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Road tripping the 2013 Infiniti JX35: Motoramic Family Drive


After 18 years as an editor at Road & Track, Patrick Hong’s trying a different tack in reviewing cars — letting his whole family weigh in. Here’s their first effort:

One of our favorite family weekend getaway destinations is San Diego. Not able to just pick up and go at the last minute—a luxury my wife Elise and I used to enjoy BC (Before Children), it now takes some planning, especially when we need to find a vehicle that will carry two adults, two boys ages 10 and 8, and a hotel that is pet friendly for our two Bichon Frisé dogs. Seeing a number of the all-new 2013 Infiniti JX35 around town, we asked Infiniti to borrow one for this trip.

As many families will appreciate, packing for a trip is just as big of a project as the trip itself. For us, after accounting for the people and the suitcases, there is always the issue where to put the dogs. On a long road trip, we prefer to put the dogs in a small crate in the middle of the 2nd row seat with the kids. Unfortunately, unlike other full-size SUVs or minivans, the Infiniti JX35 stature won’t accommodate the crate between our boys. The backup plan then is for our pups Wallace and Gromit to ride upfront on Elise’s lap, which they don’t mind at all. As for the rest of the luggage needed for the 4-day trip, they load with ease in the back thanks to the fold-flat 3rd row seats.

On the road, the Infiniti JX35 interior cabin is noticeably quiet. The supple ride, combined with a beautiful sunny day lighting the car’s handsome tan interior layered with polished wood trim, made for a relaxing drive along the Southern California coast. Sitting upfront with Wallace and Gromit, Elise notes “Is there such a thing as having seats that are too comfortable?” With the cozy seating and the peaceful cabin, she worries about someone dozing off at the wheel. I also blame the dogs.

By far, the JX35's most popular feature with our family was the Theater Package ($1,700) that has two 7-inch color monitors nestled inside the front seat headrests. It includes two wireless remote headphones, auxiliary audio/video jacks, a 120V power outlet and additional headphone jacks. Our 10-year old comments: “I like the technology of the JX35 the best. There are two separate screens so my brother and I wouldn’t have to stare at one single screen.” The younger 8-year-old has a slightly different take: “When you look away from the movie screen (not even turning your head all the way to the side yet), the sound gets scratchy and out of the reception range too easily.”

Our JX35 test car comes complete with the Deluxe Touring ($2,550) and the Premium ($4,950) packages. The Touring includes 20-in. aluminum alloy wheels, Bose surround sound system, heated seats front and back, and 2nd/3rd-row moonroof. The Premium adds another layer of amenities such as an 8-inch touch screen for navigation, Bluetooth audio and "around view monitor" — one in which comes in handy for tight parking spaces in San Diego amusement parks where you can see everything around the car as if you are looking down from a bird’s eye view.

Scooting around town in San Diego, the Infiniti JX35 has plenty of power thanks to its 265-hp engine. The continuously variable transmission is one of the best in the industry. It is quite responsive to throttle inputs, and has minimal sensation of “motor-boating” as the car accelerates and upshifts. The 20-in Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport tires take command from the steering wheel without much objection, and keep the JX planted asphalt. But the car’s 4,300-lb. girth becomes far more noticeable when rushed through the corners with moderate body lean.

The JX35 is a good companion for our trip to San Diego. But back home, its flexibility to offer additional seating in the 3rd row is also plus when visiting family. The simple and effortless way that the 2nd row folds and moves forward to allow easier egress and ingress is the best I’ve seen. I know the passengers who usually get relegated to the back row — namely the kids — appreciate they don’t have to contort themselves just to get into the car. While a sticker for our tested model hit $54,070, keeping the family happy may be well worth the money.


CLASS Seven passenger sport utility vehicle
ENGINES 3.5-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION Continuously variable automatic
POWER 265 hp
TORQUE 248 lb.-ft.
MILEAGE 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway
EMISSIONS 7.3 tons CO2/year
$40,450/$54,070 (as tested)
PROS Comfortable in all the right ways
CONS Could use a little more room between the seats.