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2002 Infiniti Q45

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2002 Infiniti Q45

SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide

by Ted Laturnus

By their own admission, Infiniti’s Q45 flagship sedan hasn’t exactly been a sales leader for the upscale manufacturer. Last year, they sold a paltry 41 cars in all of Canada. Not exactly awe-inspiring. “The original Q45 had a lot of good points, but it was not perfect,” adds Ian Forsythe, director of product planning for Infiniti. “It was a very driveable car, but some people took exception to things like the belt buckle front grille.”

From my standpoint, the biggest problem with the Q45 has always been that it does not exude luxury. It competes in a market that’s chock-full of very discerning buyers who can pick and choose without worrying about cost. Whatever they buy must look luxurious and have a presence about it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Q45 has never managed to look the part. It’s always been well engineered and competent, but, unfortunately, bland as well.

The new 2002 version should go a long way to changing that. Borrowing styling cues from BMW and Mercedes, it has a muscular, athletic feeling to it and looks expensive……the number one requirement in this difficult-to-please market. It’s also larger than the previous version in every department; the wheelbase is 40.6 mm (1.6 in.) longer, and it’s 22.9 mm (0.9 in.) wider, for example, which puts it near the head of the pack in terms of overall size.

One very interesting styling point with the new Q45 concerns the headlamps, which are the largest and most powerful lights you can buy at any price. That’s right; if you want to light up your world, this is the car for you. Featuring a seven lens Xenon headlamp, halogen high-beams, a marker light, and turn signals all built into one unit, they outshine everything else by a wide margin. “These lights are powerful enough that fog-lights aren’t needed,” explains Ian Forsythe. Basically, they project more light onto a broader area in front of the car without blinding oncoming motorists in the process. They are also a focal point in the car’s front end styling and catch your eye immediately. Power for the new Q45 is up also. It gets a new V8 that displaces 4.5 litres and develops 340 horsepower and 333 foot-pounds of torque. Despite sharing the same displacement as last year’s powerplant, this engine is a completely new design and power is up by 74 hp. It also features four valves per cylinder, dual overhead camshafts, continuously variable valve timing, and an electronically variable exhaust system, which, depending upon engine speed, works as a single system or as a dual exhaust. Interesting. Infiniti is claiming a 0 - 100 km/h time of under six seconds, which would place the new “Q” ahead of just about everything else in this market. Transmission is a five-speed automatic with manual shift mode.

Safety features include dual front airbags, supplemental side impact airbags and supplemental side curtain airbags. Of course, four-wheel-disc ABS brakes are standard and the braking system has a built-in feature that increases pedal pressure during a panic stop. The new “Q” also has a vehicle stability control system that compensates for slippery and/or windy conditions as well as avoidance maneuvers. The four-wheel independent, multi-link suspension system is based on Nissan’s Skyline rally race car.

Needless to say, the new Q45 is chock-a-block with luxury goodies. Leather interior with wood trim, dual zone climate controls, 10-way power front seats, Bose 300-watt stereo system, GPS, and last, but definitely not least, an integrated information system with voice activation….or what engineers call a human-machine interface. Basically, this allows the driver - or passengers - to issue a command, such as lowering the climate control temperature, for example, and the computer will make it so. There are a wide range of commands you can use, but they must be phrased exactly or else nothing will happen. The system can also “learn” as time goes by, and adapts to various accents. Infiniti tells us that over 6000 different voices were used to build the system and just about every interior function is built into it. It’s all accessed through the centre control panels. If talking to your car is a little too weird for you, there are manual control functions as well. Personally, I find these types of systems to be far too distracting and of questionable value, but on the scale of things, Infiniti’s is probably less complex than some others I’ve sampled.

What I look for in an upscale car is performance, comfort, physical beauty, and refinement. I’m not too interested in voice activation systems or GPS. I want the car to drive nicely, keep up with the competition and make me feel like I’m behind the wheel of something special. On those counts, the 2002 Q45 is right on the money.