There are always special cars that make the pulse of an automotive journalist kick up a notch or two. For many scribes that I know, it's the rocket sleds like Porsche and Ferrari that pops their corn, for others, its the mountain climbers like Hummers and Range Rovers that provide the visceral delights.
As for me, I like a practical sedan with an automatic transmission. But not just any sedan mind you, it has to have a great engine, preferably a V8, clean and tasteful styling, super comfortable interior, the grace of a ballerina and the agility of a quarterback.
My sedan has to have great legs that can keep pace with upscale sports cars, but not if I have to put up with a hard ride and lots of noise. It has to be maneuverable and nimble, but not compromise a roomy, comfortable interior and a spacious trunk. It should have lots of toys and gadgets, but not if their controls are confusing and difficult to learn and use. The ride should be comfortable, but not floaty, the steering sharp and accurate, but with great directional stability, and the brakes should feel like I dropped an anchor out of the trunk.
To a car like this, "tight as a drum" doesn't apply. A drum is hollow and makes unpleasant booming sounds. A better description would be "Vault-like" or cast from a single block of iron, but a vault brings to mind a great door that clangs shut leaving an echo. My door must close with a "wump" and have no "echo" aftertaste.
One car that comes close to fulfilling this wish list is the new Infiniti Q45. Here is a car that seems to do a lot of things right. If you are looking for a no-compromises luxury-performance sedan, this new Q Ship will deliver in abundance with a powerful, smooth riding cruiser that looks as good as it drives.
At $50,500 before options, this is not a cheap car, that is until you decide to compare it to other cars with equivalent performance and features. Then it's a downright bargain. The cars that offer worthy comparisons are the Lexus LS430 ($54,925), the Audi A8 ($62,200), and the Mercedes S430 ($71,850)
Style, (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder, so I can only speak for myself when I say that this chariot toots my horn. The styling for me is on the money with bold, but tasteful lines topped off by in-your-face Gatling Gun like headlights that turn night into day (well... almost). The style of the interior is equally striking with unique features sprinkled throughout.
Behind the wheel, the car looks rich, comfortable andeven a bit futuristic. The instrument cluster is clean and readable with a large speedometerthat dominates the grouping. The control placement on the central stack is a bit confusing at first, but can be gotten used to in time. Climate controls are on the left side of the pod with the exception of the passenger's temperaturecontrol which is on the right (as it should be). The right side is where the audio controls reside (a bit of a stretch for the driver). In thecenter, below the large display screen, are 6 buttons whose functions change depending on what the display is set to. And then there is that analog clock that Infiniti insists on adding to all their cars. This one has a chrome bezel and chrome hands on a white face and is a challenge to read in most light conditions, even at night when it's illuminated.
The steering wheel controls were well laid out and I found it easy to tell which button was which by feel once I got used to their placement. This was a good thing since there was no nighttime illumination for them.
The display for the optional navigation system is controlled by a joystick which I found somewhat awkward to use. I prefer a touch screen for this type of system like the ones found on the Acura and Lexus systems.
Infiiniti's muchtouted voice control is first rate and my method of choice for controlling the functionsthat are normally handled by the pod controls. Simply press asteering wheel button and speak in a normal voice using the pre-programmedcommands that are in the owner's manual or you can just say "Help" to have the commands recited back to you. Speech recognition is the best I've seen so far. Still not perfect, but getting there. My view of perfection is where the computer will understand what you say regardless of how you phrase it. It should comprehend what you are asking it to do just like a person would. If you mumble enough for that person to say "Excuse me? can you repeat that?". then the computer can be forgiven for not understanding you. My bet is that this level of sophistication is no more than a couple of years away.
The DVD based navigation system was clear and easy to see in most lighting conditions, but did get washed out when the sun was at just the right angle. The map display could be switched between normal (Plan) view or the unique to Nissan Bird view. This is where the map is at an angle making it appear as though you were a few hundred feet above the road surface and seeing a 3 dimensional panorama as a bird might see it, all the way to the horizon. I liked the fact that you can see all the small roads and streets in the range of about 1/4 mile, and the major roads and Interstate network as far as ten miles away. In plan view (which is what all other systems use), you would have to zoom out to see the distant highways and zoom in to see the local streets.
I had ample opportunity to sample Infiniti's new Intelligent Cruise Control. This new system uses a laser beam to judge the distance between you and the car ahead. If you set the cruise for, say 70 mph and the car ahead is going 65, the Q willslow to that speed and maintain a set distance, even if partial braking isrequired. The distance from the car in front is controlled by the driver and is based on a three position setting that iscontrolled by asteering wheel button. There is a graphical display just below the speedometer that shows the distance setting as well as whether the car ahead is visible to the system. One drawback to having a laser system is that the cruise control deactivates itself and cannot be used when it is raining.
Rear seat comfort is exceptional and legroom is more than adequate. With the optional premium package, the rear seat area becomes downright luxurious. This hefty option package ($8,000) includes such niceties as: reclining rear seatbacks, rear audio and air conditioning controls, additional rear A/C vents on the pillars in front of the rear doors and a rear sunshade package with pull-up shades in the back doors and a powered rear shade. That additional eight grand also gives you a rear view camera that lets the driver see what the car is backing into using the nav display screen which turns into a TV monitor when the car is put into reverse. There is also a sophisticated Active Damping suspension as part of this option group that improves both ride and handling and is coupled to an 18 inch wheel and Z-rated performance tire package that improve this car's looks even further.
