Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Infiniti JX35 Redefines Safety and Luxury in Midsize Crossover

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InfinitiJX35The new Infiniti JX35, a midsize, seven-passenger luxury crossover, blends state-of-the-art safety with passenger-seating versatility.

 

Story and Photo

By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

In the two seconds it took for me to take my eye off the road to make sure my grand-nephew, Tyler, asleep in the backseat was safely buckled up, I felt it. My vehicle automatically slowed to a stop.

As I quickly turned back around, I saw the reason why. The car ahead of me had suddenly stopped. Had it not been for the “intelligent brake assist” feature in the Infiniti JX35, a seven-passenger crossover and the luxury-carmaker’s newest offering, , I might have had some explaining to do to Tyler’s parents — all the more so since I’m his godfather.

Intelligent brake assist is only one of several state-of-the-art safety features packed into Infiniti’s latest effort to offer smaller alternatives to its larger crossover and SUV lineup that includes the behemoth QX56. By the time I finished driving the car for a week and testing its panoply of safety technology – backup collision intervention, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree parking camera, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot and lane-changing warning systems – I came away thinking this might be among the safest vehicles on the road today. As in, well, Volvo safe.

Similar to intelligent brake assist, adaptive cruise control uses front-mounted radar sensors. These enable the driver to choose from among several pre-set distances that this car from the vehicle in front. If the vehicle ahead slows, so too does the JX35 to maintain the pre-set distance. On numerous occasions and in many types of vehicles offering this feature, I have found it to be a godsend, especially in heavy traffic, in fog and in extreme weather conditions.

But the all-new JX35 can do a lot more than merely get you from here to there safely. The second- and third-row seating that makes the vehicle a true transporter, for instance, seems created not just for soccer moms and football dads, but also extended family child-raisers whose roles place them smack in the middle of a new demographic of “active grandparenting,” or, in my case, “active uncle-ing.” With its 60/40-split folding and reclining second-row seats and easy access to a 50/50 split third-row bench seat, this Infiniti seems tailor-made for hauling family young’uns and their friends to sports practice, recitals and Saturday matinees. With a spacious and well-appointed cabin, this midsize crossover holds its own legroom-wise even if some young members of the clan have reached that dreaded age of adolescence and the growth spurts that go with it. The good news is the JX35 offers plenty to help distract these teenage rebels without a pause: Bluetooth, USB connector for laptops, dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system, and 13-speaker Bose stereo system.

That said, the JX35, built on a wider and elongated Nissan Murano platform, should not be pigeonholed as safety-obsessed with little in the way of fun and luxury. For starters the heated, eight-way driver and front-passenger leather seats help make this front-wheel-drive SUV (optional all-wheel-drive is available) a pleasurable ride and road-trip contender on par with its chief rivals from Acura, Buick and Lexus. Adding tech to the trek is a power lift gate, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a seven-inch color monitor for navigation, audio and other on-board systems.

Infiniti has never slouched when it comes to cabin materials and the JX35 debutante is no exception. Quality hard plastics are found throughout the interior. Burnished alloy and faux burl-wood accents on the inside door panels, console and center stack help imbue this newcomer with just the right touch of luxury. Adding a sporty finish and finesse to the design is a curvilinear dash of soft-touch materials and a double-stitched, leather-wrapped short-shifter.

The question that remains is this: is the JX35 fun to drive? Depends. On one hand its 3.5-liter V-6 power plant, which boasts 255 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, can seem zippy and the drive well-balanced thanks to its independent strut front and multi-link rear suspensions. Call me old school but I still have a problem with some of the new continuously variable transmissions like that in the JX35. In this Infiniti, the faux six-speed gearbox feels a tad too slippery for my tastes. Even when I put the car in manual-shift mode the power plant felt sluggish, especially when I pushed the revs to the redline.

The JX35’s saving grace may be that it comes with a Drive Mode Selector knob for snow, eco, sport and normal driving, depending on road conditions, performance preferences, and gas-saving goals. Sport mode, for instance, firms suspension, tightens steering, and lengthens revving ranges. Elsewhere this luxury runabout’s impressively tight turning radius makes the JX35 the wizard of ahhs in virtually any crowded parking lot. (And it should for a starting MSRP of $40,000.)

No matter how you slice it, this newbie’s EPA Estimated Fuel Economy is decidedly lackluster: 18/24 city/highway miles per gallon, respectively.

Despite its outstanding safety features, competitive versatility and luxury, Infiniti’s brand-new crossover by no means answers all the midsize crossover questions consumers face when shopping for a vehicle in this segment and price range. But the roll-out of the JX35 likely offers a glimpse into the future of what we can expect from the carmaker’s midsize, seven-passenger crossovers down the road.

(James Gaffney is the former automotive columnist for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)

 

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 16, 2014 at 6:49 pm

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