Room to Move: Brand new Infiniti JX brings high-tech firsts, sporty styling to luxury crossover field

The Infiniti JX from Baker Motor Co. came standard with Michelin tires on 18-inch rims ( Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/4/9/2012).

By JIM PARKER The Post and Courier

The first three buyers of 2013 Infiniti JX crossover sport-utilities from Baker Motor Co. have some connection with youngsters.

Perhaps it has something to do with the first-time model holding up to seven passengers; providing easy third row access with seats that slide on a rail; or including a first-of-its-kind design, according to Infiniti, where second row chairs can fold forward even with a car seat installed.

“The first couple (to buy a JX) had kids on the way,” said Tony Greene, sales associate at Baker Infiniti on Savannah Highway. Another purchaser needed to install two car seats and use the back row for a third older child. And a third buyer was a grandparent who wanted something that wasn’t too large but could hold up to six kids when necessary, he said.

Infiniti rolled out the JX35 all-wheel-drive March 20. Leading up to the release, “I’ve never seen so many Internet leads and (online) traffic,” said Jason Stone, Baker Infiniti sales manager.

“I think this is one of the most dynamic-looking vehicles from all angles,” Stone said, describing the car as having a “sweeping design.”

Infiniti is marketing the JX35 as competitor to the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 Premium and Mercedes-Benz R350, which are all 2012 models.

The 2013 Infiniti JX starts in price at just more than $40,000. A well-stocked model at Baker Motor this week was priced at $46,000 plus.

The carmaker added a host of technological advancements while crafting a streamlined body with sloping back roof and windows that form a zig-zag shape near the lift-gate.

Powering the JX35 is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine producing 265 horsepower that’s made smoother and faster with Continuously Variable Transmission —where there’s no sensation of gears shifting. At the same time, the driver can flick the center shift into “sport” mode, which mimics the engine revs and slight delays where a car switches gears. There’s also “eco” mode to improve fuel economy, snow mode to drive in flurries and a separate “eco drive” where the engine will “pull back a little,” Greene said.

The sport-utility posts combined mpg numbers in the low 20s, including 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

Maybe most noteworthy among the innovations is the optional Backup Collision Intervention.

At low speeds in reverse, the vehicle will signal, beep and then apply the brakes automatically if a pedestrian — including a child or a pet — is behind the car and the driver apparently hasn’t seen anything and isn’t slowing down.

The system, which also detects people to the side, should be effective backing out of a parking space, for instance at a busy shopping center where cars are tight together and visibility isn’t always the best.

“I think this is a game changer,” Stone said. “I think this is going to save lives.”

Among other highlights: • Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Intervention to prevent switching lanes on a highway when cars are coming up alongside.

• Push-button start and stop on all models and, as a first time Infiniti option, remote start where the key can crank the engine from outside the car.

• Infiniti Connection, an emergency, roadside assistance and communications service. The device has a high-end feature where the driver can receive alerts that the car has exceeded a designated speed limit when someone else is driving, say a teen motorist; and can control where the car travels to, which can be beneficial when handing the keys to a valet, Stone said.

• Bose premium sound system with standard six speakers and 13 speakers as an option.

• Standard 18-inch wheels, with 20-inchers as an extra.

• In a feature on all new Infinitis, concierge service where the motorist can push a button and can order flowers or make dinner reservations.

• An optional home theater system with DVD players and sound via headphones.

• Standard leather seats. “It feels so rich and warm. Very inviting,” he said.

Stone touted the new JX as possessing “the functionality of a family car, the performance of a sports car, the luxury of an Infiniti.”

Judging from a demonstration of a few features and a couple hour afternoon cruise, the new JX measures up as an innovator.

Backup Collision Intervention is remarkable, engaging the brakes electronically when someone stood behind the car as it backed up. The second row seats that fold with a car seat is a practical enhancement.

The crossover is plenty spacious in the front and also roomy in the two back rows. In addition, there’s more than adequate cargo space.

On the road, the JX35 handled deftly and picked up speed easily with the 265-hp V-6. The anti-lock brakes worked well. Comfortable leather chairs made the ride smooth, even on a cobblestone street.

One criticism: the vehicle’s stylish looks resulted in a lower rear-roof line that decreased visibility. Moreover, high third-row headrests that help with safety narrow the view through the rear view mirror quite a bit.

Still, this is year one for the JX35. What Infiniti has accomplished already with the new crossover is impressive and no doubt will become a benchmark for rivals to target.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.