different JX vehicles we tested seemed well-built, though we were explicitly warned that they were pre-production vehicles, so might not be representative. In that light, we can forgive a single loose piece of trim--and we'll carefully check over our first JX test car.
2013 INFINITI JX
With a four-star crash-test rating, the 2013 Infiniti JX has one standout safety feature in surround-view cameras.
So far, the 2013 Infiniti JX hasn't been rated for crash safety by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given it four stars overall, with identical ratings in all categories except for a five-star showing in side-impact protection.
The JX comes with six airbags standard, including side-curtain bags that protect passenger heads in all three rows. As well as standard equipment like anti-lock brakes and traction control, there's a full suite of electronic safety systems. Among them is an Around-View Monitor, which includes sensors for detection of moving objects.
That permits a new feature that's a world first, one that tested extremely well with parents, known as Backup Collision Intervention. Using sonar sensors in the rear bumper for plastic objects, and radar in the rear quarter panels to sense metal objects and longer distances, the system scans continuously for movement nearby when the car is put into reverse. If it senses an object--whether it's a child or a stray little red wagon--moving into the path of travel, it quickly applies the brakes to prevent a collision after providing visual and audible warnings. The system can be toggled on or off with a dashboard switch, and works at speeds up to 5 mph for objects at the rear, and about 15 mph for rear cross-traffic alerts.
Beyond that, a long list of better-known safety systems includes Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Blind-Spot Warning and Intervention, Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Brake Assist, and Distance Control, otherwise known as adaptive cruise control. All systems worked as advertised in a half-day test drive, though the Lane Departure Warning seemed more sensitive than in other vehicles we've tested. It became irksome, warning us every time we changed lanes--deliberately or not--unless we used turn signals religiously.
As part of the telematics suite, owners can set up Drive Zone and Speed Zone alerts that will notify them via text or e-mail when the vehicle exceeds a predefined speed or crosses the boundaries of a designated geographic area--either a "stay within" or a "keep out" zone. The service also contacts local emergency responders if an airbag triggers or it senses a crash, locates stolen vehicles, and can unlock the vehicle remotely at the owner's request.
2013 INFINITI JX
Kludgy infotainment system aside, the Infiniti JX offers a free Personal Assistant and good-quality, high-end audio.
The 2013 Infiniti JX is priced in a band from $40,000 to more than $50,00, with a base price for the simplest front-wheel drive version of $40,450 plus a mandatory TK destination charge. The all-wheel drive model adds $1,100 to that starting price.
That gets you not only the seven-passenger utility with leather seating, but pushbutton ignition, a standard six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system that plays MP3 files and comes with three free months of Sirius XM satellite radio, a USB port, and speed-sensitive volume adjustment. The standard center display uses a 7-inch color screen, and drivers can control the infotainment and other aspects of the JX using the controller below the screen.
A glass moonroof with an electrically powered sunshade is standard on every model, as is a rear-view monitor for reversing.
Beyond the base version, there are five trim level options. The Premium level (adding $4,950) is expected to be the big seller, with and without the Theater option that adds two monitors for second-row video viewing, located in the backs of the front-seat headrests for an additional $1,700.
The Driver Assistance Package, at $2,200, adds Rear Collision Intervention and TK, along with a smart Eco Pedal that resists hard acceleration under certain driving circumstances. Infiniti has made this a standalone option that can be ordered without other packages, reasoning that it will appeal to all families, wherever they fall in the model range.
The Deluxe Touring Package (for $2,550) adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a Bose WaveGuide audio system with a specially designed amplifier to occupy minimal room under the load deck to maximize underfloor storage space, a fixed-glass roof above the third row, cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, and rain-sensing wipers.
Finally, the Technology Package ($3,100) includes everything in the Driver Assistance Package plus Lane Departure Warning and Correction, Blind-Spot Warning and Intervention, and seat belts that automatically pre-tension in anticipation of an accident. It requires that the Deluxe Touring Package be specified as well.
The telematics package includes one year's free service for destination assistance, in-vehicle access to Google Calendar, and alerts if the car exceeds a pre-set speed or travels outside specific geographic boundaries. With the JX, Infiniti is also offering a service known as Infiniti Personal Assistance. For an additional fee, it offers instant connection to a live human concierge, who will do his or her best to answer any query the driver may have.
While the infotainment and telematics system had a nice crisp display in the center of the dash, we found the menus convoluted compared to the best of the breed. The combination of touchscreen commands, buttons around the perimeter, and dials and knobs was particularly unintuitive. We didn't have time to do a thorough analysis of all functions, but we recommend that buyers spend some time working through the commands they would use most often to ensure they're comfortable with the interface.
2013 INFINITI JX
Among seven-passenger vehicles, the 2013 Infiniti JX is slightly better than average in fuel economy.
Seven-passenger crossover utilities are hardly a fuel-efficient segment, but Infiniti has done its best to give the JX good gas mileage under the constraints of hauling around a large vehicle that may be filled with up to seven people and all their possessions. Infiniti says the JX offers the best fuel economy in its class, though how you define that class may be slightly tricky once you look beyond the Acura MDX.
The 2013 Infiniti JX is rated by the EPA at a combined 21 mpg if you order the front-wheel drive model, which falls to 20 mpg when you opt for the $1,100 all-wheel-drive option. Those break down into 18 city, 24 highway for the front-drive JX, and 18 city, 23 highway for the all-wheel-drive model.
Over a 100-mile test drive in South Carolina that blended highway travel, suburban errands, and two-lane back country roads, we saw exactly 20 mpg on our top-of-the-line JX test car.
That's good for a seven-passenger crossover, with only the all-wheel Toyota Highlander Hybrid seven-seater beating it at 28 mpg for its city, highway, and combined ratings. Whether Infiniti buyers would cross-shop even the most expensive Highlander is a different question, but overall, we give Infiniti good marks for fuel economy in its current competitive set--though we suspect other vehicles will equal or surpass it soon.