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The Infiniti Q45: A Brief History

All things Infiniti Q45 on Automobile.

Aaron GoldWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Infiniti Q45 Essential History

In the 1980s, as foreign manufacturers were taking a serious bite out of the American automotive market, Japan agreed to voluntary export quotas on its vehicles. The best way to make money under these circumstances was to maximize profits on the cars it was sending to the States, and so it got into the luxury car business. Honda opened the Acura division, Toyota started Lexus, and Nissan launched Infiniti.

1990 Infiniti Q45

The Q45, introduced in 1989 as a 1990 model, used the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes 560 SEL as benchmarks and shared much of its machinery with the Japanese-market Nissan President. It was powered by a 278 hp DOHC V-8, and its performance figures—0-60 in 7.2 seconds and 15.4 in the quarter mile—were hot stuff at the time. Perhaps its most notable (and largely forgotten) feature was the optional four-wheel steering system, adopted, as was much of the chassis technology, from Nissan's rockstar 300ZX.

Though it drew praise for its engineering and driving characteristics, the Q45 was criticized for its grille-free nose, belt-buckle Infiniti badge, giant chrome door handles, and its bland, unadorned interior (not to mention an oddball ad campaign featuring pictures of nature instead of the car). The competing Lexus LS400 was less athletic but more refined, and many critics of the day judged it to be the better car. Infiniti added a novel hydraulically-actuated active suspension system as a $5,000 option for 1991, but sales continued to trail flagships from Lexus and Acura.

1994 Infiniti Q45

Unable to beat them, Infiniti joined them. The Q45 was restyled for the 1994 model year with a proper grille and a lot more chrome trim (which allowed the unchanged door handles to fade into the background). Wood trim and gathered leather warmed up the cabin, and while the steering ratio was relaxed, the high-tech chassis options remained.

1997 Infiniti Q45

The Q45's first major redesign came in 1997, with emphasis shifted from performance to comfort. Nissan shrank both the car and its engine, a 266-hp 4.1 liter V-8 taking the 4.5-liter's place (though Infiniti neglected to change the car's name to Q41). The active suspension was no longer offered, replaced by a stiffer Q45t "touring" model. Infiniti had ceded the luxury car lead to the Lexus LS400 and was now following obediently in its tracks.

2002 Infiniti Q45

The new-for-2002 Q45 was a half-hearted attempt to recapture the original Q's performance reputation. Behind the giant seven-lens high-intensity headlights sat a new V-8, once again displacing 4.5 liters and offering a potent 340 hp, with enough torque to bring 0-60 mph times under six seconds. The interior was suitably luxurious and the ride was quiet. Steering and handling, however, still trailed the Germans. Infiniti refreshed the styling for 2005, but that did nothing for sales, which had been on a downward trajectory since 1997. Infiniti finally threw in the towel; 2006 was the last year for the Q45.

Infiniti Q45 Highlights

The 1991 Q45a's active suspension system used an engine-driven pump to provide hydraulic pressure to four actuators, one at each wheel. The pump consumed 3-6 horsepower, enough to slow the 0-60 time by 0.2 seconds and cut the EPA fuel economy estimates by 2 mpg in the city and 3 mpg on the highway.

Infiniti was slow to respond to criticisms of the interior, which was modeled after the German cars but turned to be a bit too Teutonic for American tastes. The Q45's first concession was the addition of the now-ubiquitous analog clock to the dashboard.

Nissan ceased production of the President in 2010. However, the smaller car on which the President is based, the Cima, returned to the Japanese market in 2012. The Cima has been available in the US as the Q70L, introduced in 2015 and discontinued after 2019.

Infiniti Q45 Buying Tips

Of all the Q45s, the 1990-1993 models are the most interesting, as they had the technically-advanced mechanical bits with which Infiniti hoped to make a name, as well as the most controversial styling. These cars have yet to garner much attention from collectors, so values will likely reflect their used-car status.

The VH45DE engine used in 1990-96 Q45s was sought after because it could be swapped into other Nissan cars and adapted to a manual transmission. As a result, Q45s are sought by some as engine donors.

Later 2005-2006 models may have some interest as the last of the Q45s, though they don't have the high-tech componentry that makes the first-gen cars stand out—they're just very nice big cars.

Nissans had always been well-built cars, and it is clear even today that attention was lavished on the Infiniti Q45. Buyers tended to be more mature, so the cars weren't prone to abuse. Therefore, Q45s are generally safe buys, even with higher mileage. That said, the Q45 is an exceptionally complex car, so electrical gremlins can be a problem.

The first-generation Q45a had an active suspension system that is very complex, with a hydraulic pump on the engine and actuators at each wheel. It was unique to the Q45 and sold in limited numbers, so finding expertise and parts necessary to maintain or repair may prove to be tricky.

Engines in 1990-93 Q45s had plastic timing chain guides that are known to fail, sending plastic fragments into the oil supply, which can damage the engine. A noisy valvetrain is one indicator that the guides have disintegrated.

Infiniti Q45 Articles on Automobile

We take a spin in Infiniti's own 6,000-mile Q45t.

The Q45 may have been a flop in the market, but it was a hit with us techno-geeks.

We spent a year with the re-invented Q45.

Infiniti Q45 Recent Auctions

Infiniti Q45 Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1989
  • Last year of production: 2006
  • Total sold: 123,797
  • Original price (base): $38,000
  • Related development: Nissan President, Nissan Cima
  • Characteristic feature: Optional adaptive suspension with pressurized hydraulic dampers

Infiniti Q45 FAQ

What replaced the Infiniti Q45?

Technically, the Q45 was never really replaced. When it was discontinued in 2006, the M45 was left as the biggest and most powerful sedan in the Infiniti lineup. Today, the QX80 is Infiniti's top-of-the-line vehicle.

Is the Infiniti Q45 a good car?

Yes. The Q45, especially in its early years, represented the best technology that Nissan had to offer, and later models featured V-8 power and high-end luxury. Build quality and longevity were exceptional. That said, most contemporary critics considered the Lexus LS to be a better buy.

Who makes the Infiniti Q45?
The Infiniti Q45 is made by Nissan. Nissan opened their Infiniti luxury division in 1989, the same year as Toyota established Lexus and a few years after Honda introduced the Acura brand.

What does Q45 mean?

The "Q" is for "Q-car", a British slang term denoting a high-performance car that looks tame and sensible (called a "sleeper" in the U.S. ). The "45" in the name denotes the engine's displacement of 4.5 liters. The 1997 through 2001 Q45 actually had a 4.1-liter engine, though Nissan did not change the name.