The Infiniti brand got off to a slow start
with its controversial advertising showing trees and rocks. "Where's the car?"
folks asked, and when they finally saw the sleek new Q, they wondered at its face, which
had no grille, and at its dashboard, which wore no wood.
My first test Q45 was a 1992 model, which I sampled at the beginning
of my auto writing career. It was one of the largest cars I had piloted up to that time,
and the noiseless passage it made through the air helped enhance the brilliant stereo
sound in the subtle, spacious cabin. I liked the belt buckle nose and the lack of
ostentation, but the public favored the Lexus LS 400, which attempted to clone a Mercedes.
Over the years, the Q45 gained a true grille and real wood inside,
but when the time came for a change, Nissan pinched pennies and repackaged a large
Japanese sedan as the new Q. This worthy car never carried itself with the sure, confident
feeling of the original car, and its styling lacked the unified vision of the first car.
To make matters worse, the second series Q45 had a 4.1-liter V8 engine, not a 4.5-liter
(hence the original name).
But the new Q has it all, and it flaunts it, too. Even a glance at
the wide-eyed new car is inspirational. Behind massive covers, the multi-lens projector
High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights are displayed like precious jewels. This is the
most powerful headlight system in the world, which eliminates the need for additional fog
The new Q's shape is simple, but purposeful, conveying solidity and
movement. The open mouth of grille wears strong horizontal bars. The long, sloping window
greenhouse gives a hunkered-down appearance and links the headlamps to high-mounted
taillamps in the rear. My Hunter Green tester glistened with a deep glow over the entire
199.6 inches of glorious body.
Inside the Q45 is a veritable festival of beauty, fine materials,
and amazing 21st century gadgetry. Stretching 72.6 inches wide, the new Q offers 9.7 more
cubic feet of passenger space than its predecessor. It is a gracious suite of buttery soft
leather surfaces, genuine Birds Eye Maple wood trim, and handsomely rendered controls.
That maple is generously applied to the console, doors, shift knob, and even the steering
wheel. Oddly, the tree flesh is applied to the face of the wheel only, not all the way
around. The leather seats have the right mixture of lavish plushness and supportive
sportiness. Any car can have front seats that recline, but the big Infiniti has rear power
reclining seats, too.
In what could be a nod to Starfleet, the Q45 offers voice commands
to control many regular functions. Simply press a small thumb button on the left side of
the steering wheel and speak your command. The car recognizes your words, repeats them in
a calm female voice, and then performs what you ask it to do. Easily done, without taking
your eyes off the road.
At the center dash, a full-scale DVD-based navigation system is easy
to use to get where you are going. It uses six master buttons and an arrow key to perform
its duties. This system is particularly good at rerouting once you stray from its program.
Like a good NAV system should, it keeps finding ways to get you to your destination. I
liked the friendly way it said "about one mile" instead of giving an exact
The navigation system screen, upgraded to 7.0 inches across in my
car, performs many other functions. These include full-boat climate control, a trip
computer, and a 300-watt premium Bose sound system. This aural heavyweight boasts eight
speakers and a 12-inch woofer, a six-disc CD changer, digital architecture and a new
standard in noise compensation called Bose AudioPilot Noise Compensation Circuit
For a true high-tech experience, when you put the car into Reverse,
a video image of what is immediately behind the car appears on the screen. This incredible
safety feature surely will save lives and countless children's bicycles. Another lifesaver
is the tire pressure monitor, which displays the pressure for each tire on the video
screen. The only problem was that the tires were not labeled on the screen. Rear seat
passengers get to control their own climate, and also the audio and an electric rear
window shade with buttons in the fold-down rear armrest. Manual side shades allow complete
protection from glare.
The Q45's high-tech V-8 engine pumps out 340 horsepower, more than
most of its upscale Japanese and German competitors. Nissan's years of racing experience
pay off in creating a strong but quiet engine, with a 74-horsepower boost over the
previous Q45, and a 55-lb.ft. leap in torque as well. Mileage figures are 17 city, 25
highway, and I averaged 17.6 for the week. That's not bad for a five-passenger, powerful
cruiser like the Q.
A fully independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes with
anti-lock make the 17-inch wheels practical as well as stylish. My test car featured
18-inch wheels, for even more drama. Other than a full size spare tire and wheel ($180)
and splashguards ($120), the Premium Package was the only option on my otherwise fully
loaded test car. For $8,000, you get an active damping suspension with a selectable sport
mode and 18-inch alloy wheels with low-profile V-rated rubber. Inside, the package adds
the navigation system with the upgrade to a larger screen, the rearview video monitor,
heated front and rear seats, the power reclining rear seats and rear audio and climate
controls, and the sunshades. The bottom line of $59,345 places the new Q right in the
heart of luxury flagship territory.
Nissan and Infiniti are in the middle of a renaissance, with cars
like the new Altima and the return of the Z car at Nissan and a fresh G35 coming from
Infiniti. But this new Q45 tells the world that Infiniti is back, and better than ever.