By on January 21, 2013

I want to tell you this, although I know many of you will not believe. I want you to close your eyes and give me the gift of your trust for a few minutes, to travel through memory and dream and ambition with me. I want you to experience the “theater dim” of the interior lights. To open the throttle on the Bose-by-Nissan stereo. To feel the perfect response from the small sedan’s leather-wrapped steering wheel, to catch a slide as the four-wheel-steering kicks in at the most bizarre time during an irresponsible freeway maneuver. To pose Yakuza-style in the baddest sedan on the block, B-pillars swimming barely seen beneath the glass. To feel the 276-horsepower, quad-cam V-8 punch you back into the impeccably tasteful interior.

Then, and only then, if you can dream with me, if you can believe what I believe, then you might be able to look through the stupid Q-names and the dumb-assed rocks-and-trees marketing and the aftermarket Skyline badges and the unfocused-looking Pathfinder rebadge and the Jersey shore types crowding each owner’s meet and just hold this idea in your head:

Infiniti didn’t always suck.

Because it is part of my job to know, I will eventually put away my disgust long enough to internalize the ridiculous new naming convention employed by the not-really-autonomous luxury arm of Nissan. What I know offhand is this: the G37 successor will be called the Q50. This arrant stupidity is roughly equivalent to Rolls-Royce introducing a new small car and calling it the Phantom Eight. Or calling the new Acura ILX the Legend Plus Five. Or calling the swoopy 2014 Lexus IS the Lexus LS510hL. I could go on, and I encourage you to do so when you are wasting time with your work buddies at lunch (“Hey! I’ve got one! The new Mercedes CLA coulda been the S650!”) but you get the idea. The just-unveiled Infiniti Q-ship system has the previously unknown-to-science ability to make the utter marketing dolts at Lincoln and Cadillac look like geniuses just for not calling the MKZ and ATS the Continental Mark XIV and Fleetwood Talisman Brougham Eldorado, respectively.

The G37 becomes the Q50. The G37 coupe becomes the Q60, and why shouldn’t it? The M37 and M56 both become the Q80, which sounds like a plastic-bodied camera they sell people in the “pro-sumer” department of Best Buy. Meanwhile, the trucks all take a nomenclature cue from the QX56, a vehicle so unspeakably crass it depresses the space-time curve around it for kilometers and causes cordovan Alden penny loafers to spontaneously evolve into Chinese-sewn Kenneth Cole white-trash square-toe monstrosities as all notions of human decency are shattered beyond hope or recognition in its lumbering, cetacean wake.

In other words, they’ve named the trucks after the worst product they’ve ever made, and named the cars after a product they haven’t made since… don’t you say 2005. Don’t you dare fucking say two thousand and five. I’m watching you. Don’t open your mouth. I’m serious. According to my son, I am big and tough. He’s only three years old, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong. Be careful.

The Infiniti Q45, in its majesty and glory, died in 1996. Dead. Dead as Caesar. Except, of course, in Japan, where it lived a happy and fruitful life until after the whole Y2K thing had settled down and the Japanese people no longer needed the shining light of excellence the Q45 undoubtedly provided in those dark, fearful times.

Oh, that original Q45. It appeared seemingly out of nowhere, heralded not by John the Baptist but by a series of bizarre and deliberately opaque advertisements where the car wasn’t shown at all. Arty. Interesting. Classy. Meanwhile, Lexus was carpet-bombing the media with endless images of its S-Class-by-Nikon, each and every one of them with the humiliating italicized “$35,000″ featured front and center. The Lexus LS400! It’s a CHEAP JAPANESE S-CLASS RIPOFF! DID YOU GET THAT MEMO! CHEAP! JAPANESE! S-CLASS! CHEAP! Ugh, it was slimy, and they had the nerve to have a fake British accent in the TV ads, too. It was beneath contempt.

