After a highly satisfactory experience with a Four Seasons Infiniti QX56, our collective antennae were up at the debut of Infiniti's newest SUV, the JX35. One rung down size-wise from the big-boy QX, the JX is also built differently, being of unibody construction rather than body-on-frame. Additionally, the JX is based on Nissan's front-wheel-drive, mid-size D-platform (which also underpins the Altima and the Maxima), and it's therefore the first Infiniti in a long time that doesn't use a rear-wheel-drive architecture.
Will the front-wheel-drive platform -- not to mention the CVT automatic -- compromise the new model's Infinti-ness? Or can Infiniti successfully imbue its more popularly priced three-row offering with the expected levels of refinement? And how will this new entry stack up in the burgeoning field of three-row crossovers? The answers to these questions are particularly important because the JX is expected to be the brand's second-biggest-volume model (behind the G).
Another Four Seasons test was in order, and Infiniti gamely signed on. We ordered an all-wheel-drive JX35, in trendy brown with brown leather (make that midnight garnet and java). The very reasonable base price of $42,500 includes such essentials as leather, a backup camera, a sunroof, power seats, a power tailgate, a power-adjustable steering column, and HID headlamps. Adding $12,300 worth of options took us somewhere beyond "reasonable" -- but still short of "absurd" -- and brought such niceties as an extra-huge moonroof that covers all three rows, heated and cooled front seats and heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, twenty-inch wheels, a Bose thirteen-speaker premium audio system, and more.
Between the technology package, the deluxe touring package, and the premium package, this JX has enough electronics to stock a Best Buy. There is the expected navigation system, with an eight-inch touch screen, voice recognition, traffic and weather, and a Zagat restaurant guide. Add to that Infiniti's Around View Monitor with moving object detection; front and rear audible park assist; and dual, headrest-mounted rear-seat entertainment screens. Finally, this JX also comes equipped with a slew of features that recall the Greyhound tagline, "Leave the driving to us:" intelligent brake assist with forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning and intervention, lane-departure warning and prevention, intelligent cruise control, and distance control assist.
That's a lot of technology to digest, but we'll have a full year to do it. The staff at the home office, however, will have to wait to get started, because the New York contingent is getting the first crack at this one. No sooner did the JX arrive at our office than it shipped off to the East Coast to spend its first few weeks with New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman and senior editor Joe Lorio. They'll be the first to weigh in on how well the JX tackles its big role.