The cars we loved.
The late 80’s and early 90’s were exciting times for the fledgling Japanese luxury brands. Honda had introduced its Acura brand shortly before Toyota rolled out Lexus and made everyone forget Acura’s Ledgend. Rumors were swirling about new luxury brands from Mazda and Nissan. After all Nissan was seen as the Japanese Pontiac and was certain to produce exciting high performance cars in its luxury brand. Of the potential new luxury ventures to join Acura and Lexus, only Nissans effort would see light of day. Prior to launch, a bizarre ad campaign would try to introduce Zen concepts to the luxury car business without featuring any cars. The ad campaign, although innovative, was a flop. Hiding the new Infiniti brand’s flagship product would turn out to be a bad idea, as the final car was woefully under exposed compared to its rivals. Intended to compete with everything from Cadillac to BMW, the Q45 came with a 4.5 L V8 engine, the first such from a Nissan product sold in the U.S. The very name “Q” was intended convey a high performance vehicle without the performance look. Understated and serene, like the Zen ads suggested.
Based on the Japanese home market Nissan President, the Infiniti Q45 was a large rear wheel drive sedan that leaned more towards performance. It’s straight forward design approach to performance and luxury won it high praise with the automotive establishment, but the oddness of its front end made it an overlooked choice among buyers. Inside the Q45 was a departure from normal also. While Lexus was surrounding its driver and passengers in a soft cocoon like environment, the Q45 featured stiffer leather seats and overtly tactile surfaces with nary a wood grained panel in sight. The instruments were in an unusual black on white configuration, imparting a sporty look, with restrained luxury.
The overall look outside was not unlike some popular Ford products, notably the Taurus and Thunderbird with their grill less front ends. Fords treatment of this stylistic trend was appealing, but in the $45k + Q45, it looked awkward and downright strange. You’d be forgiven if you though it was an electric car. Q45s came in three trim levels, base, A and S models. A models had an active suspension, while “S” had an enhanced anti roll bar and suspension enhancements geared towards spirited driving. All versions featured performance enhancing rear viscous limited slip-differentials (just like the Nissan Skyline and Z cars) and rolled on 15 or 16 inch BBS type aluminum wheels.
In 1994 Infiniti made a series of small changes including streamlining the model choices down to two and adding a grill. The conventional looking grille could have been at home on a Maxima, but it made a big difference in the car’s appearance. Unfortunately, it was not enough to move the Q45 from under the sales shadow of the Lexus LS 400. A new model was introduced in 1997 that was based on the JDM Nissan Cima. Now more sport in its appearance, it addressed some of the initial short comings of the first generation car. Sales remain low until its cancellation in 2006, making all manner of Q45 rare, if not desirable for enthusiasts.