We recently spent a week behind the wheel of the 2014 Infiniti QX60, which replaces the JX35 for the 2014 model year. The QX60 doesn't offer a new look or even significant updates over the JX35. Instead, it simply boasts a new name, much like the rest of Infiniti's 2014 lineup. The rest is largely the same: There's standard 3-row seating, a 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 under the hood and pricing that starts at around $43,000 with shipping. After a week getting acquainted with the crossover, we've collected our thoughts below.

Expensive with Options

Unfortunately, "starts" is a very important key word when it comes to pricing for the Infiniti QX60. Like most Infiniti vehicles, the QX60 is subject to package requirements that quickly drive up the price from reasonable to expensive. Our test car is a good example, as its MSRP with options was $57,000, a jump of nearly $15,000 from the car's base price.

As an example of Infiniti's package requirements, let's say you want the brand's blind spot monitoring system, which helps steer you back on course should you enter another driver's lane without noticing. That system is part of the Technology Package, which costs $2,800 extra, a fairly normal upgrade in the luxury car world. The problem comes when you consider the requirements of the Technology Package: You also must order the Premium Package ($1,500), the Premium Plus Package ($3,000) and the Deluxe Touring Package ($3,450). Suddenly, a simple safety feature turns into a $10,750 optional extra.

The good news is that adding all of these packages means the QX60 can really come fully loaded with a wide range of comfort, convenience and technology features. Our test car, for example, included everything you'd expect from an SUV with a much higher price tag, including dual rear DVD screens, a panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree parking camera, heated and cooled seats and basically every safety gadget that you can think of. Still, our advice to potential QX60 shoppers is simple: Be careful with options, and remember that you might have to pay much more than you expect in order to get what you want.

Smooth, Not Sporty

Get past the price tag and get the QX60 on the road, and you'll either be surprised or disappointed, depending on your point of view. Drivers expecting the same sharp handling and responsive engine as the brand's popular Q50 and Q60 models will be disappointed: The QX60 is a crossover, first and foremost, rather than a sports car. In fact, it's clear that little effort has been put forth to make the QX60 sportier than the mechanically similar Nissan Pathfinder. Drivers who want performance should instead consider the QX70, formerly known as the Infiniti FX.

But if you're looking for a modern luxury crossover with a calm, tranquil ride and smooth acceleration, the QX60 delivers. That's unusual for an Infiniti, since the brand has recently built its reputation largely on sportiness. But it's not unusual in the QX60's class, which includes notoriously relaxed luxury crossovers such as the Lexus RX, the Acura MDX, the Mercedes M-Class and the Buick Enclave.

In fact, nearly everyone who drove the QX60 commented on its smooth, luxurious ride. The same was said of the crossover's automatic transmission, a continuously variable unit that emphasizes comfort rather than instant acceleration. While some thought this transmission was occasionally slow to provide power, other drivers felt it succeeded in delivering the best possible acceleration without being aggressive.

Interior Pros and Cons

The Infiniti QX60's interior drew a surprising amount of back-and-forth from our testers. While opinions were varied, the general consensus seemed to be that the interior is acceptable for a crossover that costs $43,000 -- the QX60's base price -- but falls a little short on quality when the price jumps to $57,000.

Many of the complaints related to materials inside the cabin. Nearly every driver noted that the steering wheel felt cheap, and a few others said similar things about the dashboard and other items, such as the sun visor and starter button. And most staffers who compared the QX60 to a Nissan didn't see enough of a boost in quality to justify the Infiniti's increased price.

With that said, several interior items drew praise. Visibility is one benefit: Because of the QX60's upright stance, it offers better outward visibility than competitors. Additionally, most drivers praised the leather front seats for their comfort, in keeping with the QX60's calm, serene on-road feel, and of course, the standard third row -- while small -- is a huge plus, given that it isn't available in the popular Lexus RX.

Our Take

Ultimately, our feelings on the 2014 Infiniti QX60 are mixed, and we expect many shoppers will feel the same way. Drivers who look to the QX60 as a cost-effective alternative to high-dollar German performance SUVs such as the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, for example, will be disappointed, as much of Infiniti's sporty image disappears in the QX60.

Budget-minded drivers will also be turned away, given the QX60's pricey option packages. Instead, we recommend such shoppers search for a well-equipped Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer or Toyota Highlander, each of which offer many of the QX60's high-end features for less money.

In the end, we think that the QX60's appeal lies in its smooth, comfortable ride, its luxury image and equipment, and more importantly, in its standard third-row seat, a crucial feature not offered by many rivals. If you're searching for a crossover with those traits, you should certainly add the QX60 to your shopping list.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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