New Infiniti sits pretty

It’s said that portion control is an essential part of any successful weight-loss program. That appears to be what Infiniti is practicing with its scaled-down seven-passenger JX35 wagon.

Nissan’s premium division now markets the eight-passenger QX56 that uses Nissan’s Titan truck chassis and 400-horsepower V-8. But it requires a $60,000 entry fee and possesses a significant appetite for fuel that requires increasingly deeper pockets to satisfy. It also checks in at a chunky 5,600 pounds, which makes it a less-than-lithe dance partner on the highway or when negotiating a parking spot.

By contrast, the spanking-new JX35 carries as many as seven people across three rows of seats, but due to its passenger-car construction and smaller engine, it weighs about 800 pounds less than the QX. It also touts a base price that’s close to $20,000 shy of its bigger sibling.

The JX gives Infiniti buyers another option in a category that includes the Acura MDX, Buick Enclave, Volvo XC 90 and Lincoln MKT. They now represent the luxury-class sweet spot as more buyers defect from the traditional sport utility vehicles to more size- and fuel-efficient models.

The JX is an attractive piece that shuns the boxy look of the QX, but is decidedly more wagonlike than Infiniti’s five-passenger FX and EX models. The front end displays the automaker’s latest pointy-fender design “language” and cleaner grille, while at the opposite end the roof pillar resembles a squiggly line that will certainly mark it for easy identification. Overall, though, the JX’s understated shape is in keeping with Infiniti’s upmarket image.

The passenger compartment is also tasteful. It’s done up in leather with wood and satin-nickel accents and fitted with trizone climate control and heated
multiposition power front seats. A power-operated rear lift gate provides access to a cargo area that’s above average in size for its class no matter if all seats are occupied or when the back rows are folded flat.

The heart of the JX is the same familiar 3.5-liter V-6 that can be found on a number of Nissan/Infiniti products. For the JX application, it produces 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. That’s not a lot of thrust for this category, especially when nonluxury seven-passenger brands like the Mazda CX-9 pack more power.

The 3.5 is mated to a continuously variable transmission with an added Sport mode to simulate the gear-changing characteristics of a conventional automatic. This begs the question, why doesn’t Nissan simply install the seven-speed automatic from the QX and be done with it?

Front- and all-wheel-drive versions are available, the latter being an on-demand unit that directs 100 percent of the engine’s torque to the front under normal driving conditions, but can split off half to the rear wheels to maximize grip under slippery conditions.

Regardless of drive train, the JX is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway.

Infiniti has made available most of its advanced electronic safety and crash-avoiding accessories for the JX, plus a couple of first-time features. Leading this group is Backup Collision Intervention that, when the JX is reversing, can detect vehicles in close proximity or crossing diagonally behind and apply the brakes. BCI is part of a $2,200 driver assistance package that also adds distance-maintaining cruise control, blind-spot warning and Active Trace Control that modulates the torque and braking at each wheel to improve cornering control.

Other content enhancements include voice-activated navigation, 13-speaker Bose-brand sound system and front and rear sonar-based parking assist. The latter is combined with Around View Monitor, which gives drivers a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings by using four camera images, shown on the navigation display screen. Coupled to that is Moving Object Detection, which detects moving objects around the vehicle and alerts the driver to their presence using the image taken by Around View’s four cameras.

At $41,400 including destination charges, the JX35 makes a strong case for consideration in the luxury wagon bracket, where being in shape and packing the right gear gets you noticed every time.

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