New Car/Review

The Infiniti Q45t, Understated Elegance

by Larry Weitzman


Infiniti is the luxury car/truck division of Nissan. The line was brought to market in late 1989 as a 1990 model and the top of the line Q45 remained unchanged (except for a face lift in 1994) until 1997 when an entirely new model was introduced.

The changes were significant. Besides a new body, the new Q ship received a smaller V-8, a new interior, a weight reduction and a space expansion program. The original Q ship was introduced amid a fanfare of pretentious advertising with pictures of trees, leaves, brooks, rock and sand, but no car. Anyone who had any connection to that ad campaign would be best advised to keep it classified.

The campaign flopped and its prime competitor, Toyota's Lexus thoroughly trounced the Q in the sales wars. The original Q was a unique looking vehicle. It had no grille and large ovoid door handles. Unusual, but very handsome. But the car had other virtues. The first being the finest high volume performance sedan yet available to human kind. It targeted BMW and in most respects it exceeded all performance expectations.

It was powered by an extremely potent 4.5L V-8 that produced a class leading 278 hp. It could knock off 0-60 in the mid sixes, do a 100 in second gear and had a top speed in excess of 150 mph. I know, I owned a 93 Q 45 for over five years. But it also had its shortcomings. Rear seat cabin space could have been larger considering its overall size and not everyone liked its looks.

Enter the new Q45t. It no longer offers avant garde styling and hard edge performance. The new Q is almost identical in size as the previous model (199.6 inches long by 71.7 inches in width) but slightly lighter (curb weight is 4,043 pounds). It is roomier by a significant amount especially in the rear. And best of all, it is beautiful. For 1999, the Q received a new, cleaner rear end treatment, a new grille and gorgeous new high intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlamp assemblies.

The smooth body is flowing with a full length arched crease running its entire length. But the focal point in the very tasty reverse arch treatment of the rear of the cabin house with a slightly bubbled rear window. Even the A pillars blend directly into the two hood creases the lead to the sharp looking lightened grille. Also enhancing its very elegant looks are superb, deeply flared wheel wells that are filled with great looking 17 inch five spoke alloys shod with 225/50X17 V rated high performance tires. It is graceful and elegant.

Powering the new Q is a de-stroked version of the DOHC 32 valve, 4.5L V-8 of the previous generation. Infiniti felt that with less weight, performance could be maintained and fuel economy improved. Both objectives were accomplished. The new engine puts out a respectable 266 hp at 5,600 rpm and a stout 278 lb ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. This engine is used at the basis for the Indy Racing League, which holds the most famous Indy 500 every Memorial Day. It is a sweet powerplant capable of producing the muted wonderful sounds only a V-8 can make.

In Indy form, the engine uses the same 4 valve technology but with a slightly shorter stroke (2.4 millimeters) to reduce displacement to an even 4.0L. Using special methanol fuel and spinning an incredible 10,300 rpm, it produces an astounding 715 hp. And this engine is normally aspirated. Running at a nominal 2,000 rpm to its 6,600 rpm redline, this sweet Q45 powerplant should last maybe until infinity. Don't forget to perform reasonable maintenance (oil changes and such). But more about that later.

Performance has not suffered as a result of the loss of 12 hp. This Q ship will knock off 0-60 in 7.5 seconds. I had one run at 7.35 and another at 7.40 seconds. Highway passing will have a large safety factor with its ability to run from 50-70 mph in only 4.2 seconds and going up a steep grade will only slow that time to 5.5 seconds.

Although not the fastest, these are still some of the quickest times I have recorded for any sedan. It may not be able to keep up with a P-51 Mustang (1,500 hp WW II fighter) in a drag race, but neither can a Corvette. The four speed electronically controlled automatic is seamless in its operation, but a five speed would offer more flexibility in this highly competitive, luxury performance automobile segment.

Fuel economy has been improved to an EPA rated 17/24 mpg city/highway. During the test period the big Q recorded 18.5 mpg during a week of very spirited driving. The jewel of a V-8 was well exercised during this period and with a little restraint 20 plus mpg in El Dorado County should be the norm with 24-28 mpg on the highway. During one trip where a steady 65 mph was maintained, my 1993 Q 45 consumed only 8 gallons of fuel in 222 miles. I would expect the new Q to do a little better. Fuel capacity is a voluminous 21.4 gallons.

Being a luxury car, one would expect a luxury ride. The Q will not disappoint. The state of the art fully independent suspension combines MacPhearson struts up front and a sophisticated multilink in the rear. The "T" model comes with the additional feature of driver selectable electronically controlled damping settings. A pushbutton switch on the lower left dash controls this function with a annunciator on the left of the dash indicating activation.

Solid would be an understatement in describing this Q. It feels like it has the density of gold, even more so than the previous generation. This new Q traversed Ponderosa Road like no other car I have driven. It was that good. The ride over the washboard was very quiet and it absorbed even minor irregularities with aplomb. The body feels like it was built from the armor plating off the battleship Missouri. It's that strong and tight. And I used the sport setting. Bumps in the two 90 degree corners seemed to vanish and the rear end stayed planted through the rough turns.

