1991 Infiniti Q45

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$1,200

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By 

Orlando Sentinel

Nissan is close to making the world's finest luxury sports sedan. There are few cars that are as technically excellent as the Infiniti Q45 with the optional Full Active Suspension.

I say close because the Q45 comes up short in one area: styling. I've had almost two years to get used to the car's shape. Some cars grow on you. The Q45 has not.

The front lacks distinction. Most cars in the $50,000 price range have a stylized front treatment that makes the car instantly recognizable; consider the grilles fronting Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Audi, BMW and others. The Q45's grille does not.

This is the second time I have tested a Q45. And it's the second time I've walked away from it wondering how Nissan could have engineered such a wonderful car only to saddle it with mundane styling.

ENGINE, PERFORMANCE

The Q45's 32-valve, 278-horsepower aluminum V-8 is a technical masterpiece.

Nissan's flagship weighs in at nearly 2 tons - 3,950 pounds to be exact. Yet the powerful 4.5-literV-8 hauls the Q45 around like a sports car.

The four-speed automatic transmission is programmed to start in second gear unless the gas pedal is nearly floored.

Driven with a light foot, the Q45 eases gently away from a stop and doesn't really become aggressively responsive until about 40 mph. However, if you shift the transmission into first gear or press the gas pedal about three-quarters of the way to the floor, the car blasts up to cruising speed in seconds.

In town the test car delivered about 16 miles per gallon. On the road I got a fraction over 20 mpg. The Q45 with Full Active Suspension doesn't meet government fuel economy standards. A $2,100 gas guzzler tax is included in the price of the car.

STEERING, HANDLING

If you must have the latest innovations, there is only one road to follow: the one that leads to the Infiniti dealer.

No other car offers a suspension system as advanced as the full active system on the Q45.

According to Nissan, here's how the Q45'sFull Active Suspension system works: The standard shock absorbers are replaced by computer-controlled, hydraulically operated ''actuators,'' which move the wheels into depressions in the road. Another computer ensures the body stays level regardless of the road conditions.

All Q45s are equipped with anti-lock, four-wheel disc brakes. The test car's brakes worked well, but the pedal required significant pressure to engage the ABS. The speed-sensitive power rack and pinion steering is tight, crisp, responsive and conveys good road feel.

Two other suspension options are available. Traction control, which prevents wheel slippage, and four-wheel steering. Nissan does not build the Q45 with more than one suspension option.

FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS

The Q45's interior layout is simple, luxurious, efficient and generally user-friendly.

Much has been made of the seat/steering wheel memory. When the d river removes the ignition key, the wheel automatically tilts up and the seat slides back a few inches.

The leather seats were comfortable, but the driver's seat squeaked annoyingly when I shoved the car into curves, and I would have liked more lower back support. There is ample leg and head room. Rear passengers will find the backseat comfortable and leg and foot room are adequate.

The analog gauges are simply exquisite looking. However, there is no oil pressure gauge. The test car came with a powerful Bose AM/FM cassette and CD player ($1,088).

A purchase of a Q45 involves a compromise. You won't get looks that turns heads (at least turns them for the right reasons),but you will get one of the most technically advanced, best-handling cars money can buy.

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