After six months and 17,723 miles, it's clear we've collectively spent a lot of time inside our 2011 Infiniti QX56. Since driving dynamics aren't exactly the highlight of the QX experience, our editors have been fixated on the big Infiniti's interior accouterments.
Senior editor Joe Lorio recently looked for traces of cost-cutting efforts in the QX's cabin and had no luck: "With the M sedan and now this QX, Infiniti is officially the master of the padded-cell interior. One searches in vain for hard plastic. Impressive." Associate Web editor Evan McCausland recently drove a 2011 Lexus LX570 and offered a comparison of the luxury utes' interiors: "The QX does a better job of neatly presenting switchgear to the driver than the LX," adding, "Lexus bombards users with a number of mysterious buttons and switches, many of which are tied to off-road functions that will likely never be used."
But it's not all praise for our Infiniti's interior. Staffers are apparently fooled by the QX's rather large footprint. Assistant editor David Zenlea, for example, was expecting a cavernous center console: "I opened the center console this weekend and was surprised -- once again -- to see how tiny it is." Lorio noticed a more serious issue with the interior's configuration: "You need to use the third row when carrying any more than four people, due to our tester's second-row captain's chairs. So, the QX56 actually doesn't work so well as a vacation conveyance for a crew of five or six." That said, a second-row bench seat that increases the QX56's seating capacity from seven to eight is a no-cost option. And with the third row of seats folded, there's a decent 49.6 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the second-row seats.
That cargo space came in handy recently when one editor used the QX to tow his 24 Hours of LeMons car to a local race -- safety gear, extra clothing, and a variety of food and drink all fit behind the second row of seating and left room for four real adults in the vehicle. Towing a flatbed car trailer with a station wagon full of spare parts on top posed no problem for the 5.6-liter V-8 and seven-speed automatic transmission. It's almost frightening how quick this SUV can be. Infiniti's failure to offer an integrated trailer brake controller is a real downer for frequent towers because adding an (essential) aftermarket brake controller instantly downgrades the luxurious interior.
Be sure to come back next month to find out what tasks we test our 2011 Infiniti QX56 with as we begin the second half of our loan. The summer vacation season is quickly approaching and it's likely the odometer will turn at an even more impressive rate during this season.