Our four seasons Infiniti JX35 spent its first couple off weeks not in Ann Arbor, but in New York State, where Jamie Kitman got an early crack at it.
"The JX35 was a godsend when dropped for me at JFK as I returned home from a family vacation in Europe with five people and a ton of luggage. Quiet, cool (as in air-conditioned, when it was 98-degrees in Queens) and comfortable, I found it useful, well appointed, and generally inoffensive, which is the most I usually hope for in a crossover," he writes. "Only problem was, I'd just spent almost two weeks in the Germany and Italy driving a European VW Sharan TDI minivan, which handled better, carried as much, and got about 75 percent better fuel economy (35 mpg on average versus the 20 mpg I saw in the Infiniti). So the JX didn't fare well in that comparison. And then yesterday, Ford dropped off an Escape, and driving it last night it was jaw-droppingly sporty, more nimble than the JX could ever be, plus smooth-riding, quick -- I couldn't believe how pleasant it was. Both of which bookends threw the JX into a less positive light. Its kind of ungainly looks aside, the JX reminds me in function and performance of my beloved 1995 Mercedes-Benz E320 wagon -- big, solid, lots of room, and 20 mpg, no matter what you did. But I don't think I could hang on to a JX for 165,000 miles, the way I did the Benz. It's good, it's solid, but it's no classic. It's not a gas-guzzler, it's not a body-on-frame truck -- that's some sort of progress, I suppose. But Infiniti ought to do better. The Sharan, a Europe-only model, and the Escape, an admittedly smaller car, seem like they might provide some of the answers."
Soon after Kitman relinquished the keys, we loaded up the JX for the return trip to Michigan. The third-row accommodations range from good to terrible, depending how far forward or back you slide the second-row seats. At least second-row space is decent even in the furthest forward position. For us, third-seat space was not an issue, since we just flopped them down anyway, but for a crew of five or six, you have to apportion the legroom between the two back rows.
The crowded, and crazy, New York-area freeways were a good test of the blind-sport warning system. I was certainly glad to have it, but I think the location of the orange warning light, in the very front corner forward of the window, is too subtle. Putting the warning light in the side mirror glass itself is a much better solution, because that's where you're looking.
We got an indicated 22 mpg on our fourteen-hour drive from New York to northern Michigan. I wonder how much a conventional six-speed (or seven- or eight-speed) automatic would lower that figure. Probably not much; it might have more impact on the in-town fuel economy. Still, losing a few mpg might be worth it, as the powertrain -- and particularly the CVT -- is the least-convincing aspect of this car. I never really warmed up to it in a month of driving.
I can commend the ride quality, however. The JX is no corner carver, but it sops up bad pavement without complaint, which is what you want from a vehicle like this. I also had no issue with the electric power steering; I found the efforts reasonable. Overall, the JX treats passengers well, the driver less so, but that's the nature of these beasts. They're family vehicles first and foremost. We'll see what the folks in Ann Arbor have to say.