Not long after the Infiniti JX35 arrived in Ann Arbor, we had the local dealer install a towing package. The total cost for parts and labor was $932.50 -- not cheap, but it did add an extra measure of versatility to the JX35, and it allows us to take advantage of its 3500-pound towing capacity.
The first person to do so was senior web editor Phil Floraday, who used the JX to tow his 2000-pound camper for a long weekend of late-season camping. "I thought that towing with a CVT-equipped rig would be less than ideal," he says. "In heavy traffic, the CVT certainly had the engine revving. This was not a particularly enjoyable experience, but I can't say it would have been any better without the CVT. Once the traffic on I-96 thinned out, we were able to use the cruise control, and let the engine's ample torque reduce the CVT's need for short ratios."
He continues: "The biggest benefit of towing with a CVT is the complete absence of harsh shifts. I thought the lack of a tow mode button was odd, but then I thought about what that button usually does: it alters the transmission shift points. And I realized that there was no need for a tow mode since the CVT has no set shift points."
"Overall, I'm happy with the JX as a tow vehicle for my small trailer," he concludes.
What about other aspects of the JX? Once again, the Infiniti's camera system was a welcome feature. "We made several trips to downtown Grand Rapids, and paralleling parking couldn't have been easier thanks to the around-view camera system, which also made hooking up the trailer a breeze."
With the third seat folded, the cargo hold easily handled all Floraday's luggage and supplies, and passengers in the second row had adequate room. Although Floraday had been a big fan of our long-term Infiniti QX56, he had to acknowledge the advantages of the smaller, less-expensive JX. "As much as I enjoy the QX and its powerful V-8, it's easy to see why the JX is a better choice for most shoppers," he conceded. "The much smaller price tag, better fuel economy, and nearly as nice interior appointments in the JX really make a compelling case for the crossover over the SUV."
A few weeks later, assistant web editor Donny Nordlicht took his first turn in the JX35, and he made a different comparison. "Although the interior is up to Infiniti's high standard," he said, "I can't help but wonder if the JX is worth the price jump over the Nissan Pathfinder. The two vehicles are essentially identical now, and Nissan's higher-end interiors have been almost matching Infiniti's."
Nordlicht went on to call out the Infiniti for -- you guessed it -- its CVT, which he contends "reveals the lack of refinement in Nissan's 3.5-liter VQ V-6." Although the transmission's sport mode improves things somewhat, he still found the engine "raspy and strained."
On this point, Nordlicht and Floraday aren't that far apart, actually, with Floraday acknowledging: "In a perfect world, the JX would be powered by Nissan's 3.7-liter engine, to distinguish it from the Pathfinder and the Murano, and would use a traditional automatic transmission, to better align the JX with the rest of the Infiniti portfolio."
Sounds like a not-bad idea, actually.