Exploiting a market niche unfilled by competitors such as BMW and Lexus, Infiniti brings the JX35, a true seven-passenger crossover, to market ahead of rivals. Fluidic forms and lots of sweeping chrome hide this rig’s true size and give it the upmarket pizzazz necessary to differentiate it from its less expensive platform-mate, the Nissan Pathfinder.
Inside it welcomes occupants with the artful, Rubenesque curves that have come to define Infiniti’s interiors, with more useable size and comfortable seating than rivals. With three rows that can actually be inhabited by adults without resort to immediate chiropractic care, the JX35 places itself ahead of the current Acura MDX, Audi Q7 and BMW X5.
Not everything holds up to scrutiny; many moldings are cheaper than the price point suggests, the dash top’s speaker grills don’t fit flush and a forest worth’s of fake wood grate. The JX35 does offer, however, most every available technology to entertain, distract and save you from yourself when on the move. Some of these irritate, including the over-active Intelligent Brake Assist, that slams the binders if it even gets a wiff that your closing rate is too high on a car in front of you that begins slowing rapidly. Much more welcome is the Back-Up Collision Intervention, which uses its cameras and interlinked sensors to prevent an expensive parking lot crunch.
In motion the JX35 is generally refined and quite, soothing and polished. Initial ride motions are well-damped, but bigger bumps catch it out compared to the class’ best. Roll control is tight, so it doesn’t lean much in the corners, and steering is accurate if numb. It comes close to the Mazda CX-9, still the dynamic benchmark in large seven-seaters, which is no small thing.
Powered by a newer version of company’s ubiquitous VQ-series V6, the JX35 has outputs of 265hp and 248lb-ft, channeled through a continuously variable transmission and either front or all wheel drive. While generally loathed by enthusiasts, this is one of the best CVTs yet, with adaquite throttle response in its Sport mode and no undue hunting for the right gear ratio. There’s no discernible benefit herein to the use of this type of gearbox; while 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds and an average of 18.5mpg are class competitive, they are in no way superior numbers.
If all this sounds a bit cool, it isn’t intended to. The JX35 is compares favorably in most areas and excels in interior space usage and accommodations. That it almost matches the Mazda dynamically is no small accomplishment. If its apparent interior quality doesn’t live up to an Audi’s or even Infiniti’s other products just means it is built to a cost target. And it comes in price-wise smack between the mainstream Asian and American players on the one side and the higher end German offerings on the other, a space with few rivals. Combined with the excellence of Infiniti’s post-sale service and the terrific reliability the company’s products have become known for, the JX35 is a prestige player value.
EPA 18/23 20 combined
Price as tested: $55,170