2002 INFINITI Q45 Review

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TCC Team TCC Team
March 25, 2001

Negotiating the narrow, twisted streets of Rome is never easy, especially when you’re in something as big as the new, 2002 Q45. Pedestrians dart into the road from every direction. Traffic signals are optional. So are turn signals. It’s an exercise in frustration. But taking a couple deep breaths, we round the Il Collosseo, negotiate our way around a couple more ancient ruins, and suddenly find ourselves on the Autostrade, racing at breakneck speed towards Florence.

It’s a long way to go for a car designed specifically for the U.S. market. But then again, Infiniti has a long way to go to get its newly redesigned flagship to stand out in a crowded market full of lavish and competent luxury products.

It’s been more than a decade since the original Q45 made its debut. A lot of folks missed that introduction. Not that they missed word the car was coming. The highline division of Nissan Motor Co., Infiniti spent a fortune on a Zen-like ad campaign that showed lots of pretty pictures…of rocks and trees…but not the car.

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WWF jewelry

Among those who did see the original Q, the sedan received mixed reviews. It was lambasted for the WWF-style “belt buckle” on its grille. But it earned justifiable praise for its performance feel and the decision  not to take a derivative approach to styling—in contrast to the LS 400, the Lexus sedan that also debuted in 1989.

2002 Infiniti Q45

2002 Infiniti Q45

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Infiniti sales fell far short of expectations, and a few years later, when the automaker introduced a second-generation Q45, the sedan took a giant step backwards. Its styling was far more stodgy than the original, and the big, 4.5-liter engine was downsized. There was good reason the car—and Infiniti as a whole—all but fell off the radar screen for U.S. luxury buyers.


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Now Infiniti’s back with a third-generation Q45, and the automaker isn’t making the same mistakes again. The 2002 model is visually distinctive, technologically sophisticated, and very much the driver’s car the original intended to be. The belt buckle is gone, though the original car’s high-chrome analog clock is back right in the center of the instrument panel.


Rome is probably a good place to go to check out a new car’s styling. It takes a lot to catch the attention of fashion-conscious Italians, but in town, and on the Autostrade, the new sedan definitely turned heads. The sedan’s nose is low and dauntingly aggressive with a slow slung, chromed grille. On the highway, it seemed to signal cars ahead to yield way. The other strong feature is the oversized headlights that sweep up and into the hood: new seven-lens high-intensity discharge lamps, they’re nearly twice as bright as the lamps on the old Q45, and can be aimed by a switch on the instrument panel.

The sedan has an almost coupe-like grace, the roofline flowing in a gentle arc into the trunk. The look is elegant, especially for a Japanese sedan, though Infiniti probably still needs more work to refine a styling theme it can call its own, nose-to-tail.

2002 Infiniti Q45

2002 Infiniti Q45

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The sedan’s interior is well appointed and executed with an eye towards detail. Leather and wood are applied lavishly, with notable dollops of chrome. There’s the aforementioned clock, in the center of the dash, just above the chrome-framed cassette player. Unfortunately, that trademark timepiece eats up space that should have been devoted to an in-dash CD changer, like those becoming common on most other top-end sedans. Instead, Infiniti’s is hidden in the glovebox.


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Overall, the layout of the controls and gauges are spot-on. One of the most notable features of the dashboard is the oversize LCD monitor. The seven-inch screen actually serves multiple-duty. It not only acts as a display for the climate control, 300-watt Bose audio and navigation systems, but shift into reverse, and it displays an unimpeded view from the rear of the car. It’s just one of the Q45’s high-tech features, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Seating is extremely comfortable, with plenty of lateral support for those who’ll be putting this car through its paces. There’s more then enough head and legroom, front and back.

Techno beat

Technology has become a critical selling point in the high-end luxury market, and the new Q45 certainly doesn’t hold back. There are all the bells and whistles you expect in the segment, such as heated side-view mirrors with integrated turn signals, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control and stability control. The latter proved a bit intrusive, at times, as we entered a sharp curve at high speed. The system would suddenly power back and apply the brakes, trying to prevent a possible skid.

Technology “can be a trap,” suggests Infiniti’s U.S. marketing director, Steve Kight. “Our customer does not want to have to study a manual to understand how to operate the radio or close the garage door. This is not technology for technology’s sake.”

2002 Infiniti Q45

2002 Infiniti Q45

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We’ll certainly accept that argument when it comes to the engine, reborn in 4.5-liter displacement, and putting out an impressive 340 horsepower. Give credit for some of that to Infiniti’s use of titanium engine valves. According to the project’s technical manager, Teruo Miyauchi, they help to add an extra 10 hp, and they significantly reduce engine noise.


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Autostrade blast

Quiet this car certainly is, even blasting down the Autostrade at 120 mph (er, 192 kmh, this being Europe). It’s not the almost tomb-like silence of the Lexus LS430, but definitely quiet enough for everyone to talk in a normal voice. The car’s big V-8 does provide a confidence-inspiring roar when you slap down the throttle, though the car is sometimes slow to respond when you tip in the accelerator pedal a little less aggressively.

The 2002 model blasts from zero to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds, compared to 7.8 seconds for the previous 266-horsepower version. In normal driving, a new five-speed automatic shifts almost invisibly. In foot-to-the-floor maneuvers, it’s designed to feel more like a stick, with a solid, aggressive thunk as it goes through the gears. With so much torque, there’s little hunting and seeking with this transmission, which features a competent manual mode.

2002 Infiniti Q45

2002 Infiniti Q45

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During a day’s driving in the hills of the Chianti region, we found the new Q45’s steering precise and confidence inspiring. Despite its size, the car has a surprising nimbleness that, over the course of a drizzly afternoon, led us to steadily increase our speeds down the vineyard country’s tight and winding roads.

The one disconcerting moment came as we blasted back onto the expressway and noticed the hood of our Q45 starting to flutter a bit. As with all pre-production prototypes, we recognize there are final details to work out, and Miyauchi knew instantly what we were describing, promising this matter would be resolved by the time the 2002 models hit U.S. showrooms.

Taking him at his word, that would leave us little more than minor details to complain about with the third-generation Q45. The car is certainly back on the track Infiniti tried to lay out more than a decade ago. It’s a vehicle that now deserves to be on the shopping list of those seeking a top-line sedan.

2002 Infiniti Q45 sedan
Base Price Range:
Engine: 4.5-liter DOHC V8, 340 hp
Transmission: five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 113.0 in
Length: 199.6 in
Width: 72.6 in
Height: 58.9 in
Curb Weight:  3801 lbs
EPA (city/hwy): 17/25 mpg
Safety equipment: dual front airbags with passenger occupant sensor, side airbags for front and rear passenger, front seat head curtains, anti-lock brakes, energy-absorbing steering column, pick-resistant door lock cylinders, Infiniti Vehicle Immobilizer System
Major standard features: auto on/off headlights, 10-way power driver’s seat, dual air conditioning with automatic temperature control, driver information display: 5.8-inch LCD display screen, power tilt and telescopic steering column, Voice Recognition System featuring Visteon Voice Technology™, AM/FM/cassette with in-dash CD player
Warranty: Four years/60,000 miles

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