First drive: 2013 Infiniti JX 35 in the UAE
The Infiniti JX35 is one car that nobody was actually anticipating. Unlike the next Toyota Prado or the latest Lexus LX, this all-new Infiniti is going with an all-new nameplate and will have an uphill task establishing the “JX” moniker. Just launched in the GCC, it might be yet another crossover in a line-up that already has the FX and the EX, but this is an important model. The mechanicals for the JX will be the basis for the next-generation Nissan Pathfinder. Interested yet?
In fact, the JX makes sense even within Infiniti’s own line-up. The EX and FX are on the cramped side, while the QX goes completely the other way and ends up being too big. The JX35 is a right-sized three-row crossover that fits right in. And it’s a good looker too, although we’ve admittedly met some who think otherwise.
Stepping inside, the interior looks great, with generous use of leatherette and soft-touch materials on all above-the-waist areas. The dash tech is also typical Infiniti, with a central touchscreen also controllable via a rotary dial and shortcut buttons, integrating the stereo, climate control and navigation.
Space is generous up front. Second-row passengers also enjoy excellent legroom. Access to the third row is easy enough, but space back there is cramped for anyone above 5-foot-5, unless the second-row passengers are willing to give up some of their legroom by moving their seats forward. The third row also folds flat to make a large cargo floor, extendable by folding the second row down as well.
During the UAE launch event, we created our own route around Dubai, so we were able to drive the JX around familiar territory during our short test drive. Propelled by a 3.5-litre V6 from the FX35, it’s been detuned for whatever reason, churning out 265 hp and 336 Nm of torque, mated to standard all-wheel-drive and a CVT automatic. Power is adequate, but never kick-in-the-pants fast. It is an effortless cruiser more like, and that “sport” mode setting on the centre-console is only for show.
Anyone who’s driven a Nissan Altima will know the stuck-revs nature of a CVT setup, but it didn’t bother us much as the noise hardly intruded into the cabin. It could’ve been any other quiet luxury car with a smooth gearbox if you don’t pay attention. Noise insulation is very good even at 120 kph, while the ride is largely smooth as well.
Handling is safe and predictable. It isn’t as firm as a BMW X5 around corners, as some body roll is easy enough to induce on fast turns, but it isn’t a soft boat by any means. The steering is very light, and the brakes do well enough. We know of drivers who actually find the BMW X5 too firm, and we figure this Infiniti will appeal to them. As for offroading, it can manage none of those frivolous pursuits, although we did drive it over flat sand and it didn’t get stuck, so trips to most beaches should be fine.
In between the free ice cream at the Meydan Hotel and the free lunch at the XVA Art Gallery, we were given hands-on demonstrations of new tech. One was the parking assist feature that requires you to spend ages configuring the system so that the right guiding lines show up on-screen and help you manually steer into a parallel-parking space. While we’ve seen better parking aids from Volkswagen, more impressive was Infiniti’s back-up collision-avoidance system that detects cross-traffic as you back out of a parking space, and even brakes automatically at the last minute if there is an obstacle.
The Infiniti JX is being positioned as an upscale family SUV, so it was refreshing to see that the Japanese carmaker wasn’t going overboard in trying to portray it as a manly speedster or a rugged camper. It aims more towards the Lexus and Mercedes-Benz crowd rather than the BMW fanatics, and based purely as a value proposition, it makes sense. Because we’re told it starts at only Dhs 185,000 and doesn’t go beyond Dhs 220,000. That’s cheaper than Infiniti’s own FX35, and undercuts just about every other comparable luxury crossover in the business.