Exterior And Mechanical Features
Infiniti equips all JX35 models with high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps paired with projectors to make nighttime driving easier. We found the headlamps to be very bright, and enjoyed driving on dark country roads with them.
Intelligent All-Wheel Drive
Much like the newest Nissan Pathfinder, Infiniti's JX35 is based on a unibody platform derived from the Nissan Murano. Although such a design isn't known for its off-road capabilities, we probably wouldn't take the JX35 through trails anyway. The trade-off is that you get much better road manners, including a smooth car-like ride.
Our test mule featured a front-wheel drive-based AWD system, which delivers power primarily to the front wheels until slippage occurs. At that point, up to 50% of the power is diverted to the rear wheels.
A Familiar Powertrain
Infiniti sources power for its JX35 from the VQ35-series motor, the de facto V6 in virtually all Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. In case you're unfamiliar with the VQ35 series motor, it’s a 3.5-liter engine with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, but lacks direct injection. Nevertheless, the motor delivers up to 265 hp and 248 ft-lbs of torque in Infiniti's JX35. This is no speed demon, but the vehicle gets up to highway cruising speeds quickly enough.
Infiniti pairs the VQ35DE with a continuously variable transmission, which is a first in an Infiniti vehicle, but a staple of the Nissan line-up. Unlike traditional automatics, a CVT does not have a fixed number of gears. Instead, it relies on steel belts that dynamically move up and down pulleys to maintain the engine's sweet spot, optimizing either for acceleration or fuel economy.
Previously, I wasn't a fan of CVTs. The last vehicle I drove with one was the 2008 Jeep Patriot. It was unrefined and sounded like four spastic hamsters about to have a stroke. It wasn’t pleasant at all. I'm happy to report that the JX35 changed my opinion. Acceleration is very linear, and the VQ35DE motor delivers a pleasant sound at wide-open throttle.
Selectable Drive Modes
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to driving style, and manufacturers are increasingly embracing this by enabling multiple modes, selectable at the turn of a knob. The JX35 has four such modes: Sport, Eco, Normal, and Snow. Each alters throttle response and the CVT's behavior.
As we already discussed, Eco mode is biased to fuel economy and engages the Eco Pedal feature. At the other end of the spectrum, Sport mode livens up the driving experience with quicker throttle response and higher "shift points." The JX35 is such a big, heavy vehicle, however, that there's not a sporting bone in its chassis. We weren't expecting sportiness though, so we kept the JX35 in Normal mode for most of our time with it.