Highway ride was as expected. There is no wind noise, road noise or are highway imperfections allowed to enter the cabin. But it has no float or wallow. In handles tar strips and concrete joints as good as anything I have driven. Infiniti has done a remarkable job. I did find little, if any difference, between the regular and sport setting on the electronic suspension control and used sport for 90 percent of my driving experience.

Green Valley and the byways of Apple Hill were simply a pleasure. Steering is variable speed sensitive power and it is natural and very accurate. It is improved over the previous Q. The meaty V rated tires offer tenacious grip and this big Q can be driven hard with complete confidence. At slower speeds it is sublime. Even Buck's Bar Road offered little challenge for the Q as it charged from apex to apex with nary a waiver from its intended course. Turning circle is a tight 36.1 feet curb to curb.

Braking is done by large, four wheel ventilated discs with 3 channel, four sensor anti-lock braking system. The pedal feel was positive, progressive and strong. Coupled with the antilock is a traction control system which works in conjunction with the standard viscous limited slip differential. During inclement weather, this system will give some peace of mind about not getting stuck in snow or mud.

In comparing this new Q to the previous generation, I found it to feel more substantial and slightly tighter. Performance has suffered marginally since the 1993 model, but is on par with 1994 and later Q's. I doubt it will disappoint anyone, me included.

Now to the good stuff, the interior. This is where the new Q has done a number. It retained the understated elegance of the previous Q and improved its functionality. The binnacle in front of the driver contains a large speedo and tach left and right flanked by the fuel and temp gauges. An annunciator panel is across the bottom.

On the lower very left side of the dash is a unique switch which allows the driver to control the distance the headlight project. If the Q is carrying a heavy load in the rear, you can adjust the lights down so as not to blind oncoming traffic even on low beams. Remember the standard HID lighting system turns night time into day time. They are that good. A nice safety feature for living in El Dorado County.

The vertical part of the center console has as its center piece the traditional analog jeweled clock. The new HVAC controls are large, easy to use and intuitive. It doesn't have dual zone controls, but that may be more gimmick than practical. The Bose stereo is below. It rewards it passengers with splendid sound. The rest of the center console contains cupholders the shifter and storage.

The Q has lots of what appears to be a very polished walnut. Not. It's actually some of the best faux wood I have seen in any car and its everywhere. The dash, doors, center console, rear center vents and more. It does look and feel good, but the fact that's its fake does sometimes bother this driver. But looking at the car from the outside or stepping into the throttle made me forget the fake wood in about a nanno second. What faux wood?

The large leather front seats are very comfortable. In hard cornering I did find I would have like more front edge firmness but overall they are a marked improvement over the previous generation.

But it's the rear of the Q that is so improved. Legroom and headroom are vastly improved. It now feels like a full on luxury car. Its expansive, with seating that would please the most discerning passenger. They fit beautifully and have adjustable headrests. In order to create all this newfound space, trunk capacity is down a couple of cubic feet to 12.6. Adequate, but not oversized.

The door panelling inserts, armrests and most everything else that isn't wood are covered in leather. The inside is superbly done, and has no hard plastic (other than the wood).

Infiniti offers a unique buying experience. When you take your car in for service, an Infiniti loan car will be waiting for you. You never have to worry about a ride or waiting for you car. I found that very convenient.

It only takes $49,900 to own one of the finest automobiles in the world. That amount plus $525 destination charge will put one in your garage. My test vehicle had only one option, a $510 rear spoiler. The only two options I would purchase would be the heated seats for $420 and the 6 disc CD changer for $740 (the standard Bose radio comes with a single play in dash CD). Just about everything else is standard including a power moon roof.

The standard Q45 stickers for $48,200 and does not include the electronic suspension and has alloy different wheels and tires. A fine automobile in its own right with the exact same straight line performance of the "T".

Roseville Infiniti has a large selection of this superb automobile for testing. The Q is a class act that deserves a close inspection if you are considering a luxury automobile. If they give you the puppy dog treatment, i.e. take it home for the night, you'll find it will be hard to give back. They did that to me.

SPECIFICATIONS

Price                                     $48,200 to about $51,000

Engine
4.1L, DOHC, 32 valve                      266 hp @ 5,600 rpm
V-8 with variable valve timing 278 lb ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission
4 speed electronically
controlled automatic
standard viscous limited 
slip differential

Configuration
longitudinal front engine
rear wheel drive

Dimensions
Wheelbase                                 111.4  inches
Length                                    199.6  inches
Width                                     71.7   inches
Height                                    56.9   inches
Weight                                    4043   pounds (Touring)
Trunk Capacity                            12.6   cubic feet
Fuel Capacity                             21.4   gallons
Turning circle                            36.1   feet (curb to curb)
Coefficient of drag                       0.32

Performance
0-60                                      7.5    seconds
50-70                                     4.2    seconds
50-70 uphill                              5.5    seconds
Top Speed                                 Well over 130 mph (ascertained
                                          from other reports)
RPM @ 70 mph                              2300
Fuel Economy                              EPA 17/24 mpg.  
My estimate is 20 plus mpg in El Dorado County driving and 24-28 mpg on the highway at legal speeds  

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