Parents have a pretty tough job. Parents who are also drivers have it even tougher. They have to keep an eye on the kids in the backseat who are just waiting for an opportunity to kill each other, while keeping two eyes on the road so that the whole family doesn't die in a fiery crash. That's three eyes that they need, but most only have two. Forget texting, a shouting toddler is the ultimate driver distraction.
Infiniti's 2013 JX35 steps up to the plate with an array of driver aid technologies that help to keep a digital eye on the road and the cars around to help parents in those vital seconds when they need to glance away to tend to their kid. The system can even intervene on the driver's behalf, acting like a sort of force field, keeping the vehicle away from what could end up being minor fender benders.
The JX can't drive itself (yet), so you'll still need to pay attention to the world on the other side of the windshield, but thankfully the seven-passenger vehicle is also available with an array of entertainment options (including a pair of rear monitors) to keep those kids distracted so that the poor parent behind the wheel can concentrate more on the road.
The gas pedal that pushes back
I've never seen a seven-passenger SUV or crossover that boasts great driving chops. That's probably because the kind of people who need space for five kids probably don't care about cornering or stoplight drag races, which is understandable.
The 2013 Infiniti JX35 doesn't break this mold. Under the hood is Nissan/Infiniti's workhorse 3.5-liter V-6 engine. It's not a particularly high-tech engine, lacking any turbocharging or direct-injection technology, but it is reliable -- finding its way under the hood of everything from theto the to the . This time around, the V-6 sends 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that isn't doing it any favors in terms of responsiveness. Our JX was a front-wheel-drive model, but an all-wheel-drive system is available at an additional cost.
In an, 265 horsepower can be fun, but in the 4,280-pound JX, it's merely adequate. Furthermore, it's pretty much impossible to hustle in the JX. Apply half-throttle and you'll get decidedly "meh" forward thrust. Floor the pedal, and you'll pretty much get the same. She's only going to go as fast as she's going to go.
A manual shift mode lets the driver grab a lower gear for a bit more responsiveness when it's time to pass and a Sport Drive mode adds an almost imperceptible bit of edge, but usually the CVT's hesitancy about venturing into the upper reaches of the tachometer keeps the power under lock and key. I wasn't able to drive the AWD version, but I can only imagine that it's even slower. Unless you live in an area that gets snow or deluges of rain, I'd skip that option until a stouter engine is available. (JX50S, anyone?)
So, you're not going fast in the Standard or Sport modes. How about twisting the Drive Selector to the Eco mode to see if you can get some fuel efficiency out of the deal? Here's where things get interesting. The standard JX model's Eco mode behaves largely as expected: the throttle response is retarded to discourage heavy-footed antics. However, on models equipped with the Driver Assistance Package gain the ability to activate what Infiniti calls the Eco Pedal. This active pedal provides force feedback to encourage more efficient driving. For example, when pulling away from a traffic light, you may meet resistance in pushing the pedal beyond a certain point or you may feel the pedal push back slightly if you try to floor it.
Of course, the driver is always under complete control and its easy to simple press past the resistance in situations where you actually need the full grunt of the engine. The Eco Mode and Eco Pedal combo is a great set of tools for training yourself to maximize the fuel economy of the big JX -- much better and much less distracting than watching an Eco light in the dashboard. You may be surprised to learn how little pedal input you need to, for example, maintain a highway cruising speed. This small bit of feedback and the tiny behavioral changes it encourages can lead to small but significant gains in your real-world fuel economy.
The EPA estimates the JX's fuel economy at 18 city and 24 highway mpg. I averaged 19.8 mpg during my testing, which included a few days of fruitlessly lead-footed city driving, a few traffic jams, and mostly highway cruising.
A force field of safety
Our JX was equipped with Infiniti's complete Technology Package, which includes all of the driver aid technology that the automaker could squeeze into the crossover. At its default setting, the driver aid system consists of Forward Collision Warning (FCW), which signals a beep and tenses the seat belts if you approach a vehicle too quickly, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), which sounds a beep to signal that you've drifted out of your lane without signaling, and Blind Spot Warning (BSW), which monitors the blind spot to either side of the vehicle for obstructions at highway speeds and sounds a beep if you signal for a lane change into another vehicle.
However, on the steering wheel, there is a small button (with an icon that looks like a force field around the silhouette of a car) that allows drivers to switch all, or a configurable subset, of these driver aid systems into their active counterparts. FCW becomes Distance Control Assist (DCA), which attempts to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead by pushing your foot off of the accelerator with the active pedal and automatically braking the vehicle for you (sometimes, fairly aggressively). DCA, like the Adaptive Cruise system, can slow the vehicle all the way to a complete stop, preventing rear-end fender benders in all but the most panicked of stopping situations. LDW becomes Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), a system that will actively attempt to yaw the vehicle back into its lane by bias-braking the opposite front tire. Finally, BSW becomes Blind Spot Intervention, which also brake-yaws the JX back into its lane in the event that you attempt to change lanes into a vehicle sitting in your blind spot.
With this virtual force field of driver aid systems at your disposal (and combined with the utility of the full-speed range Adaptive Cruise Control) the JX can pretty much drive itself in simple commuting situations and in stop-and-go traffic. I'm not saying that you should set your cruise control, put up your force field, and start answering e-mails on your phone, but for a new mother who's trying to keep an eye on a child in the back seat, this extra level of security (and the extra milliseconds of reaction time that it affords) could mean all of the difference in the world.
