Infiniti targets true seven-passenger utility with JX crossover

  • 23-Apr-2012 02:28 EDT
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The JX seven-passenger luxury crossover features the first use of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the Infiniti range. The CVT can mimic a step transmission when the Sport mode of the drive selector is engaged.

Infiniti has responded to a perceived gap in its vehicle lineup with the recent introduction of the JX seven-passenger luxury crossover.

“We had a lot of people coming in and looking at QXs, but they weren’t ready to spend that type of money, they didn’t need that size of vehicle, but they still had two or three kids,” said Sean McNamara, Regional Product Manager, Infiniti. “We could show them an FX, but you don’t put three kids and all their stuff in the back of an FX. Dealers were telling us we were losing these people, so clearly we saw there was a lot of interest in that marketplace.”

With the JX, Infiniti set out to build a family driver that met demands for interior flexibility and roominess, safety, and enhanced hospitality features.

“We had to expand our own mind-set of what was ‘Inspired Performance.’” McNamara said. “It’s not just how fast we can get the car to go, how well we can get the car to handle, it’s not just about driving pleasure; it’s still a critical part, but it’s not just about the driver, it’s about what do we do to make this an enjoyable experience for the second and third row.”

Via the utilization of the flat platform floor, designers were able to achieve class-leading third-row legroom of 30.8 in (782 mm) and enhanced ease of entry through the second row with a total adjustment of 5.5 in (140 mm) fore and aft. The unique collapsible design of the second row eliminates the problem of having to remove a child seat to access the third row. The installed child seat moves forward with the second-row seat— the 40% side of the 60:40 split-folding seat—while still providing 14 in (356 mm) of access back and forth to the third row.

Despite having a wheelbase 4 in (102 mm) shorter than the Audi Q7, the JX holds an edge in overall interior volume, with 149.8 ft³ (4242 L), compared to the Q7’s 144.1 ft³ (4080 L) and Acura MDX’s 142.2 ft³ (4027 L). The JX also leads in cargo volume behind the third row, with 15.8 ft³ (447 L), compared to 10.9 ft³ (309 L) for the Q7 and 15.0 ft³ (425 L) for the MDX.

Building on the brand’s tradition of offering leading-edge safety technology, the JX features what Infiniti deems to be the world’s first production Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) system, using a mix of radar in the rear quarter panels and rear sonar sensors. With the transmission in reverse, BCI will help the driver detect crossing vehicles and objects behind the JX and, if necessary, the system can automatically engage the brakes to help avoid a collision.

“Radar will basically pick up anything that’s going in cross-traffic,” McNamara said. “If it’s far enough away, it’ll just give you a warning, but if it’s closing at a good clip it’ll basically go red and start beeping rapidly, and then if you don’t react to it the car will literally stop for you. It’ll hold it for about a second, you still need to take action, but it will stop it and it does it quite rapidly.”

The car is offered in front- and all-wheel drive.

McNamara and the JX team sought to balance responsive performance with superior fuel efficiency. “We always have this debate about what’s more important, fuel economy or performance. The car has to perform well but I don’t need 0-60 in 5 s; I would prefer to have better fuel economy,” McNamara said.

The standard 3.5-L V6 is rated at 265 hp (198 kW) at 6400 rpm and 248 lb•ft (336 N•m) at 4400 rpm.

“Its all-wheel drive base curb weight is just over 4400 lb, so it actually is one of the lightest within the segment,” McNamara said. “Our power-to-weight ratio is near the top within the segment. While we don’t have 300-plus hp we didn’t need 300 hp. We’re getting all the performance we need at a much lower level. This is also allowing us to enhance our fuel economy as well.”

Fuel economy also factored into the decision to utilize a CVT in the JX, which was a first for the Infiniti range.

Nissan has a long history with CVT. We knew when we were going to introduce this on Infiniti this needed to be different. We couldn’t just pick this up and stuff it in, we needed to do something. We did a lot of tuning with this system. You get all the benefits of the variable gear ratio, wide gear ratios, and the high efficiency and the low friction, so it benefits the fuel economy, but at the same time we added elements to it. One is the ability to manually shift the transmission, but we also added this other element unique to the JX, which is Infiniti drive mode.”

When in Sport mode, the CVT mimics the feel of a six-speed automatic by controlling the throttle sensitivity and shift maps. Standard, Eco, and Snow modes are also offered.

U.S. EPA mileage estimates are listed as 18/24/21 mpg (city/highway/combined) for the FWD model and 18/23/20 mpg for the AWD version, with the difference attributed to the AWD system’s extra 139 lb (63 kg) of mass. The Q7 and MDX are listed at 16/22/18 and 16/21/18, respectively.

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