Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

Infiniti reveals the newest addition to its lineup, the family-oriented, 3-row, 7-seat ’13 JX cross/utility vehicle today at the 2011 Los Angeles auto show.

On sale in the spring, the JX is the fourth addition to the luxury brand’s light-truck lineup, after the smaller FX and EX CUVs and the large QX SUV.

Infiniti touts the JX as a “non-vanilla” CUV option and says it embraces “family customers in a way no luxury crossover has done before – recognizing their need to grow up but without growing old,” Ben Poore, vice president-Infiniti Americas, says in a statement.

A feature designed with families in mind is the easy-access third row, Infiniti says, as well as the second row’s ability to slide forward with a child in his car seat.

The 60/40 split second-row seats in the JX have a maximum slide range of nearly 6 ins. (15 cm). That, coupled with wide door openings, makes getting in and out of the third row easier, Infiniti says.

The luxury brand says the third row has enough head and knee room for adult-size occupants, and boasts second- and third-row legroom is higher than that in a Cadillac Escalade SUV.

Available in two grades, JX35 with front-wheel drive or JX35 with all-wheel drive, the CUV is powered by parent Nissan’s 3.5L 24-valve DOHC V-6 engine. The all-aluminum mill, with Infiniti’s Variable Induction Control system, makes 265 hp at 6,400 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. (336 Nm) of torque at 4,400 rpm in the JX.

While prominent in Nissan-brand vehicles, the JX becomes the first Infiniti in the U.S. to use a continuously variable transmission. Infiniti says the JX’s CVT, mimicking a conventional step-gear automatic when Sport mode is engaged, has a wide gear ratio and low friction design.

Throttle response and transmission mapping also is altered in Standard, Snow and Eco modes.

With either FWD or AWD, the JX is estimated to achieve a fuel-economy rating of 17/23 mpg city/ highway (13.8-10.2 L/100 km), for a combined 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km) in real-world driving.

Speed-sensitive power steering, 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes and a MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear suspensions also are featured on the JX.

Infiniti introduces a new telematics system with the new CUV, Infiniti Connection, soon to be rolled out on most navigation-equipped Infinitis.

With basic and Plus versions complimentary for the first year of ownership, Infiniti Connection has automatic crash notification; remote locking and unlocking of doors; maintenance alerts; and the ability to set distance and speed boundaries for parents of teen drivers, the latter two items also features of Hyundai’s new BlueLink system.

Further, JXs with Infiniti Connection can synch with an owner’s Google Calendar schedule of events, and then provide directions to appointments. A concierge service for needs inside and outside the JX also is available via Infiniti Personal Assistant, the luxury brand says.

The JX retains many of the visual cues of its precursor Essence concept supercar, which hinted at the Infiniti marque’s new design language. Infiniti styling features introduced with the JX include a double-arch grille, double-wave hood and a crescent-cut D pillar-and-greenhouse design.

The JX begins at $40,450 for a FWD model and $41,550 for an AWD variant, with neither price including taxes or a $950 handling fee.

Available option packages range in price from $370 (roof rails) to $4,950 (premium package).

Leasing a FWD JX with the premium package should cost $549 per month for 36 months, Infiniti estimates.

Infiniti sales were down 4.5% in the U.S. through October, WardsAuto data shows, to 79,043 units. On the light-truck side, only the QX is pacing ahead of like-2010, with the EX and FX falling below year-ago levels.

The JX will be assembled at Nissan’s Smyrna, TN, plant next year, becoming the first Infiniti to be assembled at Smyrna and the brand’s only current model not imported from Japan. The QX was built in Canton, MS, but production shifted to Japan with the new generation.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com