Don’t believe the hype.

by Eric Peters

Infiniti, Nissan's luxury car division, has a striking commercial for the 2002 Q45 luxury sedan. The opalescent car moves like a chariot entering Valhalla as leaves flutter and time stands still.

Unfortunately, the car itself is not so striking in person - and even less so once you close the door and hit the road.

Yes, the Gatling gun-styled, projector beam high intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlights (whew!) are cool, especially since they can be aimed remotely. And the unique voice-recognition software that enables the driver to change radio stations, adjust the climate control or work the optional on-board satellite navigation system by voice command will amuse the neighbors. It represents a truly Star Trek-like glimpse of the future.

But actually driving the car, its class-leading 340-hp rating notwithstanding, is a somewhat deflating experience.

Z-quivalent

Infiniti claims the new Q will make 60 mph in a very quick 5.9 seconds, but it sure doesn't feel like it - at least, given the emotional expectations that attend flogging a twin-cam, "performance tuned" V-8 with just 10 fewer advertised horsepower than a new (and very quick) 350-hp Corvette, 50 more than the 290-hp Lexus LS430, and barely 50 less than the sledgehammer BMW M5. It’s not slow, but the Q’s undefeatable VDC traction/stability control system is such that you come away from the experience seriously let down. No smoky burnouts are possible, not even so much as a tire squeal - in other words, no sensual indications of massive horsepower.

Naturally, all of this won't matter to you if you're looking for a large, well-equipped and well-built luxury-trimmed dreadnought that will separate you from the ugly, dirty world out there. But Infiniti weirdly touts this thing as the luxury line's "equivalent of the Nissan Z-car." Huh?

There is an optional Sport Package available for $1500 that includes both 18-inch rims as well as an "active suspension" that allows the driver to tailor shock/strut valving for progressively firmer or softer ride characteristics. The tested car had this option, but it didn't make much of a difference that I could tell in the way the car felt coming away from a traffic light or rounding a freeway off-ramp.

Mouse activation

There are other problems with the new Q, too. The optional "mouse-actuated" satellite navigation system, for instance, is clunky and over-complicated - not nearly as intuitive and user-friendly as the elegant touch screen system offered by Acura. Worse, the display itself is housed in the angled center console in such a way as to be hard to read in bright sunlight. The buttons and controls look ticky-tacky, too - at least for a $50,000 car.

A few people may be enticed by the novelty of the unique (so far) voice-recognition system, but how hard is it, really, to reach over and push a button to change a radio station? Or turn a knob to adjust the climate control? Is all of this gadzookery really necessary?

Yes, it's comfortable and has all the bells and whistles you can think of - side curtain airbags, active head restraints, optional four-place heated seats, excellent audio system, and more. But that’s merely the price of entry in this segment.

The Q45 is supposed to be kicky, but it just isn't there. It’s simply a big, stuffy old guy's car with styling that is both bland and derivative - much of it eerily similar to the Audi A6 and A8 from the B-pillars back. Meanwhile, the $53,200 Mercedes E430 has become quite graceful in line and athletic in manner, and the $51,100 BMW 540i, although getting a little long in the tooth, remains the ultimate luxury sport sedan - and it can be ordered with a six speed manual transmission.

The ironic thing is that the old Q felt sportier, yet it wasn't supposed to be sporty at all. The new Q is not much to look at, and not much to drive, compared to other cars in its class and price range.

2002 Infiniti Q45

Base price range: $50,500
Engine: 4.5 liter V-8, 340 hp
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
Wheelbase: 113.0 in
Length: 199.6 in
Width: 72.6 in
Height: 58.7 in
Curb Weight: 3801 lb
EPA (city/hwy): 17/25
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, side airbags, stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes
Major standard features: 340-hp V-8 engine, five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode shift control, climate control AC with pollen filter, eight-speaker premium audio with tape and CD-player, leather, power windows, power locks, tilt wheel, power sunshades, cruise control
Warranty: Four years/60,000 miles

© 2001 The Car Connection

 

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