---- — Infiniti is a luxury car brand that stands apart. It gives its models the high polish, stately comfort and self-assured performance common in the luxury class.
And it loads them with all the high-tech gear and gadgets that turn all luxury models into mobile companions and personal assistants that entertain and engage you while they help you reach destinations safely and with greater ease. But Infiniti parts with the pack in the character and attitude it gives its cars.
On the street you pick out an Infiniti for its boldly curvaceous sculpting. You notice a sturdy confidence in its stance. You detect independence in the way an Infiniti appears comfortably unique and aloof, willing to think for itself and resist bland, look-alike trends.
They are subtle distinctions, but they’re prominent enough to suit Infiniti vehicles to drivers who feel a similar flash of independence and self-confidence.
Now the luxury brand that stands apart is selling a new model that is a departure for Infiniti. The 2013 Infiniti JX is a seven-seat wagon that aims squarely at family transport. It is a new vehicle for Infiniti, introduced last spring and joining the car maker’s line-up of jaunty automobiles and expressive five-passenger wagons, plus its large and commodious sedan and SUV.
The JX is a crossover, a passenger car that also contains the popular aspects of a sport-utility vehicle, especially its rear cargo space, elevated ride, and optional four-wheel traction. At a list price of $42,245, a standard JX comes with front-wheel drive beneath a 3.5-liter V6 engine. All-wheel drive boosts the price by $1,400.
“We haven’t had anything in the family-vehicle segment before this,” stated Brian Heney, executive manager of Kelly Infiniti, Danvers. The closest Infiniti came before the 2013 JX was the QX. It also seats seven people, but the Infiniti QX is a top-line luxury SUV, larger in size and much higher in price, starting at about $65,000 for an all-wheel-drive model.
“The JX is mainstream in size and still has plenty of interior room and three rows of seats,” Heney said. “You can load a lot of stuff in the vehicle and still drive your children around. Everything a family could need is packaged in there.”
Since Infiniti operates in the luxury-car class, that “everything” encompasses a generous number of premium features, including leather upholstery, power glass moonroof, power rear lift gate, heated power front seats, four power outlets, a premium six-speaker audio system that connects to portable MP3 devices, satellite radio, a power-adjustable steering column, eye-grabbing electroluminescent dials and instruments, a seven-inch color screen for information and cabin-feature controls, Bluetooth hands-free communication and three-zone automatic climate control.
An optional, $4,950 “premium package” adds such features as a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather reports, 360-degree obstacle monitor with moving-object detection, 13-speaker Bose audio system and maple wood interior trim. At $2,200, a “driver-assist package” includes blind-spot and forward-collision warning, back-up collision intervention, intelligent cruise control, remote starting and a heated steering wheel. The $3,100 “technology package” brings lane-departure warning and prevention, and blind-spot intervention, along with all the driver-assist items. And those are just the highlights.
One of the car’s most noteworthy features is its innovative rear seats, noted Heney. Designed with generous leg room and head room for all back passengers, the cabin allows easy access to the third row, past second-row seats that slide forward and back on tracks. Even when an infant seat remains strapped into the second row, the configuration gives easy clearance for riders to step into and out of the far back seats.
“It’s incredibly useful,” said Heney, who hauls around his own children in a JX, occasionally accompanied by their bulky hockey gear – including goalie equipment – to area rinks for practices and games.
But while it invites families to comfortable and accommodating motoring, the JX doesn’t crimp the go-it-alone identity of Infiniti. With a wide, bright grille and piercing, wrap-around front lights, with waving undulations across its hood, low-swept windshield, upward arch toward its back haunches and smartly notched rear side-glass, the model retains the uniquely expressive, sensuous sculpting that characterizes Infiniti models.
Several times last week I encountered drivers in autos from other luxury brands – most notably BMW and Mercedes-Benz – who gave secret, side-long glances at the JX I test-drove around our local roads. Their expressions showed a combination of curiosity about the new model, and maybe a little envy at its distinctive, high-gloss style. I certainly felt distinguished driving the wagon.
I also felt a sense of serene command. While the new Infiniti is set up for family transport, it also maintains the brand’s emphasis on crisp and assertive road control. The JX is slung to give drivers authority, while the 265 horsepower provided by its V6 engine is ample for swift response in traffic.
Heney noted that the new JX is bringing new customers to Kelly Infiniti, part of the Kelly Automotive Group, which also sells Chrysler, Fiat, Honda, Jeep, Nissan and Volkswagen vehicles at dealerships on the North Shore and in the Merrimack Valley.
“We’ve had a nice pick-up in business because of the JX,” Heney said. “We’re getting a lot of Acura customers and we’ve been taking quite a few from Lexus.”
Those are both luxury-car contenders. But the new Infiniti also attracting drivers moving up from consumer class family SUVs, including Honda and Toyota, he noted.
“We will continue to do very well with the all-wheel-drive model here in New England,” Heney predicted.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2013 Infiniti JX Vehicle type: 4-door, 7-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive crossover wagon Price range: $42,245 to $43,645 (plus options) Warranty: 4 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 6 years/70,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty Engine: 3.5-liter I6 Power: 265 horsepower at 6,400 rpm; 248 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 rpm Transmission: Continuously variable automatic Fuel economy: 18 mpg city; 24 mpg highway (with premium gas) Wheelbase: 114 inches Length: 196 inches Width: 77 inches Height: 68 inches Weight: 4,280 pounds Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons Turning circle: 38.7 feet