2002 Infiniti Q45

Front Dashboard View

The Q45's engineers, led by chief product specialist Teruo Miyauchi, managed to deliver a much more spacious package. The new car is nearly an inch wider, with an inch and a half more wheelbase than the last Q, providing a goodly five cubic feet of additional cabin space.

The team also managed to deliver a much livelier car, with the strongest engine in its class--a 32-valve, 4.5-liter DOHC V-8 that pumps out 340 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 333 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It's a beautiful thing, with continuously variable valve timing and a variable intake manifold, titanium valves, lightweight pistons, and an electronically controlled throttle chamber, good for a blistering 0-to-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds. That's more than a second faster than the original Q45. That's faster than the Lexus LS430, faster than the Mercedes-Benz E430, and faster than a BMW 540i automatic, despite being heavier--at 3933 pounds--than all but the Lexus. All that and--at a base price of $50,500--cheaper, too.

Infiniti would like you to think performance when you think Infiniti. It would like to be your Japanese BMW. "The Apple to your IBM," says the brand's marketing director, Steve Kight. "The Handspring to your Palm. The W to your Ritz."

You would have to be the forward-thinking, affluent, risk-taking leader who would buy a Q45 to know what he's talking about, I should think.

Our mornings were spent on fairly rural two-lane roads, where the Q45 dashed about smartly but with a touch more body movement (not roll) than I would like. Our test cars were pre-production prototypes, so we'll withhold judgment until the independent strut front and multi-link rear suspension (with anti-roll bars at each end) are in final tune. Another pre-production glitch: The accelerator pedal had a slight bit of travel before actual acceleration, which is not an endearing quality in your high-performance luxury car. It turns out that Miyauchi-san had decided to tinker with the pedal travel two days before we arrived. He promised to change it back to eliminate the lag before the Q goes on sale here the first of April.

With chief engineer Miyauchi riding along in back, I took the wheel of a Sport model (retuned suspension, eighteen-inch wheels and Z-rated tires, some appearance changes) for one last determined blast of autostrada before our return to Rome. I nailed the Q's pedal to the floor, and after that initial, annoying sag, it leaped down the road, gaining speed in direct proportion to how much boot I was laying on the accelerator. Which was a lot. I leveled off at 50 mph, then hit it hard. It jumped ahead. I lifted at 80 and did it again. It was with me all the way, as sweet as you please. I would have preferred a heavier steering wheel, especially as I hit the triple digits. I kept checking on Miyauchi in the rear-view, but he never broke a sweat, so I kept going.

As the speedo needle climbed past 145, the left side of the aluminum hood began to vibrate badly enough that I finally pulled off to check the hood latch, knowing full well that if it hadn't been secured, the hood would have been ripped from its hinges by now. Yes, it was latched, but there was quite a bit of play in the hood when I pushed on it.I later mentioned the shaking hood to Cheever. "You're not the only one," he said. "I pulled off, too." He looked at me for a second. "Hey!" he said. "That meant you were going 145!"

"I was," I admitted, secretly tickled with myself. I guess it's not a problem the average American owner of a Q45 is going to have. But it may be one Infiniti would like to address if it truly wants to be the BMW of Japan. Then again, it's pretty sweet as simply the Infiniti of Japan.

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