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Infiniti JX: SUV stance, crossover finesse

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Infiniti JX: SUV stance, crossover finesse

The JX has a cushy, big-car ride with the command-seating position of an SUV.

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POSTED November 21, 2012 5:16 p.m.

The Infiniti JX is the three-row, seven-passenger alternative for those who do not need the big, truck-based Infiniti QX SUV for heavy-duty family duty and towing.

The time is right for this light-duty format, which borrows some tricks from minivans but masterfully conceals size and capacity with dramatic curb appeal.

Sold in two trim levels and rear- or all-wheel drive, pricing starts at $41,400 (add $1,100 for AWD) and can run to more than $55,000. The front-drive tester was $51,105, including the $950 freight charge from Smyrna, Tenn. The $4,950 Premium package included a hard-drive navigation system, 8-inch touchscreen color display, two-position lumbar for the driver, intelligent key entry and push-button ignition, Bluetooth streaming audio and more.

The tester also came with the driver assistance package, $2,200, which has some useful technologies for those who commute clogged highways, such as intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning and backup collision intervention, which helps the driver detect crossing vehicles and objects behind the JX and, if necessary, the system can engage the brakes to avoid a collision or make a complete stop. The blind spot warning system has indicator lights inside at the base of the quarter window, which helps catch the eye at all times of day. Warning lights on the outside mirrors are better observed at night.

With Infiniti's attention to detail and fine materials, the cabin refinement is fresh and contemporary. The JX, which shares architecture with the new Nissan Pathfinder, also debuts Infiniti connection services, which include 24-hour automatic crash notification, emergency call, scheduled maintenance notification and more.

The 265-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with continuously variable transmission has three performance modes. It moves out smartly in standard mode, gives V-8 performance in sport and is maddeningly conservative in eco. The CVT can be manually shifted, though I didn't feel the need. Fuel economy in 2WD is acceptable at 18 mpg city, 24 highway and 18/23 mpg AWD. Curb weight is lean at 4,280 pounds or 4,419 with AWD.

The engineers labored to provide easy entry and exit to the second and third rows. The one-hand, flip-fold process is like origami engineering. The second row has 5.5 inches of slide to accommodate rear cargo or third-row legroom.

There's tall headroom, 40.1 inches, in front with the standard power moonroof. But the big payoff is shoulder room, 60-plus inches in the first two rows. There is an 18.2-inch step-in height at the doors, which is comfortable without a step rail, but climbing into the second row would benefit from a triangle grab handle at the top forward corner of the doorway. There is an overhead grab handle at all doors.

The second row has a flat floor, which opens footroom, but the bench seat is low and has a short bottom, leaving it best suited for youngsters. Second row captain's chairs would be inviting but not offered. Third row is kid-class but also folds flat into the floor until needed.

Cargo space is 15.8 cubic feet behind the third row, but with the rear seat folded it's more than double that space. With all seats folded there is six feet of length, about 46 inches of usable width and a tailgate opening that's 30 inches, with a little more height farther inside.

The JX is a unibody design, not a truck frame, and has a four-wheel independent suspension, as do luxury sedans. Ride quality is big-car cushy with the command-seating position of an SUV. Even wind noise is minimal at highway speeds and the tester had the optional roof rails and cross bars ($370/$290).

As big as it is, the JX drives small. It's about 1.6 inches shorter than a BMW 5-Series sedan and the turning circle is 38.7 feet, or a half-foot shorter than the 5-Series.

Safety features include six air bags, stability and traction controls. The four-wheel vented disc brakes are large at 12.6-inch front and 12.1 rear and the system integrates the expected ABS, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

As a people mover, the JX is still not as efficient as a minivan — but it's a slick alternative to a bulky SUV.

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