Mind the Gap: The Downside of Sliding Second Rows


We love second-row seats that slide back and forth for the legroom versatility and easy access to third row. It’s extremely relieving to sit in the second row of an SUV, pull a lever and instantly gain five generous inches of legroom. But in some cases, there’s an unfortunate side effect: You may curse this versatility when loading cargo.


I recently used the 2013 Infiniti JX35 for a massive move that showcased problems with the luxury crossover’s sliding second row when carrying cargo. The JX’s second row slides up to 5.5 inches forward and back, leaving a big void when you fold the seat and slide it forward. You want it as far forward for the maximum amount of cargo space and floor, but it leaves a giant gap between the two sections of cargo floor created by folding the second and third seats flat. The JX is far from the only offender; the three-row Mazda CX-9 is another example.


The JX served as my moving truck to haul 20-plus years of accumulation from my childhood home. There was no shortage of car magazines, books, baseball cards and forgotten car parts to haul over multiple trips across town. While driving, boxes and cargo of different sizes shifted and tipped into the gap between the second and third row.

Sliding the second row rearward made the gap smaller, but it also meant losing the JX’s maximum available floor space. I needed the full cargo area to carry as much as possible per trip, so I chose to deal with the gap. Organizing boxes full of books and magazines to avoid the gap was like playing a labor-intensive Tetris. Luckily, the blue tarp I used to protect the easily scuffed Wheat leather interior kept any items from inadvertently falling through or tipping over. Thank you, inner hillbilly, for always having a blue plastic tarp handy.


Some automakers address the gap by using a sliding plastic cover to bridge the distance as the seat moves, like in the Chevrolet Equinox. Three-row SUVs are a little trickier, but the Toyota Sequoia (above) has panels that flip out from the second row and cover the gap to the third row.

Those features go a long way to having the benefits of the sliding second row without compromise. Automakers may not address the gap in every SUV, but rest easy knowing that a quick solution is just one trip away to Fleet Farm (or any other discount hardware store) in the form of a blue tarp.

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In the included photo, you can clearly see that the tarp still allowed the box corner to slide into the gap, so aside from protecting the leather, the tarp didnt help.
A flat piece of cardboard certainly would have kept the loading area flush.
And yes, a $40K + vehicle should have some type of sliding/flip-over cover for the gap.


Is it possible to remove the seats?
That is the best way for hauling stuff


You should have moved with a QX56, I doubt cargo would have been a problem then.


This is a big problem that my husband and I are encountering. Everything with a third row seat has a gap between the third and second row seats when folded flat. The gap is perfectly paw sized. This means if our dog is riding in the back, then their leg can easily get caught and broken. We have looked at luxury cars (finger pointing at you Audi Q5) and down to toyotas and others. We refuse to pay over 30K and in the case of the Audi, 50K and have to rig something to make the car safe. Any suggestions on vehicles without this gap?


By the way, would prefer something without a third row seat that is uncomfortable and unusable by the way. Might have to look at a Lexus RX which is more than we wanted to spend, but will not have to modify after the fact!!

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