FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Our first encounter with the 2013 Infiniti JX, a stylish luxury crossover utility vehicle with seats for seven riders, occurs on a parking pad in front of the USA headquarters of Infiniti/Nissan in Franklin, Tenn.
Stretching over 16 feet long and decorated with a raked face flashing a chrome-finned double-arch grille and speed-strafed bi-functional xenon headlamps on front corners plus curvaceous fender blisters bulging over the optional 20-inch silver-finish alloy wheels, Infiniti's newest wagon looks and functions like a sport utility vehicle but it drives and handles more like a pavement-hugging sporty car.
The lower body seems substantial and strong like a SUV yet the upper section including a narrow wrap of windows with a broad windshield cocked back at an extreme angle and the trailing tapered roofline seems more akin to a rakish GT-style sports coupe.
Size-wise, the body of JX measures up to the mid-size CUV class. Wheelbase runs to 114.2 inches long, with front and rear wheel track widths coming to 65.7 inches. In Infiniti's line of wagons the JX slots between the smaller five-seat FX CUV and a larger eight-seat QX SUV.
The expansive structure of JX creates a passenger compartment comprising 149.8 cubic feet over a flat platform floor and housing three rows of seats for seven passengers.
A monocoque structure for JX is like a car's platform melding chassis and body into a cohesive entity that's extremely rigid.
Then install the independent suspension system with struts in front and rear multi-link arrangement, add variable-power rack and pinion steering and disc brakes for all corners with anti-lock brake system (ABS), brake assist (BA) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
Further, every JX carries a vehicle dynamic control (VDC) device with a traction control system (TCS) which automatically checks lateral skidding on slippery pavement.
For locomotion Infiniti pulls out the juicy VQ35DE 3.5-liter V6, with dual cams on top and four valves for each cylinder. It delivers superior muscle -- to 265 hp at 6400 rpm with 248 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm -- and links to an advanced continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Fuel economy estimates tally to 18/24 mpg city/highway.
Infiniti offers the JX with front-wheel drive (FWD) traction or intelligent all-wheel-drive (AWD). The smart AWD equipment is able to distribute the engine's torque to all wheels in amounts which vary with pavement conditions (smooth or rough, wet or dry).
JX's cabin turns into a creative exercise of form following function in an innovative design with form-fitting seats and a wagonload of high-tech electronic gizmos. Designers specified plenty of high quality materials and soft-touch surfaces, plus touch-screen dash controls and electroluminescent gauges for the instrument panel.
Two bucket seats covered in leather occupy the front row of the cabin on either side of a floor console with 8-way power controls for the driver's bucket and 6-way power controls for the passenger's seat.
On the second row a multi-mode bench with seatback split 60/40 is designed to seat two comfortably but hold three riders if necessary. The bench moves forward or rearward by as much as 5.5 inches and seatbacks flop down for easy access to the third-row bench.
The back bench splits 50/50 and folds down to expand the cargo capacity of the JX.
Infiniti's 2013 JX CUV comes together at a Nissan assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., with two models -- JX35 FWD and JX35 AWD.
Standard exterior features range from 18-inch alloy wheels with automatic bi-xenon headlamps and foglights to LED taillights, heated side mirrors, a sunroof, power liftgate and keyless entry/ignition.
Standard interior content begins with the leather seat upholstery and builds with tri-zone automatic climate controls, power tilting-telescoping steering wheel, power controls for front bucket seats plus heat elements in front seats, a dashboard display screen, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and an audio kit with six speakers and iPod/USB interface.
Optional equipment packages permit JX customizing:
* Premium Package installs a 360-degree parking camera system, front/rear parking sensors, 13-speaker Bose sound system, hard-drive navigation system, Bluetooth streaming audio and Infiniti Connection telematics.
* Deluxe Touring Package nets 20-inch alloy wheels, a 15-speaker Bose Surround Sound system, a moonroof above rows two and three, a power rear sunshade, climate-controlled front seats and heated second-row seats.
* Theater package plants a 7-inch video monitor in the seatback of each front bucket and adds wireless headphones, wireless remote control and auxiliary audio-video jacks.
* Driver Assistance Package brings adaptive cruise control, distance control assist, forward-rearward collision warning, intelligent brake assist, blind spot warning, a heated steering wheel and remote start plus the Eco Pedal.
* Technology Package includes lane departure warning and intervention, blind spot intervention, pre-crash front seatbelt tensioners, a heated steering wheel, remote engine start and Driver Assistance Package contents.
Infiniti's 2013 MSRP chart for JX begins at $40,650 for FWD or $42,050 with AWD.