Is Automotive Technology Just For The Easily-Distracted, Then?
Infiniti has a solid people-hauler on its hands. The JX35 is able to move up to seven passengers. As with most crossovers, the third row is best-suited to kids, though adults are plenty comfortable in the front and middle rows. This is no speed demon. But Infiniti's 265-hp engine is powerful enough for safe merging onto busy highways and confident city driving. Previously, I wasn't a fan of CVTs. However, the JX35's transmission is quite good; it delivers power smoothly and linearly.
The Hard Drive Navigation system has a couple of quirks. Overall, though, it's quite functional and behaves as-advertised. We applaud Infiniti for implementing physical buttons and control knobs, even as the company demonstrates an increasing, affinity for touch-based control (just like most other manufacturers). We will say that the Bose Cabin Surround 15-speaker system left us wanting. The subwoofer was muffled, and it lacked punchy bass. Considering that Infiniti calls this a premium sound system, we're disappointed.
We do have a particular affinity for Infiniti's Around View Monitor. As other vendors research active park assist systems, Infiniti's approach helps you improve as a driver, rather than taking skill out of the equation completely. It's certainly cool to watch a car park itself, but just like the folks who cannot drive a car with a manual transmission, we'd hate to see parallel parking become a lost art form.
Around View Monitor functionality isn't perfect. During our week with the JX35, the system hard-locked a couple of times when we started it up, rendering the feature unusable. During this time, the entire system wouldn't respond, and there is no button to reset it. Fortunately, it automatically recovers after a while. But we'd like to see the company focus on updating the system for improved stability or expose a button combination able to manually reboot it.
There are plenty of technological aids in the JX35 designed to help casual drivers get from one point to another safely and comfortably. We're not quite at the point where the JX35 can drive itself, but we're clearly getting close. Infiniti's technologies aren't infallible, though. For instance, Lane Departure Prevention does its job a little too unreliably. It's helpful, but I wouldn't put my family's well-being in its hands. Driver aids are really there to help out anyway; collectively, we really need to focus more on paying closer attention to safe driving.
Our favorite aid is probably the full-range adaptive cruise control, particularly for helping cope with traffic congestion. Having a system for maintaining optimal following distance and stopping automatically makes enduring the Seattle-area traffic much more relaxing than the usual frenzied swapping between gas and brake.
The downside, of course, is that when you're not in traffic and otherwise enjoying the help, driving turns into an absolute bore. The features are completely interesting, but also disengaging from the experience itself. If we were able to pick and choose, we'd arm the JX35 with the adaptive cruise control, the Blind Spot Warning system, and Back-Up Collision Intervention technology. Those seem to be the most useful capabilities for daily driving.
Driving is somewhat of a passion for me. If it's not something you feel as strongly about and Infiniti's technical innovations sound like a great way to help back you up during your daily commute, then no other vehicle in the JX35's class comes even remotely close to competing at the same level when it comes to tech. You cannot completely rely on the driver assistance aids to pilot the JX35, but they can play a valuable role in preventing accidents, particularly if you allow yourself to get distracted. We get it; most of us are parents. Sometimes you simply need to calm your kids down in the back seat.
Strangely, Infiniti decided to rename its entire portfolio, and is ditching the JX35 name for the 2014 model year. Instead, all 2014 model year vehicles will start with the letter Q; SUVs and crossovers will be designated QX. In case you're interested in making a purchase down the road, you'll find the JX35 referred to as the QX60.