With its introduction in 1989, the Infiniti Q45 was the first rear-drive luxury car from a Japanese automaker to directly compete against European sports sedans.
The Q45 was a car of firsts for Infiniti. As well as being one of two debut cars for this luxury brand's American introduction for 1990, the Infiniti Q45 was also the first rear-drive luxury car from a Japanese automaker to directly compete against European sports sedans. The "Q" featured firm suspension tuning, a powerful V8 engine, a quick-shifting automatic transmission, an inviting cabin and a distinctively bold demeanor. Although mostly a critical success, its sales never challenged those of its Japanese rival or the other segment leaders, as consumers were put off by odd initial advertising, muted styling and a lack of prestige associated with the brand.
Following several years of dwindling sales numbers and a questionable second-generation version that emphasized comfort over performance, Infiniti attempted to restore the car to its athletic roots for the third generation. The heart of these Q45s was a specially designed 4.5-liter V8 burbling with 340 horsepower and 333 pound-feet of torque. These numbers put the Q in good company alongside other premium luxury sedans, and a standard adjustable adaptive suspension allowed drivers to tailor the ride for more control around corners or more cushion on the highway. Although the third-gen Infiniti Q45 was certainly capable and comfortable for long-distance travel, it wasn't a match for more performance-oriented competitors when the road turned twisty.
The Infiniti Q45 was discontinued after 2006, but a fourth-generation model is rumored to be in the works. As a used model, the Q still might be worth a look, especially for shoppers interested in an alternative to the luxury sedan status quo. Sales were never great, however, and it will likely take a little extra effort to locate one of good standing.
Most recent Infiniti Q45
The third-generation Q45 was sold for the 2002-'06 model years. It featured a 340-horsepower V8 running through a more sophisticated five-speed automatic transmission. This third-generation Q45 arrived with distinctive "Gatling gun" HID headlights and much sharper styling than the previous Q.
The interior of the late-model Infiniti Q45s was airy, light and spacious. Furnished with vast tracts of wood, brushed aluminum accents, leather and a simple instrument cluster, it surrounded its occupants elegantly. Passenger room was ample throughout, and the power-adjustable driver seat never ceased to provide both comfort and support behind a power tilt/telescoping wheel that accommodated various driver postures with ease. Regrettably, though, many of the Q45's features were controlled by a joystick-based interface that must have seemed good to Infiniti's designers in principle but was clumsy to use in the real world.
Despite generally favorable reviews, however, sales remained poor over the years. In 2005, fewer than 1,200 were sold in the entire United States. For that reason, those shopping for a unique and satisfying performance luxury sedan you won't see on every block -- or any block -- are apt to find the third-gen Q an outstanding value on the used car market.
Minor evolutionary changes carried the Q45 through the years until 2005, when it received a freshening with restyled front and rear sheet metal, new headlights/foglights and LED taillights. Inside, there were new contoured, double-stitched seats, white luminescent gauges, chrome accents and dark maple trim. Underneath, there was a recalibrated transmission and new 17-inch alloy wheels.
In its final year, the 2006 Infiniti Q45 went out with a flourish: A new Sport variant featured active rear steering, performance-oriented suspension tuning and 19-inch alloy wheels. The active steering system monitored vehicle speed and steering input, and used motor-driven controls to adjust the rear suspension geometry to improve handling performance and response. Other changes this year included further revision to the five-speed automatic transmission (now with downshift rev-matching), Bluetooth connectivity and the addition of a lane departure warning system to the optional Premium Package.
Past Infiniti Q45 models
The first Q45 came to market in 1989 as a 1990 model, impressing those who valued distinctive style and performance, thanks to its 278-hp, 4.5-liter V8. In fact, it was one of the first Japanese luxury sedans to blend better-than-average performance with luxurious trimmings and simple-but-elegant styling. It's not an overstatement to say the Q helped redefine the modern luxury sedan.
The Infiniti Q45 offered two flavors initially -- base and Q45t. The Q45t touring package had chassis upgrades, a rear spoiler, BBS alloy wheels and HICAS four-wheel steering. The 1991 Q could also be had with a semiactive suspension (the Q45a). Due in part to a notoriously suspect, product-free initial advertising campaign, however, there weren't enough potential buyers turning into actual buyers. The Q45a model was dropped in 1996. (If you do find yourself looking at a Q45a, know that its active suspension components are complex and will require additional maintenance.)
In an attempt to increase sales and profitability, the second-generation Q45 adopted a more sober philosophy and moved to a new mainstream platform in 1997. Along for the ride were a more conventional appearance and a smaller, less-inspiring 4.1-liter V8 producing 266 hp. The original car's all-multilink suspension morphed to include struts up front, and was further tuned for a comfort bias. But none of this did much to help the car's sales, as they remained far below its competitors.
The sedan's appearance evolved again in 1999 with restyled sheet metal, HID headlights up front and an analog clock again gracing the dash; 17-inch wheels and an electronically adjustable suspension were standard on the Q45t. All Q45s of this era included a leather-lined cabin with exotic wood grain trim, Bose/CD audio and driver-seat/steering wheel position memory; a sunroof and heated seats were also available. The 2000 Q45 Anniversary Edition trim level was the flagship of the line, and the anniversary model was replaced by a Luxury trim in 2001.
At the time, we said that the second-generation Infiniti Q45 offered luxurious appointments, stylish sheet metal and a relatively low price. A Q of this vintage will probably work best for those drivers primarily interested in a luxury sedan that can provide a quiet and comfortable highway ride.