Long the segment favorite among luxury SUV-buying families, the Acura MDX debuted in 2001 as a black sheep with road-minded sensibilities that stood in stark contrast to its competition.
Based on the Nissan Murano platform, but with a longer wheelbase and wider body, the Infiniti JX offers a refreshed perspective on the idea Acura introduced with the MDX more than a decade ago: luxury and value rolled into one.
As a smaller seven-seater than the brand’s QX SUV, the JX may be able to scuttle in as a refreshed product and snap up buyers before Acura has a chance to rebut with a new product cycle. That said, the two vehicles bring about an intriguing apples-to-apples comparison.
|Vehicle||2012 Acura MDX||Advantage||2013 Infiniti JX|
|Engine||3.7L V6||MDX||3.5L V6|
|Fuel Economy||16 MPG city / 21 MPG hwy||JX||17 MPG city / 23 MPG hwy|
|Third-Row Head Room||35.8 in.||JX||36.5 in.|
|Third-Row Leg Room||28.7 in.||JX||30.8 in.|
People interested in buying one or the other generally need to move a family around and prefer a degree of luxury. The MDX uses a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque that will feel more powerful than the 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque coming from the JX’s 3.5-liter V6. Both the MDX and JX also offer standard all-wheel drive.
Then again, spirited driving isn’t generally on the forefront for family outings, which is something Infiniti seems to have realized. That realization is further emphasized in the more efficient continuously-variable transmission found in the JX, which achieves 17/23 mpg city/highway versus the MDX with its automatic transmission and 16/21 mpg.
The JX isn’t radically different from what you might expect the brand to build, but standing next to the MDX, the difference is unmistakable. Styling is a matter of preference and those tastes differ from person to person, but by offering an alternative to Acura’s sharp lines and beaky-looking nose, Infiniti may manage to scoop some buyers.
Families looking at buying a luxury SUV might not be terribly concerned with a few extra miles per gallon, but the Infiniti is aiming to sweet talk parents looking for a family ferry by becoming a segment leader in safety technology.
For example, the JX offers a system to tug the car back into its lane during highway driving using the opposite brake. Pulling out of a parking space or moving slowly, drivers will also be alerted to objects approaching in front, behind and around the vehicle. The MDX, on the other hand, doesn’t offer those features, which might sway a swath of buyers toward the more dramatic-looking JX.
Both the JX and MDX feature luxurious interior styling, but the Acura, as is common for the marque, has a decidedly tech-oriented feel with an array of buttons to stab at. As might be expected, the JX has a more minimalist design that looks a little more like the German competition, which could be attractive to some buyers.
While it’s true that the cars are closely matched in many senses, the Acura will struggle to compete for two key reasons. First, it is approaching the end of its production cycle, meaning most customers who would be interested probably had a taste and decided to buy — or not. The JX doesn’t have that problem as a new entrant. Second, the JX is cheaper, starting at $40,450 versus the MDX’s $43,030 starting MSRP.
Infiniti seems confident that it checked all the right boxes to dethrone the mighty MDX, and indeed those fields seem to be filled, but the less audacious Acura might still hold appeal to the SUV market’s old guard. Otherwise, less entrenched buyers will probably find greater appeal in the Infinti JX.