The LS400, too, was beneath contempt. In retrospect, we know it to have been a fabulous feat of loss-leader engineering, but at the time it looked like the equivalent of JC Penney’s “Hunt Club” polo shirts. Yeah, it was cheap, yeah it probably lasted longer, but who’d be seen in such an obvious copy? $35,000! CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP FAKE BRITISH ACCENT!

Enter the Q45. We, the cognoscenti, nodded approvingly. The LS400 had a fake Mercedes grille? The Q45 had no grille. The LS400 had a fake Mercedes interior by way of a Corolla? The Q45 had center-seam seats, a dashboard sweep that predicted the current Audi mode fifteen years in advance and not a bit of wood, fake or otherwise, to be seen. The LS400 had a nifty four-liter, 250-hp V-8 that made it as fast as the BMW 735? The Q45 had a bigger, stronger, more majestic V-8 that bitch-slapped the Germans back to the drawing board, where they would eventually make Nikasil V-8s and embitter an entire generation of victims, er, owners, but that’s another story.

Everything about the LS400 was fake. Everything about the Q45 was real. Plus it was bitchin’ fast. Also available at the dealership was an authentic Nissan Leopard JDM coo-pay, pressed into service as the M30. It was slick and futuristic and it sure as hell wasn’t a Camry. Since nobody had a functioning crystal ball at the time, this wasn’t seen as the source of the brand’s descent into sales-report hell and perennial second-tier status. It was considered to be a source of pride.

Just to pound the point home — just to put the final nails into the coffin of that stupid experiment in middle-class buffoonery over at Toyopets Ltd — the G20 arrived shortly after and OMG IT WAS A PRIMERA AND STUFF. Tasteful to a fault. Handling to die for. Not a centimeter larger than it needed to be. Infiniti. By. A. Knock. Out!

Your humble author, having been forced to pull the eject handle on a rather promising postgraduate collegiate career by a combination of bad temper, worse judgment, and incandescent youthful arrogance, arrived for My First Real Job with Infiniti of Columbus in the spring of 1994. The M30 had bowed out and been replaced by the J30, which was the combination of a Jaguar and a 300ZX and in many ways was the most satisfying sedan money could buy. The Q45 had been lightly refreshed with a grille and some wood but just when you thought the soul was gone, they hit back with the (partially) active-suspension Q45a, a genuine Japanese technical masterpiece and still monstrously quick in a straight line. I couldn’t wait to sell them. The whole lineup kicked ass. Heck, my own father had abandoned the Germans to pick up not one, but two J30 sedans.

Six months later, I was out on the street again without a penny in my pocket but with a considerably greater understanding of how the luxury-market battle in the country was actually going. The G20 wasn’t appreciated by customers; they drove the ES300 back-to-back with it and found the four-cylinder G to be slow, noisy, cramped, and Sentra-esque. The J30 was too expensive and only moved as a $399 magic lease.

The Q45 — that gorgeous, machined-billet, time-shifting, four-cam masterpiece — was showroom poison. Nobody wanted one. It cost more than the Lexus LS and, as I would hear time and time again from thirty-four-year-old second wives distractedly evaluating the metal while hanging succubus-like from the leather-tanned arms of their Boomer boys, it “looked weird”. Only six years into Infiniti’s existence, the flagship was forced to lower its flag and retreat back to the homeland.

In its place, my successor salesmen were burdened with… a Nissan Cima. So check this out: In Japan, the Q45 was simply the current generation of the Nissan President. The President, as you might guess from the name, was the best sedan Nissan offered. The Cima was the car beneath it. By replacing the President in the United States with the Cima, Nissan pulled…

well, you know what they pulled…

That’s right. The 1997 Infiniti Q45: Nissan’s Bonneville Model G. Hell, it even looked like one. Actually, it was worse than that, because while the “Model G” legitimately rode on the GM G-platform, the new “Q45″ had a 4.1-liter engine. The Cima-Q45 was derided as a “Japanese Buick” by the color rags. I don’t even want to talk about it any more. The Q45 was “rebooted” as a super-Cima with an actual 4.5-liter engine in 2002, but the market had long since stopped caring about the idea of a full-size Infiniti and when it disappeared nobody realized it was gone, no doubt because unsold ones were still cluttering dealer lots.

