I recently hosted a bachelor party for two good friends getting married a week apart from one another. A beachfront home was rented in Morro Bay, CA just off Pacific Coast Highway and we needed a vehicle that could haul five people (with emergency capacity for one or two more) in comfort and, hopefully, a little style. Perhaps no other vehicle in the fleet is as well suited to this task as the QX56.

Short work was made of the 200-mile drive from Southern California on a clear Saturday morning, the Infiniti at the ready with adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, and 400 horsepower at the right foot's disposal. The Infiniti's ACC is actually quite responsive and will bring the nearly three-ton behemoth down to a complete stop if necessary, as I discovered at a stop light in one of several coastal towns we passed through along Highway 1. The system is also very smooth in its operation; where other ACC systems can give jerky brake and throttle movements at times, the Infiniti always applied these controls in a well-measured fashion.

Once at our destination, the Infiniti played shuttle all weekend back and forth from our rented home to various destinations. Among them was a stop in the coastal town of Pismo Beach where the famous Oceano sand dunes lie in wait of off-road enthusiasts. In fact, Oceano is the only public beach in California where motorized vehicles are allowed. We paid our $5 admission fee and drove out onto the beach where rental companies offer ATVs and sand rails for rental. A few in our group opted for an hour of sand railing and I briefly contemplated attaching the requisite flag to the rear of our QX and having a go at the dunes myself. A brief talk with the off-road Jeep owner next to me convinced me otherwise--without tires specifically designed for the sand, even the mighty 4WD QX would have been stuck in short order.

After the beach, a quick run home before setting off for dinner. The QX looked at home amongst the other off-roaders on the beach and parked in front of one of the many local seafood restaurants later that night. There's no question it attracted some attention too--this Infiniti dwarfs most "normal" SUVs and those chrome 22-inch wheels definitely bring the bling. As I played chauffer, comments from the back seat came pouring in. "This thing's almost like a limo!" said one buddy, noting the spacious second-row seating and our tester's optional rear entertainment package consisting of two headrest-mounted screens, a remote control, and two pairs of wireless headphones. The quick fold-away second row design also drew praise, allowing guests to enter and exit the third row quickly and easily.

In other news, the Infiniti just had its 22,500 mile service, including an oil and filter change, a tire rotation, and a general inspection that gave it a clean bill of health. We also had a window switch reprogrammed under warranty that previously had a non-functioning auto-up feature and two service bulletins popped up while we were at the dealer as well. Our VDC and central infotainment system both needed minor recalibration, although we hadn't experienced any noticeable issues with either one. Both recalls were performed free of charge.

With over 24,000 miles now showing on the QX's odometer, we're getting near the end of its stay. Stay tuned for the final two months of our big Infiniti's stay here at Motor Trend HQ.

Our Car
Months/miles in service 10/24,142
Avg econ/CO2 15.4 mpg/1.26 lb/mi
Energy cons 219 kW-hr/100 mi
Unresolved problems None
Maintenance cost $686.19 (3- oil change, tire rotation, inspection; 1- cabin air filter)
Normal-wear cost $0