On the road, this car feels rich and lusty. The ride from the standard suspension belies its handling potential. The optional active dampening suspension rides even better and has a Sport Mode switch for when you decide to move the transmission lever to manual mode in order to carve up some winding canyon roads. On theInterstate, directional control feels safe and secure. Wind noise at anyspeed is virtually non-existent. Road noise is well controlled on mostpavement surfaces.
The Q is not selling well and that's a puzzle to me. The Lexus LS430 out sells the Q by around 10 to 1. The Lexus may be slightly quieter and have a better ride, but I think the Q45 is far better looking with a larger engine and more of a performance edge. Quality between the two is equal as is their reputation for superb reliability.
There are a number of significant changes on the Q45 for 2003 Including: an LEV emission rating for the engine; lower final drive gear ratio for better off-the-line acceleration (it was pretty good before); puddle lights have been added to the underside of the outside mirrors; a trunk lid with an auto close (pull down) function; an electronic compass in the rearview mirror; a CD changer that has been moved from the glove box to the center stack replacing the chrome-faced cassette deck which was sent to glove box and a rear seat center head restraint with two-way manual adjustment. New options for 2003 include: Satellite radio (choice of XM or Sirius); Climate controlled seats for driver and front passenger with cooling and heating functions; and Full auto open/close trunk function (push a button to open the trunk, push a button to close the trunk). Three new exterior colors round out the changes for '03.
Is this the car of the future that we have been waiting for since the 1964 Worlds Fair? It's not atomic powered, doesn't fly or even drive itself. These were all predictions back then that didn't come to pass, but all in all, I think that Buck Rogers would be proud and Captain Kirk would feel right at home. It will need a few more passes across the drawing board to please Captain Picard, however.
This is a gentleman's performance car that will make a positive statement about your taste in automobiles. Its superb V8 engine is as smooth as sharp scissors cutting through silk. The whispered sound that the engine makes under full throttle is as good as it gets. So insert the electronic "Key" into the ignition switch, press the talk button and say "Lay in a course to the office. Ahead warp 2. Engage."
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How would I improve this car?
Replace that useless clock face with a functional, easy to read chronograph style with, maybe a small LCD panel in the face that shows the date.
Illuminate the steering wheel controls
There is a beautiful engine hidden beneath all that plastic under the hood. I would rip out that uninspired cover and display the engine in all its glory.
How does theQ45 fit yourdriving style?
Conservative drivers Everything is smooth and refined with seemingly unlimited power on tap when needed.
Sporty drivers Although this is a large car, it is a responsive performer and will follow your wishes to the letter and make you look good while doing it.
Fast drivers will love taking the Q-Ship to its limits (I know I did). Brakes, Tires and suspension are all up to the task.
| Specifications |
|Engine Type || 4.5 liter DOHC 32-valve V-8 with Variable Valve Timing |
|Horsepower ||340 @ 6,400 RPM |
|Torque ||333 ft-lbs. @ 4,000 RPM |
|Fuel Recommended ||Premium Unleaded. |
|Transmission ||5-speed electronic automatic transmission (auto / manual modes) |
|Drive Type || Rear wheel drive |
|Tires || P225/55VR17 All-Season Tires |
|Overall Length ||199.6" |
|Wheelbase ||113.0" |
|Width ||72.6" |
|Turning Diameter ||36.1 ft Curb to Curb |
|Curb Weight ||3,801 lb |
|Fuel Tank ||21.4 Gals. |
|0 to 60 Acceleration ||6.7 Sec. |
|Miles Per Gallon ||EPA city 17, hwy 25 |
|Base Sticker Price ||$50,500 plus $545 Destination Charge |
|2002 Infiniti Q45 |
- Leather upholstery
- 10 way power driver seat with memory for 2 drivers, and 8 way front passenger seat
- Power windows w. one-touch on front.
- Power tilt and telescopic steering wheel
- Separate steering wheel controls for audio and cruise control
- Automatic climate control A/C (dual zone) with air filtration
- Leather & wood steering wheel
- Wood trim on dash, console and doors
- Traction control
- Stability control
- Front side-mounted airbags
- Front and rear head air bags.
- Homelink garage door opener
- Front and rear ventilated disc brakes with ABS and brake assist
- Xenon high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps
- Rear parking sensors
- Bose premium AM/FM cassette 6-CD stereo with 300 watts stereo output and 8 speakers
Major Available Options
- DVD Based navigation system
- Heated front seats
- Intelligent cruise control
- Run flat tires (not available on Sport Package)
- Sport Package - includes: Active Damping Suspension w. driver selectable sport mode, P225/45R18 Z-rated tires, 8-spoke champagne-finished aluminum alloy wheels, blue-tone headlight trim and taillight lenses, smoke colored bird's-eye maple interior trim.
- Premium package - includes: rearview monitor, sunshade package, rear audio controls, rear A/C controls, power reclining rear seats, navigation package, heated front and rear seats, Active Damping Suspension w. driver selectable sport mode, P225/45R18 Z-rated tires, 8-spoke champagne-finished aluminum alloy wheels
For more information on the Q45, visit infiniti.com
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