Versus the competiton:
Infiniti is entering its 10th year as Nissan’s luxury marque. Yet its identity doesn’t seem as clearly focused as its chief rival Lexus. Part of that problem has been its flagship — the Q45.
Initially this grille-less wonder was introduced in a series of commercials featuring rocks and trees rather than the car itself. Then Nissan ditched the belt-buckle that adorned the front end and replaced it with a grille.
Then they redesigned the Q that made it look more like a Lincoln than some of the new Lincolns.
I like Lincolns, so I greatly admire the style of this car, but it doesn’t say Infiniti. It also holds little relation to the previous Q.
So, the Nissan stylists went to work, lessening the amount of chrome used up front, replacing the standard headlamps with high-intensity discharge headlamps. The rear gets a sophisticated styling revision that modernizes the look of the taillamps that gives it a visual connection to other Nissans, particularly the Altima.
But, everything else remains the same — the handsome body crease, the flying buttress style C-pillar, the side glass that resembles an S-Class Mercedes. It’s handsome, substantial, sharp and expensive-looking. Twice while I had it, I was asked how I liked my new Lincoln. Clearly, Nissan needs to do more work here.
Certainly when driving this car, no one will mistake it for a Lincoln. The 4.1-liter 32-valve double-overhead-cam V-8 develops a healthy 266 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque and drives the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. A limited slip-differential and traction control also are included to help control wheel-spin in rotten weather.
This powerful automobile is the strong silent type. Like many overhead-cam engines, the power builds just above 10 or 15 mph or so. There’s not a ton of speed off the line, yet 0-60 doesn’t take very long. The four-wheel independent suspension provides an excellent ride, especially on the Q45t — the “t” stands for touring. It also means the driver gets a suspension that’s electronically modulated through auto or sport settings. The system eliminates excess body movement by measuring G-force and steering-angle input. From there it adjusts the shock valving appropriately. The driver can adjust for a softer of firmer ride.
While the soft ride is as soft as any import buyer would like, it doesn’t rob the car of its sportiness. This car can still be blasted through turns, albeit with body lean. The sport setting firms the ride, as you might expect, and it can be a bit jarring over the third-world roads of most inner cities. The speed-sensitive power steering seemed just right for the vehicle.
The four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes worked extremely well, bringing this car to a stop in a hurry with no discernable brake fade and just a smidgen of dive.
The Q45t replaces the standard P215/60R16 all-season radials with sportier, low profile P225/50R17 tires mounted on truely awesome 17 -inch five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels. These provided excellent grip under dry conditions, but called for care when driving on a wet surface.
Inside, the big news is the return of the gold-trimmed analog clock. (as you can tell, there’s not a lot of really exciting news inside for ’99). The clock lends an air of class that digital clocks will never attain. The other big news is the addition of a rear power sunshade. This gadget seems to be helpful on scorching summer days, blocking the sun, yet affording a view out through the black mesh sunshade that’s activated by a dash-mounted switch.
The rest of the interior is classy and well-designed with an equally substantial look. There’s less wood trim this year, and climate and audio controls have a revised appearance.Since the climate controls are set-and-forget affairs, you’ll rarely use them anyway. They were so effective, they are almost unnoticable.
The stereo was awesome, giving one the option of playing CDsv ia a trunk-m ounted changer, as well as through a dash-mounted player. Very convenient. The leather seats were comfortable and came with seat heaters. One passenger noted they thought the leather could have felt richer for the price.
It’s only when one lives with the car after driving other luxury vehicles, that a lack of certain items becomes apparent. While there are memory settings for seats and whatnot, there are no dual climate controls or multi-function trip computer. Some might say this is Infiniti’s less-is-more design philosophy, a holdover from the original Q and more in standing with German luxury tanks. But Mercedes and BMW both have these as well, so why not Infiniti?
The only other item to note is the relatively small 12.6-cubic-foot trunk. That’s on a par with most sub-compacts, and considering the car’s 199.6 inch length, it should be bigger.
But this car never drives as big as it feels, something that can’t be said of a Lincoln. It’s small turning radius made this big car maneuverable in tight spaces.
So it’s big, fast, handles well and can only hold a couple small suitcases. So what’s the big deal?
Nothing. It’s a really nice luxury car. But its image is about as clear as Clinton’s definition of sexual relations.
This is a problem in a luxury car, since a luxury car is all about image.
Somebody call in the spin doctor.
1999 Infiniti Q45t
Engine: 3.3-liter SOHC V-6 Transmission: 4-speed automatic Tires: P225/50R17 Standard: Variable assist power rack-and-pinion steering, electronically modulated shock absorbers, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, automatic headlamps, spoiler, rear defroster, glass sunroof, power front seats, leather seating surfaces, driver’s seat memory, wood trim, automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, cruise control, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, automatic rearview mirror, cellular phone prewiring, 200-watt Bose AM/FM/cassette/CD audio system, dual front air-bags. Base price, base model: $48,200 Base price, test model: $49,900 EPA rating: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway Test mileage: 19 mpg