2014 Infiniti QX60

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — After just one year on the market the stylish and good-selling seven-passenger Infiniti JX35 crossover has been scrapped by Infiniti. It's gone from the 2014 lineup. The 2013 JX will become a one-year wonder, equivalent to music's one-hit wonders.

But you already know the punchline — the JX35 is actually alive and well, but now wears the QX60 moniker in Infiniti's head-scratching decision to rename its entire lineup for the 2014 model year. If you aren't an Infiniti owner or an Infiniti fan of sorts, it might take you the entire model year to figure out that the all-new Q50 sports sedan is the next-generation G37 or that the full-sized QX56 is now the QX80 and the FX37 crossover is now the QX70. A scorecard may be necessary.

The bottom line is that we very much liked the JX35 after a 300-mile week-long test drive last spring, and we very much like the very slightly revised mid-sized 2014 QX60 despite some aspects that we wish were different, such as the unprecedented use of a continuously variable transmission in a luxury crossover vehicle.

Most people probably won't notice the difference between a CVT and a standard automatic transmission. And in Sport mode — the driver can dial in Eco, Normal or Sport — the CVT's fake transmission shift points indeed feel "sporty" much like a standard transmission.

But we think the QX60 would offer better performance from a seven- or eight-speed automatic with little fall off in gas mileage. Perhaps Nissan, the CVT industry champion, has taken the shiftless transmission too far.

That being said, the QX60 — which carries the same mechanicals as the Nissan Pathfinder — is an adequate performer motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 making 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. For comparison purposes figure 0-to-60 in about 8 seconds.

The QX60 does a great job of adding luxury and style to the family hauler.  It's one of the most passenger-friendly three-row crossovers that we've encountered. The second row tilts and slides 5.5 inches fore and aft allowing passengers to enter and exit the third row with ease. And the third row offers enough headroom for average-sized adults, not always the case for so-called six-and-seven passenger crossovers.

The sliding second-row seats allow people of virtually all heights to gain just the leg room they need without asking any sacrifices from the front-row folks.

When hauling cargo is the order of the day, the JX can satisfy most needs with 15.8 cubic feet behind the third-row seats. For those who tow weekend toys, the JX has useable tow rating of 3,500 pounds.

The interior features a good mixture of leather, wood and aluminum. Switches and buttons are intuitive. We like the traditional number (one though six) radio pre-set buttons. Too many vehicles now force the driver to go to the touch screen simply to change the radio station. Likewise, the climate control system can be operated by dashboard buttons without the need for the screen access. When you do want to navigate the display screen — including setting up a destination in navigation — Infiniti's controller knob makes the job easy.

The JX is loaded with the newest in safety technology, much of it optional, including the industry's first back-up collision intervention system, which detects traffic coming from either side and automatically hits the brakes. This includes an Around View Monitor, which shows a virtual 360-degree image of the area around the vehicle and audibly warns the driver of moving objects within the displayed range.

Virtually all the safety technology now on the market is available including Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Distance Control Assist (applies the brakes in slowing traffic if you don't), Blind Spot Warning, Blind Spot Intervention, Forward Collision Warning, and intelligent cruise control. Much of this advanced safety comes in a Technology package costing $2,800.

While standard features abound at a starting price of $42,545, Infiniti has made several packages available, all loaded with really good stuff to tempt the prospective customer. And we had the opportunity to sample virtually everything Infiniti has to offer on the QX60 in our all-wheel-drive test vehicle that took the base price to $57,240. Pick your poison carefully.

A footnote — the biggest news for 2014 is that the QX60 will soon be available in hybrid format sporting a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a 15kW electric motor making a combined output of 250 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. Infiniti says the hybrid will have a combined fuel rating of 26 mpg.

— Jim Meachen