1999 Infiniti Q45 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Performance and luxury with distinctive styling.
New styling gives the Infiniti Q45 a fresh look for 1999. It looks like a thoroughbred and has performance to match. This big sedan features instant throttle response and excellent handling.
Infiniti's luxury flagship has to be good because its combatants are the elite: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Audi, Cadillac, Lexus. The people who make these cars and the people who buy them are serious about their luxury cars. That's why there's a lot of punching and rolling around and, yes, some name calling in the attempt to get your name on the bottom line.
Arguably, no one is fighting this battle harder than Infiniti. How? By building a very good car without the instant cachet of a Mercedes or BMW. Infiniti's Q45 is powerful, quiet, roomy and comfortable. These qualities combined with its performance, handling and distinctive styling are what separate the Q45 from these other vehicles.
First launched 10 years ago, the Q45 has undergone refinements ever since. In addition to revised front and rear exterior styling, this year's Q comes with new comfort and convenience amenities. The Q45t features a new electronically modulated suspension with driver-selectable settings, along with 17-inch wheels and tires.
The Q45 does not have the classical luxury car look of Mercedes, BMW and Lexus, nor does it have the aggressive styling of the Cadillac STS. So what does the Q45 have to offer in terms of styling?
The Q45 has an elegant look that is distinctive, and slightly reminiscent of Jaguar sedans. It is stallion sleek with a long, sloping nose, a thin roof line and steeply raked rear glass. A strong character line separates the upper flanks from the lower.
For 1999, there are some subtle and some not-so-subtle changes to the exterior design which, taken as a whole, give the Q45 a slightly different look. The chromed area of the grille has been reduced slightly. The most noticeable changes to the front end are new headlights with two round projector beam bulbs each mounted within a rectangular frame. The look is quite different from last year. These headlights are the high intensity discharge type with Xenon gas bulbs and crystalline lenses. A power glass sunroof with sunshade replaces the previous full metal type. At the rear, the combination lamps have been revised.
The Q45 looks like a thoroughbred. But what about its performance? Not to worry. Infiniti's 4.1-liter engine generates 266 horsepower and 278 foot-pounds of torque. This engine gives the Q45 stellar performance. It is based on the same powerplant as the Infiniti Indy V8 used in the Indy Racing League cars. The engine has variable valve timing, which adjusts valve opening and closing according to engine speed and load. Variable valve timing is a key element in the engine's efficiency. It's a proven technology and is a big plus.
Although peak torque is at a relatively high 4000 rpm, there is usable torque low in the power range and that means better low-speed acceleration. There's lots of power here. The Q45 accelerates from 0-60 mph in the mid 7-second range. That's quick. It also delivers responsible fuel economy, netting an EPA rating of 17 mpg City/ 24 mpg Highway.
The V8 drives the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission and viscous limited-slip differential with traction control.
The MacPherson strut front suspension was designed to provide good handling without compromising on that luxury car feel.
In the rear, the Q45 has a multi-link arrangement designed to keep more tire contact patch on the road, and more patch means more grip. Anti-dive and anti-squat characteristics mean improved grip under hard braking and acceleration.
The Q45t (Touring Package) has a slightly more aggressive suspension tune for a sportier feel.
Prestige cars traditionally offer a lap-of-luxury interior environment. The Q45 cleaves hard and fast to the traditional approach. What isn't covered in leather is covered in wood. The leather is some of the best in the business: buttery soft and perfectly stitched. It comes in three tasteful colors, beige, stone beige and black.
The front bucket seats are comfortable. The power front seats adjust in 10 directions and have power lumbar supports. Occupants sit relatively low in the car, though not uncomfortably low, providing a sense of security, a feeling of being surrounded by body structure.
There is a two-position memory for the seats and outside mirrors. There is an eight-speaker Bose sound system and HomeLink, a transmitter system for opening gates and garage doors.
That $48,725 base price brings a vast array of features that are essential in this class: power tilt/telescope steering, cruise control, speed-sensitive wipers, timed rear window defroster, dual vanity mirrors, power windows, locks, and trunk and fuel door. Separate climate controls for the rear seats help ensure passengers in back are comfortable.
The round dash-mounted analog clock is back after a two year absence and we're glad to see it. The classically styled clock was a signature item in the original Q45 and Q45 enthusiasts cried when it disappeared.
The Q45 comes with dual front airbags and side air bags that deploy from the front seats and front seat belt pre-tensioners. There are pick-resistant door locks. If, somehow, the castle has been breached, the perpetrator will run up against the Infiniti Personalized Protection System that combines 60,000 possible key codes with a new, numerically random rolling code generated by the engine's computer each time the ignition is turned off.
One of the few options available is the Infiniti Communicator, which includes a cellular telephone and Global Positioning Satellite system. Two buttons in the overhead console contact the Infiniti Response Center, which will contact emergency road service or medical help. If the air bags deploy, the center is automatically notified.
A nice touch we liked is the Interior Light Logic feature. It turns the interior lights on very brightly in the open door for easy entry and exit without blasting the rest of the cabin with intense light. We also liked the pin light that bathes the center console and front door panels with soft light that makes finding and operating controls a bit easier.
Performance has always been an Infiniti trait. Throttle response is instant, whether you're moving away from a stoplight, making a tight freeway merge or passing.
This V8 is among the smoothest and most satisfying around today, easily holding its own with the Lexus and BMW offerings and perhaps even a touch smoother and quieter than the Mercedes-Benz V8s. The Q45 has always been more of a driver's car than the LS 400 and that tradition continues. The engine and transmission are connected electronically; smooth, precise shifts are based on speed and load. On the road, the feeling is of a seamless flow of power with no hesitation or jerkiness between shifts.
This car always feels firmly planted. It's stable as a train in a straight line, controlled in turns. The Q45 feels very nimble for a large luxury car. Steering is quick. The suspension is well damped, isolating occupants from poorly maintained road surfaces. But it doesn't float like some big luxury cars that use mushy suspensions to make up for poor chassis engineering. Visibility is good. Overall comfort is good. This car is as much at home lazing around town as it is devouring miles of Interstate. It's a nice place to be.
The Q45 is a very satisfying car to drive: excellent performance, good handling, a well-damped ride, the works. It makes its own design statement. That brings us back to what we said before. Look at, drive it. Then decide for yourself. As for us, we like it.
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