It is a beautiful wagon, fluid in exterior design, with jewel-like grille and headlamps. You are forced to look at it, an elegant motorized homage to affluence, or at least to the desire for same.
Yet there is nothing ostentatious about it. The wagon’s richness is in its execution — for example, the way its exterior door handles blend neatly, unobtrusively into side-panels, the way the fluid motion of it all ends in the rear in the manner of a cresting wave.
Step inside of this week’s subject vehicle, the 2013 Infiniti JX35 all-wheel-drive, which I prefer to call a wagon because, in actual design and intended use, that is what it is.
There are seats for seven people, with 60-40 split middle seats that easily slide and fold forward, allowing access to third-row seats in the rear.
Those middle seats also do a good job of accommodating child-safety seats. Hint: Check with local fire and safety officials to get the best information on which seats are suitable for the JX35. Why do that? As first responders to vehicle crashes, fire and safety people have determined which child-safety sets do and don’t work well in the vehicles in which they are installed. Take advantage of their expertise.
And enjoy the JX35’s perforated premium leather seats. They are part of a concept that Infiniti’s designers liken to “kasane washi,” a term most appropriately used in the Japanese craft of layering parchment paper to produce fine artwork, but here employed to speak to a layering of materials, shapes and colors to create cabin of singular beauty. The JX35 driven for this column, for example, came with optional maple-wood veneer accents that gave the car a richness and warmth far beyond that found in most “entry-level” luxury wagon/crossover/sport-utility vehicles.
And those seats — I keep mentioning them because they are spectacular. The stitching for the backs and bottoms of those mobile thrones are waved, flowing, as opposed to the strictly vertical-horizontal stitching found in many luxury automobiles. It may have been my imagination, so overwhelmed was I by their beauty, but I also thought the JX35’s seats (eight-way power driver and six-way power passenger) were among the most comfortable I’ve ever used.
The JX35 is equipped with one of the best V-6 engines in the business, Nissan’s famed 3.5-liter V-6 (265 horsepower, 248 foot-pounds of torque). But it is no surprise to me that Infiniti’s choice of that engine is under attack by “automotive enthusiasts” for its application in a vehicle with a factory weight — weight absent passengers and cargo — of 4,419 pounds.
In truth, the 2013 JX35, available with all-wheel or front-wheel drive, fits nobody’s definition of a high-performance vehicle. So what? The people buying it are usually parents in need of a comfortable, safe midsize wagon to get them and their families from one place to another. The 2013 JX35 all-wheel-drive model driven for this column handled those chores quite well.
By contrast, the people usually criticizing the JX35’s performance are young, single, unmarried and overwhelmingly male. They believe that everything should go fast and “take curves” at high speeds, which is silly in a world of crowded, super-regulated streets and highways — often running through financially distressed jurisdictions desperate to enhance revenue through traffic fines.
The JX35 all-wheel-drive gets the job done. I only wish that it would do it using less fuel. Eighteen miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway are nothing to brag about.