Classic CARmentary: 1999 Infiniti Q45

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

One item I don’t get into due to the 350-word limit is that this isn’t a conservative redesign of the original Q45, but the Q45 badge applied to a different car altogether.  The original Q45 was a version of the Nissan President, which was Nissan’s entry into the luxury limousine class that also includes the Toyota Century.  This Q45 was based on the smaller Nissan Cima, which competes in Japan’s executive class.

Let’s just say that I was less than impressed with this Q45.  I’ve never driven the original (although I wish that I had), but I had driven the Lexus GS400, and these cars do not even play in the same league.  My wife and I drove it to visit family in Connecticut, and we took the long way, up I-81 to I-84.  Although a lovely drive, the car still didn’t endear itself to me.  Anyone that chose this car over pretty much anything else in this price class clearly wasn’t comparison shopping.

Within months of each other a decade ago, Nissan and Toyota launched Infiniti and Lexus, respectively, and each had its own V8 flagship sedan. The Mercedes-esque Lexus LS400 was an immediate hit. The daring Infiniti Q45, however, was not.

Well, the Q45 was redesigned for 1997, and gone was the distinctive shape that was later copied by the Oldsmobile Aurora and Ford Taurus. Its poor sales, compared to the less-adventurous Lexus LS400, forced Infiniti 180 degrees to a far more conservatively styled sedan that may be just a bit TOO conservative for this price class. It’s updated slightly for 1999, with revised tail lamps and Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights.  Combined with the large Infiniti grill and cool alloy wheels, the Q45 does stand out a little more.

Although you’d think that a 4.5-liter engine resides under the hood, the Q45 actually has a 4.1-liter, 32-valve V8 engine (I guess Q41 just doesn’t have the same ring to it) that pumps out 266 horsepower. While it doesn’t have quite the punch of the Lexus V8, it moves the nearly two-ton Infiniti with the requisite authority that you would expect for 50 large. The standard traction control works well, but the four speed automatic shifted a little harshly at times.

The leather and wood-tone interior is downright sumptuous. There are big, cushy driver and passenger seats and such power toys as an electronic tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power rear-window sunshade. Furthermore, the elegant analog clock makes a return. Unfortunately, the redesign failed to solve two major faults of the original – tight rear-seat legroom and an unforgivably small trunk.

Although a few expected items seem to be missing, such as five-speed automatic transmission and dual-zone climate control, it would be worth the extra $1700 to upgrade to the Q45t with its trick driver-controlled electronic suspension system that can be set for relaxed or active driving.

Nearly three years into the redesign, sales are still marginal. Hopefully Renault, which now controls Nissan, will give us a Q that combines Nissan’s solid reliability and technological know how with stylistic French flair. That may just be the recipe for success.

For more information contact 1-800-826-6500


Type: Four-door Sedan
Engine: 266-horsepower, 4.1 liter V8
Transmission: Four-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 17 city/24 highway
Tested Price: $49,145

Over twenty years later, we’re still waiting for that French flair.  However, Renault has at least infused both Nissan and Infiniti with French reliability.