New Car/Review

1997 INFINITI Q45t

by Tom Hagin

Infiniti

SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 49,900
     Price As Tested                                    $ 50,395
     Engine Type                            4.1 Liter V8 w/SMPI*
     Engine Size                                 252 cid/4130 cc
     Horsepower                                   266 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               278 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  111.4"/71.7"/199.2"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4032 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  21.1 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      215/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/24/21
     0-60 MPH                                        8.2 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.8 seconds @ 89.5 mph
     Top speed                                           145 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

These days high technology doesn't automatically mean expensive. And while the 1997 Infiniti Q45 is by no means inexpensive, it utilizes many upgrades, most geared toward luxury and convenience, without suffering from a skyrocketing window sticker.

This type of luxury car is meant to evoke passion in its owners, but it still must deliver genteel quality in the most subtle ways, a difficult formula to follow. There are two models of the Q45: - Base and the more sporting Touring model, which is the focus of this week's test.

OUTSIDE - The new "Q-car" outside dimensions are close to that of the previous version, but its appearance is dramatically different. The new look starts in front, with an elegant chrome grille, larger headlamps, integrated fog lights and a new front bumper. Chrome trim surrounds the windows, the fenders have been reshaped, and its higher flanks and sweeping C-pillars give it a more elegant appearance. To increase its stiffness, the new Q45 features a series of structural members in the underpan and tie bars across the front and rear shock towers. These additions have done little to its girth, as the new model is about 200 pounds lighter than before.

INSIDE - Its interior is luxurious, of course. The upholstery is leather, tightly stitched and uniform, and high quality synthetic materials look and feel like the real thing. Burled walnut trim accents aren't overpowering, yet from the driver's seat, it's obvious that you're driving a luxury car. All of the switches and controls are placed at close proximity to the driver, and are all simple to operate. Our Q45 Touring model came standard with features such as a 200-watt stereo with a trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer, heated 10-way power front seats, automatic climate control, cruise control, plus power windows, antenna, door locks, sunroof and outside mirrors. Keyless entry is also standard, as is a power tilt/telescoping steering column, and an integrated HomeLink transmitter system, which can be programmed to open garage doors and turn on home lighting systems.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - This year Infiniti has toned things down a bit under the Q45's hood. The all-aluminum, 32-valve, twin-can V8 engine has been de-stroked from 4.5 liters to the current model's 4.1 liters. Producing 266 horsepower, this new engine gives up only 12 horsepower from the old engine, yet is lighter, has less internal friction, and gives slightly better fuel mileage. Its power delivery is smooth and responsive, and easily revs to its 5600 RPM maximum power output. Mated to it is a computer-controlled four-speed automatic transmission that has been upgraded internally to deliver smoother, quicker gear changes. Its controls tell the gearbox to shift smoothly and imperceptibly during everyday driving, but to shift firmly when the throttle pedal is fully depressed. This rear-wheel drivetrain concludes at a viscous, limited-slip rear differential, which is also standard equipment.

ON THE ROAD - The Q45's suspension has been massaged, too, which gives a more compliant ride, without sacrificing much handling prowess. Nissan has decided to replace the old model's multi-link front suspension with MacPherson struts, which are simpler to build, lighter, and quieter. The rear setup continues with a multi-link design, an arrangement carried over from the previous model. Both front and rear assemblies are mounted to subframes with rubber isolation mounts, and use fluid-filled bushings to absorb vibrations. Piloting the Q45 over pothole-filled roads and highways strewn with road work didn't phase the car at all - but we were well aware of the imperfections. New this year is speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, in which the steering effort is light at slower speeds, yet becomes increasingly firm as speeds increase, giving more road feel. Its braking system is improved as well, with larger, four-wheel vented disc brakes and an anti-lock braking system (ABS). Q45 Touring models come with slightly stiffer suspension components, along with special alloy wheels.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS, side-impact protection and traction control are all standard features.

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