The JX is also available with an array of driver aid functions that help at parking speeds (below 5 mph). The first is Infiniti's awesome Around View Camera system, which gives drivers a bird's-eye view of the area around the JX at low speeds by stitching together the images of four cameras mounted around the vehicle. Overlaid on this map are forward and rear trajectory lines (depending on the direction selected on the transmission) that show what direction your wheels are pointed. Users can also toggle a full-screen view of the rearview camera, a front-view camera, and a passenger-side camera that's useful for lining up with the curb without scratching those 20-inch wheels when parallel parking.
Alongside the camera system is a proximity detection system that monitors the area around the vehicle for obstructions such as other vehicles, walls, posts, and pedestrians and notifies you with an audible chime. A system called Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) extends the monitoring area behind and to the sides of the vehicle to watch for cross traffic while reversing. If a vehicle approaches while you ease out of your parking spot, you'll get a light from the BSW system. Ignore that and you get a beep and an onscreen indicator. Continue to reverse (or if the crossing vehicle gets too close, too quickly) and the system will push your foot off of the accelerator and apply the brake to prevent collision with the approaching vehicle.
Finally, a feature called Active Trace Control uses braking to balance most of the weight of the vehicle over the front wheels when cornering to increase traction on those wheels and responsiveness. This combined with a bit of bias-braking supposedly helps to keep the vehicle in line with the driver's intended trajectory.
Infotainment and cabin tech
Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming are joined by standard USB and auxiliary inputs with iPod connectivity. Other audio sources include SiriusXM satellite radio and a single-disc CD player.
The standard audio system that handles all of that is a six-speaker rig, but there's a 13-speaker Bose-branded system available. However, our JX's Deluxe Touring Package bumps that up to a 15-speaker Bose Cabin Surround system with digital 5.1-channel decoding and DVD video and DVD audio playback. This system supplied good, neutral audio at its base EQ curve -- I'd even venture as far as to call it a bit flat. However, with a bit of tweaking it's easy to tune for "wake the neighbors" levels of bass or clear mids and highs for natural-sounding vocals.
At all trim levels, the JX features a color information display at front and center of its dashboard that responds to inputs from a physical rotary controller just below. However, spec the Infiniti HDD navigation system like we did and you get upgraded to an 8-inch touch screen. Navigation users also get voice command for audio source selection, destination input, and hands-free calling. Infiniti's maps are as easy to read and crisply rendered as ever and feature 3D landmark and building data. Traffic and weather data are provided by the standard SiriusXM uplink.
New for Infiniti is the JX's available Infiniti Connection telematics system, which embeds a cellular data connection in your dashboard, connecting the vehicle to the Internet. You can then use this connection to make Web searches for destinations, which is infinitely (ha!) more helpful than the locally stored Point of Interest (POI) database. Infiniti Connection can also notify you if the vehicle leaves a preset area without your permission, automatically alert the authorities in the event of an accident, and push Google Calendar notifications to your dashboard.
Rear-seat passengers aren't left out of the infotainment fun, as our JX was equipped with the Theater Package, which adds dual headrest-mounted 7-inch wide-screen displays for rear-passenger entertainment. A wireless remote control, a pair of wireless headphones, and a set of rear headphone jacks are also included. This package also adds a 120V AC outlet and an A/V input for the rear monitors, which makes it possible to hook up a video game console or other external video source. If movies and video games aren't their cup of tea, the Deluxe Touring Package's massive second- and third-row moonroof lets in plenty of light for reading and provides a clear view of the sky for stargazing and cloud watching.
The JX35's power train is really nothing to write home about, and we gave it a middling score in that subcategory. It's been proven to be reliable and it's moderately efficient (particularly for such a big vehicle), but it's also merely adequate. The coolest bits of drivetrain tech are the CVT and the Eco Pedal.
Fortunately, the JX35 strikes back with major levels of driver aid and infotainment tech. Obviously, Infiniti's great HDD navigation system and Bose audio systems are back with new Infiniti Connection telematics tricks and the classic array of digital audio sources and rear-seat entertainment options. However, I was truly wowed by the driver aid systems available here. Potentially distracted drivers (and again, I'm not talking about texters here; I'm talking about those poor parents with screaming kids in the backseat) have access to all sorts of warning systems to help keep an extra set of digital eyes on the road. At the touch of a button, you could set up a virtual force field that allows the vehicle to intervene on your behalf. And when the time comes to get out of the JX, it does everything short of parallel-park itself, offering camera and proximity systems to help you to get the job done without incident. Top marks go to Infiniti in the technology category.
The 2013 Infiniti JX35 starts at $40,450 for the front-drive model. An AWD configuration is available for $41,550, but I'd skip it unless the weather where you live is absolutely abysmal. Start by adding the Premium Package for $4,950, which adds (among other things) navigation, Bose audio, Infiniti Connection, and keyless entry and start. The $1,700 Theatre Package adds those dual 7-inch monitors and the $2,550 Deluxe Touring Package gives you bigger wheels, an even better Bose system, and the big rear moonroof. Finally, the Technology Package rolls in every driver aid feature mentioned in this review for $3,100. Add a weighty $950 destination charge to bring the MSRP to $53,700.
|Model||2013 Infiniti JX35|
|Power train||3.5-liter V-6, CVT, FWD|
|EPA fuel economy||18 city, 24 highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19.8 mpg|
|Navigation||HDD with Infiniti Connected telematics, traffic and weather by SiriusXM|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes|
|Disc player||single-slot CD (upgradable to DVD)|
|MP3 player support||standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection|
|Other digital audio||SiriusXM satellite radio, DVD video, DVD audio|
|Audio system||15-speaker Bose with digital 5.1 decoding|
|Driver aids||front collision warning, distance control assist, blind-spot warning, blind-spot intervention, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, backup collision intervention, around-view camera, proximity detection, adaptive cruise control (full speed range), Eco Pedal|
|Price as tested||$53,700|