Such a beautiful interior! Such a fine engine! And yet so many things about the 2002 Q45 disappointed us in the course of its year here in Ann Arbor. This seems to be the continuing conundrum of Infiniti's lovely Q-ship, a car with great promise and personality, a car that from its inception has been plagued with nagging quality glitches and character flaws that just plain take the lux out of luxury.
We decided to include the Q45 in our Four Seasons fleet after an impressive initial outing in Italy. This third-generation Q seemed to hark back to the original car, itself flawed in luxury attributes but spunky as hell under the hood. It was roundly referred to back then as the Japanese BMW to Lexus's Mercedes-Benz of an LS400. The reality was that the Infiniti was not a BMW contender but rather a direct shot at the Lexus, with serious sporting BMW pretensions. The squooshy second-gen Q45 moved away from both those marques to our dismay, as Lexus continued to refine its deeply staid, deeply luxurious mother ship.
We were pleased to see Infiniti back on track and loved this third Q's redesign, especially the cabin, which we placed in the pantheon of great interiors. And its engine was a rocket, with 50 horsepower more than the Lexus LS430's V-8. We ordered up a Q with all the trimmings, neatly combined in the $8000 premium package, which includes, among other things, eighteen-inch wheels, an active-damping suspension, a "Birdview" 3-D navigation system, and our favorite techno trick, a rear-view monitor. Even jaded editors who initially thought a backup camera was hokey decided they kind of really, well, liked the televised rear view. The only time it got weird was in severe cold and snow, when the screen looked purple and psychedelic.
We discovered early on that the rocket lost a bit of its thrust somewhere between Infiniti's 5.9-second 0-to-60-mph claim and the dyno test performed on the Q by our sister publication Ward's Engine & Vehicle Technology Update. The good news was that Ward's found Infiniti's ratings of 340 horsepower and 333 pound-feet of torque to be accurate. But upon grilling engineers, we learned that the 0-to-60-mph claim was achieved "in optimum atmospheric conditions" using "the lightest possible base cars, along with featherweight drivers," as opposed to plushbottom journos and their heavily optioned test cars. According to numbers recorded by our Mr. Wizard, Don Sherman, you can expect your own personal Q45 to be about 0.7 second slower in the stoplight grand prix.
Despite this readjustment of expectation, compliments on the engine's robust personality poured into the logbook, perhaps a balm to soothe the many other complaints. "The engine is terrific," noted executive editor Mark Gillies within a week of the Q's arrival, "as are the quality of the autoshifts."
As much as the engine rocked, the body rolled. Not a good thing to our delicate sensibilities, which need a good freeway ramping on a monthly basis. In addition, the active-damping part of our expensive option package never seemed in sync with Michigan roads. In technical terms, "the car strikes me as underdamped and oversprung. Wheel impacts are noticeable, yet body control during apelike cornering maneuvers goes away," wrote Gillies. In simpler terms, production editor Jennifer Misaros noted that the Q "feels big and somewhat bouncy and out of control on rough side streets," and copy editor Matt Phenix summed it all up as "just damned annoying." Exactly.