by Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief
SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide
After 6 months in Europe it is always a little bit difficult to get used to driving in California. Difficult because by and large people are considerably more polite and certainly, compared to the French and the Germans, not to mention the Italians, they do drive more slowly.
Still, there have got to be worse ways of getting used to the hills of San Francisco then behind the wheel of the new,1997 Infiniti Q45. Let's make no bones about it-it is a very nice car. A 4.1 litre V8 engine,266 HP,4 speed auto transmission, traction control, disc brakes on all four wheels, the best car radio/cassette/CD that money can buy(BOSE),the list is endless. The air conditioning works very well and it is very easy to adjust. Is there nothing wrong with this car I hear you ask? Well, not really apart from a couple of subjective things.
Having driven just about every car under the sun over the past 30 years I always assume that I am hiring a car I've never driven before. Could I drive it straight off, at night, without making a total fool of myself. You know, little things like finding the light switches, the heater controls, the rear screen wipers.(Hands up all those who have found the latter without a great deal of trouble on any car?) Well, here the Q45 scored an own goal of monumental proportions. Just imagine yourself in the middle of the night running out of gas. Finally you get to a pump where there is no attendant, like in Switzerland it is fully automatic. You put in some money or a card and out comes the gas. Yeah, right. Provided you can open the locked fuel cap. I would be tempted to make this into one of those quiz games where to couples are asked to do things against the clock. Find the fuel cap opener on the Q45 would, I think, be a classic. Would you, hand on heart, look for it under the driver's armrest? I would not that's for sure. Anyway, I suppose you could always figure out from the hand-book, provided you had one. My Q45 didn't. Luckily I was in Sacramento, in the middle of the afternoon and we did find it eventually.
Passengers loved the comfort, loved the massive amount of room. They did think that the suspension was a little bit on the soft side and I had to agree. Personally, give my little brother Q30 every time with that lovely 3 litre engine and the fabulous 5 speed gear-box.
At 48 thousand dollars the Q45, does I think run into image problems. At that price the Mercedes E range and the new 5 series BMWs offer very serious competition not just as cars but in image terms as well. The Audi A8 is just coming into the United States. It is very good and totally understated. It is for people who know that it is a good car but don't necessarily wish to share that knowledge with the rest of the world. In respect it could be the Q45's twin.