"On the highway, with all the safety systems activated, the JX35 basically drives itself."
With the cold weather coming, we wanted to get winter tires on the Infiniti. But Tire Rack, official wheel and tire supplier to Automobile Magazine, didn't yet have measurements for the JX, so we took our car down to their headquarters in Indiana so they could get some. The process is actually quite involved: they use a mapping arm to locate the touch points inside the wheel well, which they use to make a CAD model. They measure wheel offset, suspension travel, and brake caliper size, among other things. The brake calipers, for instance, are measured fully such that brake pads with more compound don't interfere with an aftermarket wheel. In the end, after the measuring and calculating were done, they recommended Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1 tires for our JX, which were mounted on a new set of 18-inch wheels, to the tune of $1599.69. Resetting the tire pressure monitoring system at the dealership added another $62.49.
Two weeks later, road test editor Christopher Nelson loaded up his family for a trip down to the Big Easy. Leaving from Ann Arbor, Nelson swung over to Chicago to collect his passengers and then headed south. Unfortunately, the JX was coming up on the 15,000-mile mark, so at an overnight stop in Memphis, he had the Infiniti's second factory-scheduled service done. Basically an oil and filter change, it was done for $57.62 at Infiniti of Memphis.
On to New Orleans. The 2500-mile round trip provided more than ample opportunity to try out the JX35's myriad of safety systems. Well, most of them at least. "I never tested Blind Spot Intervention because I'm not that much of a jerk to intentionally scare the crap out of some guy in the next lane," he says. "Forward Assist is helpful. It pushes the accelerator pedal back at your foot when you're approaching a slower moving vehicle. And then there's the often-hated adaptive cruise control. While I'm usually one of the haters, I have to admit that ACC was welcome on this trip. We encountered heavy fog on our way south, but I had faith in the ACC. I set it for maximum distance, kept right at the speed limit, and trucked on. Every once in a while, the ACC would brake lightly before a slower car even came into view. I'd move into the left lane, pass him, and carry on. This went on for about an hour before the fog finally lifted. The ACC impressed everyone in the car."
They were less impressed with the navigation system. "Although the physical inputs are straightforward, the address lookup is tedious. First you must choose your region; why not start with state? Next it asks for the house number, which is stupid. At least the POI function works well, and gives a long list of places."
Comfort is a major issue on any mega road trip, and here the Infiniti got mixed reviews. "The driver's seat has a lot of adjustability, and the steering column tilts and telescopes. The front center armrest and door armrests are extremely well padded," he reports. The problem was in the back seats: "Second-row comfort is atrocious. I couldn't sleep a single second when I was back there and, boy, did I want to." Traveling four up, they did not use the third row, which was folded down to make room for luggage.
And then there was the driving experience. "On the highway, with all the safety systems activated, the JX35 basically drives itself," he says. "And it's a nice, cushy drive. But when you take control again, the car shows its cards. It rolls through turns, the steering feels disconnected, and the CVT has the engine groaning. Basically, I disliked the driving experience everywhere but on the highway."
There's lots more highway miles in the JX35's future, but lots of other driving as well. Check back to see how it fares next month.