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Secret shopper buys a luxurious, three-row 2013 Infiniti JX35 SUV for the test fleet

Consumer Reports News: June 14, 2012 09:08 AM

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For a luxury automaker, Infiniti has been late to the game with a family-friendly car-based three-row SUV. (No, the enormous QX56 doesn't count.) Acura has the MDX, Audi the Q7, BMW X5, the Lincoln the MKT, and Mercedes-Benz the GL. The company finally brought out the 2013 JX35 to compete in this field, and we had an interesting time buying our AWD Emerald Graphite example at a nearby Infiniti dealership.

As part of our testing program, we wanted to test Inifiniti's new Backup Collision Intervention system. It's similar to other cross-traffic warning systems that use a wide-angle camera on the rear to watch for cross traffic when backing out of a parking space. Where it differs is that Infiniti's system can apply the brakes if you don't, when it senses an object behind the car or approaching from the side.

The JX is the first vehicle that offers the system; it's only available as part of the Driver Assistance Package, which includes a heated steering wheel, blind-spot warning, dynamic cruise control, and forward collision warning. The package also comes with something called Active Trace Control, which works with stability control to "improve cornering feel, such as at freeway speeds, by automatically applying the brakes or smoothing engine torque characteristics while accelerating," according to Inifiniti. The $2,200 Driver Assistance package is only available with the $1,700 Theater Package, which includes a full rear entertainment system with two headrest-mounted DVD monitors with AV input jacks, wireless heaphones, and an extra power outlet in the back to run it all.

All of which means we had to spend an extra $3,900 to test out the Backup Collision Intervention System. See the lengths we go to for you? All in, our JX cost $51,920, including the fairly common $4,950 Premium Package (with navigation, Bose stereo, streaming Bluetooth audio, memory seats, and two-way driver's lumbar support). At least there was "no charge" for the Maple Accents Package.

When our secret shopper went to the local Infiniti dealer to buy the car, the salesman told her how our test track was right around the corner and how the sales staff had the luxury of being able to do "driver training" at the facility prior to selling the cars. He indicated that if she were impressed with the SUV on the road, she'd be even more impressed if she tried it on a track. Only the first part of that was remotely true. Though our track is indeed close to "around the corner" from the dealership, the only ones who ever drive on our track other than staff are the Connecticut State Police who use it as a driver training facility. Our secret shopping was apparently successful.

Once we make a deal on a car, we register it in Consumer Reports' name. We only disclose the real buyer on the day we take delivery; we don't want the dealer to perform any special prep work. So when our secret shopper went to pick up our JX35 and revealed her identity, she wore her "Consumer Reports Auto Test Division" T-shirt, just to set the record straight.

The staff is already working on break-in miles, with this pampering crossover being well-suited to family excursions. We'll have full road test results in the weeks ahead.

Eric Evarts

   

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