It's been a good year with the Infiniti JX35, but unfortunately it's time to return this luxury SUV to its home. In almost 29,000 miles, this nicely appointed seven-seater has left a good impression with everyone who's driven it. We hate to let it go.

After getting out of my long-term Honda Odyssey last year, I was looking forward to shedding the "soccer mom" image and hopping into something with a little more style. At a base price of $42,500, the JX35 definitely has style, with a more refined nose than its bigger brother, the QX56 (which I had nicknamed Baby Beluga, and now is badged the QX80). Including all the options ($4950 Premium package, $3100 Technology package, $2550 Deluxe Touring package, and the $1700 Theater package), our Infiniti's total price went up to $54,800. For that money, the JX35 is certainly a step up in style. Starting with the 2014 model year, the crossover is now called the Infiniti QX60 and is also offered as a hybrid.

Driving the JX35 was, for the most part, a stress-free experience. The electro-hydraulic steering was light and responsive, and the four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes were strong and predictable. My one issue with the vehicle was the throttle response. The Infiniti Drive Mode Selector allows different settings for Sport, Snow, and Eco modes, but the CVT transmission often seemed to be searching for the right ratio. There were many times when the JX, which weighed 4419 pounds, felt a bit heavy for its 3.5-liter V-6. Entering the freeway with the Infiniti loaded with gear produced a loud roar from under the hood, but the rate of acceleration didn't justify all that noise.

The interior, which looks plush and inviting in Java-tinted leather and maple and brushed-aluminum trim, hardly leaves anything to be desired. The first-row seats are heated and cooled, while the second-row seats are heated. The 7-inch color screen up front displays GPS navigation; artist and song info for Sirius XM radio, iPod, and HD FM stations; and vehicle maintenance information and settings. Second-row passengers can adjust their own HVAC temperatures while watching a DVD on the 7-inch color monitors embedded in the back of the front-seat headrests. They even get their own car charger and AC plug ports.

My main gripe with the interior was with the center stack. The arrangement of buttons was not all that intuitive, nor was the selection of functions that were given hard buttons versus touch-screen activation. Even after a year in the JX, I hadn't built the muscle memory for the location of certain buttons -- why is Climate way over on the passenger side? Sigh. RTFM.

The JX has the ability to tote two additional passengers in the third-row seats. While I wouldn't suggest using these seats for a road trip (at least not for adults), they work in a pinch when you and six of your closest friends are going out for the evening. And since the second-row seats (split 60/40) slide fore and aft, legroom can be improved for the third row. The extra seating helps offset the less-than-stellar 20-mpg average.

The JX is no slouch when it comes to safety features. I have become so used to Intelligent Cruise Control that normal cruise control feels downright dangerous. I began taking for granted some of the more innovative features that come with the Technology Package, such as Back-Up Collision Intervention and Intelligent Brake Assist. The Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning and Prevention felt a bit over-nagging at times, although there were occasions when they might have prevented a fender bender. On the other hand, a few features went almost completely unused, including remote engine start and the heated steering wheel. (I think I used that once.)

Service intervals at 7500 miles meant three trips to the dealership for regular maintenance: three oil changes; two tire rotations; a cabin-air and engine filter change; inspection of suspension, brakes, engine, and belts; and topping off the fluids and tire pressure. The total spent for those three visits was $464.43. The only issue we had outside its regular maintenance was with the rear hatch not staying open when in power door mode. The dealership adjusted a door sensor, and all was well thereafter.

Aside from a few minor annoyances, overall I was really happy with the Infiniti JX35. I will especially miss the backup sensors and around-view monitor, which made parking the JX easier than in any other vehicle I've driven. Even living in Southern California, I will miss those heated seats. The powered rear hatch was always convenient (aside from its beeping), and I always knew I had enough room for everyone to carpool to lunch. A few refinements to the engine/transmission combo and dash layout are about all we were left wanting in this well-rounded vehicle. It certainly fit the bill for shedding my minivan image.


Our Car
Service Life 14 mo/28,896 mi
Base Price $42,500
Options Premium Package ($4950: 8-in center touch screen, navigation, around view monitor), Technology Package ($3100: intelligent cruise, lane keeping, remote start, blind-spot monitoring), Deluxe Touring Package ($2550: 20-in wheels, moonroof, heated 2nd-row seats), Theater Package ($1700: dual 2nd-row screens, wireless headphones)
Price as Tested $54,800
Avg Econ/CO2 18.6 mpg / 1.04 lb/mi
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ 18/23/20 mpg
Average Fuel Economy 18.6 mpg
Problem Areas None
Maintenance Cost $464.43 (3-oil change, inspection; 2-tire rotation; 1-cabin: air filter, engine: air filter)
Normal-Wear Cost $0
3-Year Residual Value* $28,496
Recalls ABS software, fuel transfer tube, passenger airbag sensor