When Japan’s two biggest automakers fielded luxury cars a few years back,they took wildly different paths. While Toyota courted more traditionalbuyers, Nissan decided to eschew the traditional trappings of luxury-carstyling and went for a more sporting crowd.
The results were dramatic. Nissan had a lot more trouble selling InfinitiQ45s than Toyota did Lexus LS400s.
Now, it seems, Lexus is the standard to beat. So Infiniti has released atotally reworked Q45, and it marks a distinct departure from the sporty,elegant design of the first generation.
Start with the styling. The car looks handsome and substantial, but it’sreally an amalgamation of other marques’ luxury-style points. Up front, we seea British-style chrome grille that would look at home on an MG. Around theside, it’s a mixture of Cadillac Seville and Mercedes S-class, especially inthe C-pillar. The back end is reminiscent of an Acura.
The result is better than it might sound and the car looks better in personthan it does in photos. But it lacks the delicate, yet firm, styling of theoriginal.
If you were a fan of the original car’s smashing swept-curve dash, accentedby the delicately trimmed gold clock, you’re likely to be disappointed by thenew car’s conservative interior. While the original’s was artful, the new car,with its high belt line, typical design and liberal use of simulated wood trimis nice, if unexceptional.
Not disappointing is the effortless power and comfort this car affords. Anew 4.1-liter, double-overhead-cam, 32-valve V8 produces 266 horsepower and278 pound-feet of torque. This engine is the strong, silent type, neverenticing you into using too much power, but letting you know it’s there if youneed it.
It’s especially strong at highway speeds. The automatic transmission is afour-speed unit, in a class where five-speeds are increasingly common. Thatsaid, the extra gear was never missed. Shifts were swift and soft. Thesuspension feels softer, too, although it’s still quite capable. There’s somebody lean in corners, but handling is neutral. Just don’t mistake it for asports sedan.
Bump isolation is good, and the power-assisted steering had some road feel,though it wasn’t particularly quick. As for safety, there are dual air-bags upfront, anti-lock brakes and a sophisticated traction control system thathandled wet weather with aplomb for a rear-wheel-drive vehicle.
While you’re scooting around, you’ll find the leather-covered front bucketsto be wide, yet supportive. The French seams can hit you wrong, but seatcontrols were easy to use. The back seat is equally comfy. Front-seatpassengers don’t get a power door lock switch, side air-bag or separateclimate controls, but they get do get lots of space.
The 12.6-cubic-foot trunk will hold two bags of golf clubs, but packlightly for long trips. Overall, trunk space is about the same as last year.
What Nissan has here is a luxury sedan aimed at a larger slice of theluxury car audience. Even if it’s not as enthusiast-oriented as before, itwill satisfy the luxury car buyer looking for something new and fresh.1997 INFINITI Q45TStandard: 4.1-liter double overhead cam V8, four-speed automatictransmission, speed-sensitive power steering, sport-tuned suspension, tractioncontrol system, four-wheel power disc brakes with anti-lock, viscous limitedslip differential, five-spoke alloy wheels, front blacked-out grille, powersunroof, heated remote outside mirrors, carpeted trunk with net, simulatedwood trim, leather 10-way power front bucket seats, front and center armrests,front and rear cupholders, heated front seats, carpeted floor mats, automaticclimate control, 200-watt eight-speaker Bose audio system with cassette and CDplayer, power antenna, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power doorlocks, power windows, power mirrors, fuel filler and trunk releases,vehicle-speed-sensitive intermittent windshield wipers, cel ular phonepre-wiring, keyless entry.Options: NoneBase price: $49,900As tested: $50,395EPA rating: 18 city, 24 highwayTest mileage: 19 mpg