All In The Family: 2013 Infiniti JX 35

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Dottie Li and Michael Toscano

2013 Infiniti JX 35

Technically, the JX 35 is an SUV.  Or as the folks at Infiniti like to call it, a Crossover SUV.  OK. It looks sort of like an SUV from the outside, although a uniquely streamlined and stylish sport ute.  But from the inside, and certainly from a driver’s perspective, it’s an unusually comfortable station wagon that manages to fit seven people.   And it could not have arrived at our home for a visit at a better time.

Birthday week for our newly eight-year old boy required lots of family driving, and the JX 35 made all the hauling a pleasure.  First day, there was the trip to the water park with a bunch of rambunctious boys, giddy with excitement.  There was plenty of room to get everyone strapped in, and the strategically placed video monitors held everyone’s attention so that a harried mom was able to drive without too much distraction.  Driving a stable and solid vehicle loaded with safety features adds a comforting sense that the precious cargo was well-protected.

For Dad, seeing the aerodynamic Infiniti waiting patiently in the driveway in the early morning mists of a steamy Saturday made the day’s schedule a bit less daunting.  The task that day was to get up shortly after dawn and then drive an hour to the sylvan spot where the boy’s all-day rugby tournament would take place.  In the searing July heat, no less.  Dad was a tad grumpy at being pulled from slumber at the hour he is usually just getting deep into REM sleep, but the tasteful “Midnight Garnet” hue of the vehicle was reassuring.  In fact, its entire presence signaled “we’re just gonna take it easy and let you slip gently into the day.”  The “wheat” interior soothed, too.  Of course, the movie theater-quality sound system came crashing on with the soundtrack from one of the kid’s favorite DVDs before the car even backed out of the driveway, so the strong coffee nestled within easy rich of the driver really was not needed.  (Apparently Infiniti thought it was a good idea to store a remote control for the entertainment system right where little hands can get to it in “kids’ row,” the middle bank of seats.)

Our JX 35 came loaded, with a full list of standard features and options ranging from all-wheel-drive to an enhanced Technology Package, upgraded Theater Package, a Deluxe Touring Package, and a redundantly named Premium Package.  All those packaging added about $13,300 to the MSRP of $41,550.  Add destination charges, and the grand total comes to $55,755.  Now that’s a lot to pay for a station wagon.  But it doesn’t seem out of line for an elegantly styled, quite comfortable, and easy-to-handle family SUV that has every safety and fun feature you could want.

For an SUV, even a “crossover,” it’s low slung, with an aggressive, forward thrust that’s accented by alloy wheels, roof rails and just a few touches of chrome to highlight the smooth lines.  It’s easy to get in and out of, yet the driver sits high and enjoys excellent visibility.  (Providing the headrests way back in the third row aren’t in use, interfering with the view out the rear window.)  The first sensory experience inside is one of luxury: The leather, the wood trim, the power-tilt-telescoping steering wheel, the multi-zone climate control, cooled (and heated) seats, the rear power liftgate, the 60/40 split second row and 50/50 third row trading seating for extensive cargo space. 

There is more headroom than most will ever need, and adequate legroom, even in the back seats.  Like we said, this baby came loaded, but we especially appreciated the $3,100 Technology Package.  It offered helpful, practical amenities including Intelligent Brake Assist, which applies braking if it senses imminent collision, along with lane departure warnings, intelligent cruise control, and parking sonar.  Speaking of parking, even a parallel-parking-averse mom had little difficulty easing in and out of parking spaces with the rear camera and the precise steering control.  

Dad got to do more diverse driving, traveling highways, city streets, and country roads during our busy week.  So he got more use from the knob on the center console which allows the driver to choose Sport, Standard, Eco, and Snow modes.  Well, being July, the choice was limited to the first three.  These modes adjust the throttle and transmission, but there did not seem to be a significant impact on overall mileage.  It ranged between 18 and 23 mpg, but stayed closer to 18 or 19 much of the time.  All of the JX 35 models come with Nissan’s 3.5 liter, V6 engine, generating 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque that’s managed by a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with a manual shift mode.

With its well-defined, tight suspension, it drives much smoother and with a better sense of control than is achievable with most SUVs.  It does not handle like a truck-like vehicle carrying seven people.  Quiet and smooth, it moves along well enough, but may not win awards for sheer speed. Of course, that’s not really what you’re looking for with family transportation. Yes, it’s expensive family transportation, and if it doesn’t exactly guzzle gas, it certainly takes big enough gulps that fuel costs should definitely be considered.  That's because this is a vehicle you’ll certainly want to utilize for long hauls. As a daily commuter, especially if you ride alone, it may be comfortable and fun enough, but not truly practical.