Mated to a retuned CVT, the powertrain is astute enough for the city blocks and highway overpasses it will likely encounter on a daily basis. Drivers who desire some semblance of an automatic gearbox's ebb and flow will be happy to know the quiet and smooth CVT can be manually shifted to mimic step shifts. The engine transmission combo also beats both the Acura and Audi in EPA-rated fuel efficiency (18/24/21 for FWD; 18/23/20 for AWD).

A drive mode knob set below the gearshift engages Standard, Sport, Eco, and Snow modes and modifies throttle mapping and "gear" selection to maximize grip, fuel economy, or performance. Sticking it in Sport pegs the tachometer's needle at its limit and livens up acceleration, but of course, it's no Cayenne Turbo.

To that point, the JX doesn't need to be, nor was it ever designed for such duty. It's a cruising people-hauler, so engineering emphasis went into crafting a comfortable and competent suspension. With that in mind, the electro-boosted helm is extremely light -- a tune best suited for mall parking lots.

South Carolina's mixed bag of pavement provided a mixed bag of feelings when it came to the JX's independent front strut, multilink rear calibration: Everything stays smooth and composed until the skinny 235/55R-20 all-seasons meet a large obstruction. Even medium-grade road nuances were transmitted through the steering wheel. To say it rode stiff would be incorrect; interestingly, its ride quality occupies a middle ground between the communicative FX50 and the ultra-smooth QX56. It's a hybrid of both, you could say.

But on a list of necessities, how the luxo-family's hauler takes big bumps can arguably be placed behind how well its passengers are protected and entertained. Infiniti made sure to include all of its active and passive protective safety features. The list includes Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, and Distance Control Assist.

The JX is also available with Infiniti's extremely useful Around View camera system with radar-based object detection, and for the first time ever in a production vehicle, Infiniti's Backup Collision Intervention system warns that drivers of cross traffic in parking lots or driveways with a series of aural and visual alerts. If the driver continues to proceed, the system automatically applies the brakes. As long as I didn't charge out of a parking spot at above 15 mph, the system worked flawlessly in the short time I tested it.

The two models -- the $41,400 JX35 and the $42,500 JX35 AWD (both include a $950 destination and handling charge) -- can be outfitted with five packages (Premium, Theater, Driver Assistance, Deluxe Touring, Technology) that vary in tech and convenience. The most popular, Infiniti says, will be the $4950 Premium (navigation, Bose premium stereo, Around View, Infiniti Connection Plus, memory seats/mirror/steering wheel) and the $1700 Theater (dual 7-inch rear monitors, wireless headphones, power outlet, auxiliary jacks) packages.

Keen eyes may have noticed Infiniti Connection Plus, a new convenience feature that gives drivers 24-hour Crash Notification, emergency call, remote door lock/unlock, alarm notification, roadside assistance, and Google calendar access. Drivers can also setup Drive Zone and Speed Alert to keep a watchful eye if their vehicle enters or leaves a specified geographic area or if a specific speed is breached. The feature is free for the first year of ownership.

Given the 2700-plus preorders so far at North American retailers, the Infiniti JX has obviously struck a chord with wealthy drivers looking for luxury crossover without an A in front of its name. It may have taken some time to get here, but for a certain type of buyer, not to mention for Infiniti, the smart alternative could not have arrived soon enough.


2013 Infiniti JX35 AWD
BASE PRICE $42,500
PRICE AS TESTED $54,800
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.5L/265-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4557 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 114.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 196.4 x 77.2 x 68.9 in
0-60 MPH 7.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.1 sec @ 90 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 113 ft
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 18/23 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 187/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.97 lb/mile