That’s not quite the entire story of the Infiniti “Q”. There was a rebadged Nissan Pathfinder, called “QX4″. It was typical Nissan monkey-see business: when Lexus rebranded their well-respected Land Cruiser as the “LX”, Nissan felt compelled to trot out the miserable unibody Pathy to “compete”. I wish I could make the quotes around “compete” bigger back there. Just imagine I’m wiggling my fingers at you when you read it again. “Compete”. The QX4 was such a non-success the “QX” badge was then slapped on a horrifying variant of the despicable Titan Pathfinder Armada Brake-Chewer Deathsled, (note: not actual vehicle name, but more of a nickname, really) said vehicle being recently deposed by the current QX56, soon to be QX6000SUX or something like that, which combines the depressing aspect of Dickens books with the side aspect of Moby Dick.

Infiniti has had precisely one successful product of any note since the mid-Nineties: the G35 sedan and its successors. They are increasingly Baroque-looking 3-Series competitors which, in the right configuration, can be pleasant to drive. To its credit, Infiniti offers a six-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive, sport-suspended G37 sedan and coupe. I’d tell you to check them out, but the dealers prefer to stock AWD automatics, so just forget about it.

Still, the G37 has some genuine brand cachet. Unfortunately, to a lot of people the G37 is a car driven by people who can’t afford a BMW and who also use a lot of hair gel. So that’s bad. Still, it cannot be denied that the Infiniti G-something is a well-known item with an established fanbase and name recognition even among people who don’t like or understand cars.

No longer. The G37 is now the Q50. The inoffensive and somewhat popular EX and FX are going be tarred with the QX brush. This time, we don’t need a crystal ball to know what will happen. Sales will slump. A buying public which still spells the brand name “Infinity” after twenty-three years in the market won’t bother to learn the Q-uestionable new designations. Resale value will approach nil as used-market buyers try to understand why a Q80 costs so much more than a Q60. The long-suffering dealers, who went though a lot of trouble buying shoji screens in 1990 so they could do whatever was supposed to be done with the shoji screen besides conceal young salespeople taking a nap on the expensive mandatory leather showroom couches, will suffer some more.

A new plan will debut in… oh, let’s be generous and give it four years. In the meantime, plenty of people will offer opinions as to what should be done, what should have been done, and so on. I’d like to offer some hugely nostalgic and product-centric plan for Infiniti, the way I did for Lincoln a month or so ago. Build an all-new Q45, deserving of the name, and as far ahead of the Germans now as the original one was in 1990! A snub-nosed supersedan with an all-conquering powertrain and a timber-free interior! Just build the great car and watch the greatness return!

In this case, I won’t even bother. You see, people used to care about Lincoln. To some degree, they still do. But nobody ever cared about Infiniti. The G37 would be more popular with a Nissan Skyline badge. The rest of the stuff would be more popular in a landfill. This is what you do. Close the dealers, repurpose the factories, give it up. You’ll never beat Lexus at the game of being Lexus, and you’ll never beat BMW at the game of copiously defecating all over BMW’s legacy while simultaneously blowing 100,000-plus lease-deal angel-eye crapwagons out the door. Admit defeat and walk away.

Before you turn out the lights, however, I want a few minutes alone with an original 1990 Q45. Triple black, if you can manage it. If you have one in the archives. I want to open the door with that gorgeous big chrome pull-handle that looked so perfect but froze solid in the winters. I want to sit in the tailored interior that didn’t have wood or a Nakamichi logo screen-printed in tacky-ass gold letters on the console. I want to hear the big V-8 roar. I want a few minutes to show my respect to the product. We always say “May the best man win,” and when we say that, we acknowledge that plenty of times, the best man doesn’t win, he falls, he fails, he fades from history.

Good-bye, