“Shiftless in Seattle” 2013 Infiniti JX35 AWD Luxury Crossover


SAM_1868Just prior to Memorial Day, Ruth and I had a chance to visit the Seattle area and test a new Infiniti JX35.  We drove it from the airport to Port Angeles, WA, for the purpose of catching a ferry to Victoria, BC.  We also circled the Olympic peninsula and its rainy beaches and forests.  Before we flew out of Seattle, we caught two Seattle Mariner ballgames at Safeco Field.

The JX35 was introduced by Infiniti in the spring of 2012, and is classified as a mid-size crossover SUV.  I call it a luxury crossover, and this one was particularly fancy with an M.S.R.P. of $55,170, including freight.  Its base price of $41,550 was driven up by the optional premium package ($4,950), deluxe touring package ($2,550), theatre package ($1,700), technology package ($3,100), and a set of roof rails for $370.  It’s not difficult to guess at some of the features included in the packages; moon roof, lane change warning, front and rear collision warning/braking, radar cruise control, heated seats in four locations, Bose surround sound, power mirrors/locks/windows/tailgate, tilt/telescope, three movie screens, 8” navigation monitor, and twin front power buckets.  The leather interior was attractive with wheat colored material and gold piping throughout.  Throughout, by the way, means three rows of seats – seven passenger seating in a mid-size!

The outside mirrors had a handy switch that allowed them to be folded in for slender parking spaces or garages.  The feature was nice on the Black Ball ferry boat when passengers were cramming all the vehicles below deck for the 18 mile ride to Canada.  And it seems that most of them go back and forth down there to fetch a handbag or camera.  Other features of the JX included satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone setup, backup camera, pushbutton and remote engine start, heated steering wheel, blind spot monitor, rain-sensing wipers, and wireless theatre headphones for back seat passengers.

Power for the JX is supplied by a 3.5 liter V-6 with 265 horsepower and 248 ft. lbs. of torque.  It’s just ample for the 4,552 lb. machine, and is coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).  The all-wheel drive car sits on a wheelbase of 114.2”, is 68” high, and its width is 77.2”.  Fuel economy ratings are 18 and 23, and during my time with it I observed a 21 mpg reading.  Acceleration at sea level is zero to 60 in 7.8 seconds with a top speed of 121 mph.  The shiftless CV transmission is the best one I have ever driven._DSC2243

When Infiniti personnel rolled out the JX at a 2012 Denver press conference, they hyped the seven passenger capability and the styling.  The company did, in fact, do a good job with the styling, but their FX and QX crossovers are no slouch in that  department, either.  The good-looking JX had the roof rails as well as ten-spoke alloy wheels, chrome side trim and door handles, fog lights and Infiniti’s signature bold chrome grill.  Tires were Bridgestone 235/55R20 all-season radials.

The Northwest vacation was a blast, in large part due to the great vehicle we were able to travel around in.  Infiniti’s great handling and good looking JX35 is a nice package of luxury and refinement.

2013 Hyundai Elantra SE FWD Coupe

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe SE

Hyundai, founded in 1967, is the fourth largest auto manufacturer on the planet.  The company owns Kia, and its own Elantra model was chosen North American car of the year in 2012.  The Elantra is the model of Hyundai I tested this past week and it was the two-door Coupe SE, painted Atlantic blue.  It had black leather interior with manually adjustable front buckets and seating for five.

The compact SE Coupe I drove had in it a 1.8 liter, four cylinder, 145 horsepower engine with 130 lb. ft. of torque.  It was mated to a six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.  It’s a front-drive car and can go zero to 60 in about 8.5 seconds, and top speed is reportedly 121 mph.  Fuel economy ratings are 27-city and 37-highway, with my observation coming in at 26 mpg.  The SE Coupe has four-wheel disc brakes, sport-tuned suspension, and 17” pretty five-spoke alloy wheels.  They are surrounded by Hankook P215/45R17 Optimo mud and snow tires.

Strong points?  Well, styling, for one.  The four-door version of the Elantra looks OK, and this Coupe looks particularly attractive.  Fog lights are up front, lighting is present on the outside mirrors, dual bright finish exhaust tips peek out from under the rear fascia, and a rear spoiler is attached to the trunk.  Head- and tail-lights are large and extend onto the sides of the fenders, and the grill is black and bold.  I pushed the button on the key fob to open the trunk and was a little startled at the size of it.  This car would make a nice hatchback, but nonetheless the trunk space is ample at 14.8 cubic feet.  Plus, the back seat folds down in two parts.

Another strong point is the handling and turning radius of the SE.  Ride and  road noise are acceptable, as well.  The Coupe is a little longer than its four-door mate at 178.7”, height is only 56.5”, and weight comes in at 2,816 lbs.  Driving this Hyundai was actually a little more pleasurable as the week went on.

Total M.S.R.P. of the SE was $23,965, with options on board including technology package ($2,350), carpeted floor mats ($95), and freight ($775).  The technology package included a navigation system with 7” screen, backup camera, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton starter, automatic headlights, and 360 watt premium stereo with satellite radio.  Other equipment present included moon roof, power windows (two sides), tilt/telescope, USB/Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

I’ve tested two Hyundais, and both have been good, with this one getting the most looks out on the street.

“Super Trouper” 2013 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Crossover

2013 Volvo XC60

Volvo builds the XC60 in Ghent, Belgium, and the car has been their best seller since its introduction in 2008.  It is a compact crossover SUV that was unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  I tested one this past week both in Denver and in Greeley, and its nimble behavior and horsepower provided a nice way to haul relatives all over the Front Range.  Whether it was parking on little side streets in Denver or roaring down to Centennial on I25, the Volvo was a super trouper for the task at hand.  We even drove the Swedish product to IKEA to shop for, well, Swedish products.  All of us had Swedish meatballs for lunch, as well.

Another Swedish outfit produced the hit song “Super Trouper” in 1980, that being the pop music group ABBA, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.  The two married couples that made up ABBA sold over 370 million albums and records worldwide from 1972 to 1982, and in 1999 their collection of work was adapted into the successful musical Mamma Mia! that toured worldwide.   I was lucky enough to see Mamma Mia!, which came to Greeley in 2012, and left the show with the catchy beat of “Super Trouper” inbedded in my brain.   In typical ABBA fashion, the song is presented as happy and upbeat, yet tinged with a hint of sadness.

The Volvos I have driven never have made me sad, and this SC60 was particularly satisfying in daily service (for a week).  It was the T6 model with all-wheel drive and six-cylinder in-line power.  The engine sits crosswise in the front of the sedan, providing an extra measure of collision safety.  A turbocharger on the 3 liter engine brings horsepower to 300 and torque to 325 lb. ft.  Transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.   Acceleration is reportedly zero to sixty in 6.9 seconds and fuel economy ratings are 17-city and 23-highway.  I observed just under 19 mpg; the tank holds 18.5 gallons.

M.S.R.P. of the XC60 was $48,145, including freight, and options included a Platinum package ($4,600), climate package ($900), metallic paint ($550), and 19″ Fenrir alloy black chrome wheels ($750).  The Platinum upgrade included a navigation system, backup camera, premium stereo, power tailgate, parking assist and active Xenon headlamps.  The climate package entailed heated front  and rear  seats as well as heated windshield wiper nozzels.  The five-passenger interior was two-toned (brown and beige) leather and included power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt/telescope, satellite radio, USB port, Bluetooth connection and pushbutton starter.  The buckets were supportive and back seat passengers registered no complains about the accommodations.

Styling of the XC60 is a plus feature of this Volvo with the attractive wheels and roof rails.  The panoramic moon roof can be viewed from outside the car and dual chrome exhausts extend from under the rear bumper.  Big tall taillights adorn each rear corner of the car and the Seashell gold metallic paint stands out.  I’d have no problem driving an XC60 on a permanent basis.