2012 Infiniti JX35 First Drive
Luxury Pathfinder could be a big hit
By Imthishan Giado
As a luxury brand, I think it’s fair to say that Infiniti exists in something of a no man’s land.
Once considered the Japanese BMW, today its lineup is dominated by SUVs and CUVs. Quick they might be, but up to Munich standards they’re not. Same goes for the interiors, which are the equal of Lexus but below the standards of Stuttgart. And let’s not talk about the ride comfort…the Japanese firm’s fondness for big rims means there rarely is any.
All of which is by of explanation for why I say, I wasn’t hugely looking forward to the JX.
For those of you who keep with such things, the JX is the Infiniti version of the next generation Pathfinder, which launches here before its more plebeian stablemate. Built in the United States, it’s a mid-size crossover SUV with one very big trick up its sleeve – it can seat seven people. No, really, it actually can.
Having that ability defines everything about this car, including the looks. Which can charitably be defined as…’striking’. I mean, there’s only so many things you can do to style a boxy SUV without descending into Bangle-ism. The JX doesn’t fall foul of any of the rules – no super chunky offroad rims when it can’t actually go offroad, no silly raised height – but the JX isn’t very interesting to look at either, except for that strange Hoffmeister kink in the C-pillar. To quote the oft-told joke, perhaps the designer’s pen slipped?
For a car built outside of Infiniti’s native Japan, the fit and finish of the interior is impeccable even on our well worn launch drive examples. Styling wise it’s the same Infiniti looks owners have grown to love and others perhaps might have tired of, all white leather and cascading fascias. New to the JX is a neat little high-res colour screen between the speedo and tach gauges which displays all manner of useful information. Or rather, it does so until you end up in direct sunlight after you see nothing except a washed out blur, like one of those old Magic Eye paintings.
New to this car is something Infiniti is particularly proud of: BCI. No, not Blind Cow Intelligence, but Backup Collision Intervention, which is the latest addition to an absolute alphabet soup of acronyms – LDW, DCA, FCW to count just a few – intended to keep you safe. What does BCI do? When you’re backing up, BCI ‘watches’ the space behind you using a combination of the reversing camera and sonar for objects that could be in the way. When it sense something – or someone walks behind you for example – the system primes the brakes so when you hit them, they’re already at full pressure.
Sounds good in theory but in the real world, it’s too hit and miss to be of much use. In the photo above, I’m flanked by the able Peter Gladstone and reversing up to the Infinit bollard, but the system didn’t brake for me as I thought it would. No, turns out you have to be already riding the brakes for the system to work. To its credit, when it does you feel only the most infinitesimal grab from the brakes rather than a sudden jerk. Don’t bet on it to save you from the supermarket dings.
Out on the road, the JX is tidy if completely unexciting to drive. Under the hood it’s got the usual 3.5-litre Nissan VQ engine, here in 265bhp and 248lb ft of tune spinning all the wheels through – horror of horrors! – a CVT transmission. Honestly though, it’s not that bad in practice, driving very much like the mid-2000s Murano, the CVT mimicking a ‘real’ torque-converter auto most of the time. Which begs the question, why not put one of those in the first place, but who am I to ask such questions?
As for driving dynamics…it’s not as ‘crossover-ish’ as I’d like. Or rather as car-like, perhaps. The JX rolls quite a bit in the corners, while the steering gives you absolutely no indication of what’s up with the chassis, the front end, the back end…oh, you get the point. Not quite an ’85 Chevy Suburban, but the comparison with that 80′s people carrier is not completely undeserved, either.
Who is the JX for? Easy: large families. With this car, Infiniti seems to have wholly abandoned sportiness in favour of the almighty crossover dollar. And in truth why wouldn’t you have one? It’s bigger and (say it with me now) cheaper than an Evoque, sports a posher badge than an Ford Explorer and genuinely seats seven (if not their luggage). At a starting price of Dh185,000 it’s not cheap but not outrageously expensive either.
Has Infiniti finally figured out its place in the world – making Yummy Mummy Mobiles? We’ll have to get one in to find out for sure, but if so, long may it climb the er, Pampers charts.
Engine: 3.5-litre V6, 265bhp @ 6400rpm, 248lb ft @ 4400rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 8.0 seconds
Transmission: CVT, all-wheel drive, 5.7L/100km