Infiniti JX35 AWD: This is the crossover Volkswagen's Touareg wishes it was.
Price: $52,205 as tested; $41,550 base price.
Marketer's pitch: Choose to be inspired.
(My own) conventional wisdom: Expensive machines that are heavy on gizmos, light on feeling.
Reality: Some pretty cool and useful gadgetry in a smart package.
Gizmo-heavy? The first thing that caught my eye was seeing my garage in the backup camera. The Around View Monitor shows drivers not just what's going on behind them, but a view of all sides of the JX35. Nice idea. Part of a $4,950 Premium Package, it adds premium sound and various infotainment goodies.
Stops for you: And if you still manage to not see something in time, the JX35 will stop the vehicle for you, thanks to Backup Collision Intervention. (This comes as part of a $2,200 Driver Assistance Package, which also added a heated steering wheel, blind-spot warning, intelligent cruise control, and distance-control assist.)
I tried this out in my driveway (no, I didn't put a Sturgis Kid out as a test dummy), but with some shrubbery. The gas pedal really needs some serious force to override this feature.
On the road: I began my test with the JX35 in Eco mode, and it was fine. The three-row crossover handled nicely on the straightaways, but kind of acted big-carlike on twisty roads.
When I switched to Sport mode, my perspective changed. The crossover became about as fun as a vehicle its size could be. The winding roads of Southeastern Pennsylvania became a slalom again.
Luxury: Nothing says neat-o like comfy black leather seats. Especially when the interior is accented with brushed silver and walnut.
Friends and stuff: And while those nifty, well-contoured seats hold passengers in very well, the material is not that grippy when it comes to objects, like grocery bags. Start those items out on the floor, because they'll end up there soon enough, he said, after spending 10 minutes returning pens and papers to his briefcase.
Cellphones have a comfortable cubby up front. The giant center-console storage chest holds just about one of everything.
Room behind the rear seats is not quite enough for a large pizza box, but we just let the Sturgis Kids hold those in place for us.
In and out: Infiniti makes the JX35 rear row about the most accessible I've found yet. It's possible to adjust the seats from the inside without contorting your spine into pretzel-like maneuvers.
Once your passengers alight, they'll find the accommodations more than just suitable. The rear row is neither the best nor the worst, but the middle row splits and moves forward and back to customize the space as needed.
More gizmos: Lots and lots of buttons complicate the map system and HVAC. Setting the heater is much more complex than it needs to be. The LCD screen displays the settings when adjusting, but even that's not a big help. And simply dialing in an XM station takes two screens.
Cruising speed: The cruise control steering-wheel buttons have no apparent rhyme or reason to their setup. Most other cars follow recognizable patterns (four-square or up-down-left-right), but this seemed willy-nilly.
And I'm not a big fan of adaptive cruise control slowing me down before I hit something. The JX35 doesn't change my mind. Nor does it let me turn it off. You buy adaptive cruise, you're stuck using it. Every time.
Fuel economy: I got 21 m.p.g. in a mix of driving, which is not bad for a four-wheel-drive, seven-passenger unit.
Where it's built: Smyrna, Tenn.
How it's built: As a new model, the JX35 doesn't have a rating from Consumer Reports. But Infinitis in general tend to ride the top of the heap for reliability.
In the end: Despite its shortcomings and fairly high price, I'd have to call the JX35 a pretty sharp piece of machinery. And its roominess coupled with sharp handling makes it an attractive package.
Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or firstname.lastname@example.org