New Car/Review

1999 Infiniti Q45t

By Tom Hagin

Infiniti Full Line factory footage (4:38) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 49,900
     Price As Tested                                    $ 50,935
     Engine Type              DOHC 32-valve 4.1 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 252 cid/4130 cc
     Horsepower                                   266 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               278 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  111.4"/71.7"/199.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4072 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  21.4 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                    P225/50VR17
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                       Five
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/24/21         
     0-60 MPH                                          8 seconds
     Maximum cargo capacity                    16 mph @ 89.5 mph
     Top speed                                           140 mph

     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

Infiniti's top-of-the-line luxury model, the Q45, was redesigned for the 1997 model year after seven years of lukewarm sales. That car was a technological marvel, but had a tough time competing against its Asian and Teutonic rivals. Shortly after the new car debuted, sales were up nearly 90 percent over the previous year.

That's good news for Infiniti's parent company, Nissan, which plans to continue offering the Q45 in Standard and Touring trim level. This week we test the Touring model.

OUTSIDE - The new Q45 comes to the showroom lower, narrower and with two less inches of wheelbase than that of the original model. And while the latter was built on a chassis dedicated specifically for the Q45, the new version rides on a smaller chassis used on a Nissan model sold overseas. The latest Q45 rides on a stiffer platform with structural bracing in the underpan, and tie-bars across the shock towers. New this year are slight revisions to the grille, along with different rear combination lamps. The headlamps are new for '99 as well: high- intensity discharge units are now brighter and more efficient. A glass sunroof replaces the prior model's steel material, and the outside mirrors now have an anti-glare coating. Five new paint colors for 1999 bring the total available to eight, and a new set of 17-inch alloy wheels and performance tires are standard on the Q45 Touring.

INSIDE - The new model's interior is increased by two cubic feet. It's not much, but the extra space is evident to rear seat passengers, who now have an additional 3.9 inches of legroom and a bit more headroom. Trunk space, however, is down that same amount, so it's not hard to guess where the added space came from. Soft, supple leather upholstery covers the seats, and ample amounts of glossy wood trim accents the dashboard. As expected, nearly every known luxury feature is standard, with the lone notable exception being dual-zone climate control. Among those Q45t standards are automatic air conditioning, power windows, mirrors, seats, door locks, steering column and sunroof, cruise control, a 200-watt Bose-brand AM/FM/CD/cassette, HomeLink universal transmitter and variable-speed intermittent windshield wipers.

ON THE ROAD - The Q45's V8 engine shrank from the previous model's 4.5 liters of displacement to 4.1 liters, with a modest 12 horsepower loss. That brings its horsepower to 266, with a torque figure of 278 pound-feet. It still uses dual overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder, but now it's been massaged with bigger valves, revised camshafts, a variable valve timing system and a redesigned intake manifold. The new car is also lighter so its acceleration is about the same as before. Fuel mileage is up a bit as well, from 17/22 city/ highway miles per gallon to the current 18/23. Mated to this is four- speed automatic transmission, electronically-controlled. and rear- wheel-drive. And the enhance traction on slippery roads, a standard viscous limited-slip rear differential is teamed with traction control. Both sense wheel slip and send the engine's power to the rear wheel that grips best.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Infiniti also changed the suspension of the Q45. Gone is the sophisticated multi-link front suspension of the old model, and in its place is a cost-cutting and weight-saving MacPherson strut setup. The rear suspension continues the use of multi-links, however, and the speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system still gives the same responsive feel as the previous Q45. Coil springs and anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear. Q45t models also use an Active Damper Suspension system, which are basically computer-controlled shock absorbers. A switch inside the car allows the driver to choose between Auto and Sport settings which changes the way the shocks react to steering and road surface inputs. Four-wheel disc brakes with a three-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard and dual side-impact airbags, along with ABS and side-impact door beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Rear trunklid spoiler: $510; Destination charge: $525.

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