SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide
Model: 2002 Infiniti Q45 Engine: 4.5-liter 32-valve V8 Horsepower/Torque: 340 hp @ 6,400 rpm/ 333 ft-lbs @ 4,000 rpm Transmission: Five-speed automatic with manual shift mode Wheelbase: 113.0 in. L x W x H: 199.6 x 72.6 x 58.9 in. Sticker price: $61,100 (see text)
Infiniti's Q45 luxury sedan has undergone several iterations since its introduction eleven years ago. For 2002, Infiniti is introducing the third generation Q to a new market, and looks on the New Q as a return to the soul of the original Q.
For example, the original Q had a 4.5-liter V8 engine, hence the name. The second generation was powered by a 4.1-liter V8 engine, and while it offered a decent amount of power (266 hp) it was a step backward. The new V8-powered Q returns to 4.5 liters with 32 valves. The engine develops a whopping 340 horsepower, more than all the V8-powered competition, as Infiniti is quick to point out. For example, the Lexus LS430 is rated at 290 hp, the BMW 540i at 282 and the Mercedes E430 at 275. I drove the Lexus a few weeks before the Q45 and was impressed by its power; the Q develops more and gets it to the road faster.
I was also impressed with the quietness of the Q45. There is essentially no engine noise, no road noise, no wind noise. Infiniti engineers went a long way toward making the new Q as silent as possible.
The front-mounted engine drives the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. There is a slight transmission lag between the time you punch the pedal to the floor and the power hits, so I tried the manual mode for a couple of quick bursts. Here I discovered the only thing I didn't like about the Q; the manual shifter required a double shift to get past a detent and into the + or - to up- or downshift. I felt it should have been shorter and easier to use.
The new Q is priced at a base of $50,500 (plus $545 destination) for the "Luxury" model. A Sport Package adds $1,500 to that total. The Premium Package adds all the equipment of the Sport Package (uprated suspension, 18-inch wheels, stiffer suspension, etc.) and is priced at $8,000. Infiniti had a DVD-based navigation system that is awesome ($2,100). It has nationwide range and two view modes - plan and bird's eye. The plan is the standard map-like view, but the bird's eye shows the route in a three-dimensional format that is unique.
We used the navigation system to lead us back to our base hotel from approximately 150 miles away during the car's introduction. It did the Interstates well, as should be expected, but it also wove us through the city streets to the hotel, including a maneuver around the block so that we didn't end up across the street. Neat.
Infiniti is justifiably proud of the effort its cars have made in the IRL series. One would expect the technology of the IRL engine to transfer to the street car. Oddly, though, the street Q45 engine uses titanium vales for lightness, while the Indy engine doesn't because of the costs involved.
Other technology leaders for the new Q (besides the navigation package) include a smart camera to aid in rearward driving. Shift into reverse and the camera goes on, giving a view of what's behind the car and projecting it onto the navigation system screen. It works and it's convenient.
The navigation, sound and HVAC systems operate with voice commands. The system is trained to recognize almost every American dialect and accent (we couldn't beat it at the introduction). It has a vocabulary of something like 150 words and can do anything from turn up the temperature of the heater to adjust the sound system to "shuffle" CDs to set up the navigation system to find its way home.
Sure, the front seats are heated and power-operated, but the rear seats are also power operated, they recline and they're heated. Heat/cool and sound system controls are also available for rear seat passengers.
I was particularly impressed by the tire pressure monitor system. If a tire's pressure is getting low, special sensors in the valve of the tire relay information through a receiver back to the output on the screen in front of the driver to alert him or her to the problem. While many other systems measure the circumference of the tire to check on tire pressure, this one actually uses tire pressure to report back to the driver.
Styling is another area where the new Q stands out. The grille is lower than the headlights, for example, which gives it an aggressive front-end view. The headlamps themselves are another piece of work. The main light is a seven-element lens design that focuses the lights down the road batter than a single lens can. Infiniti claims 70 percent improvement in lighting without the bother of blinding oncoming drivers. This system was chosen to give better light in a shorter space than the designers wanted (Was this a case of design driving technology? Probably.).
All in all, the new Infiniti Q45 is an excellent automobile that will be a worthy competitor for its competition. It will be fun to see how the mix shakes out in a year or two. Affluent, forward-looking, risk-taking buyers who don't believe in compromise, who are well-educated leaders (Infiniti's target market) should appreciate all the New Q has to offer and should enjoy making the comparisons with the other luxury cars in the group.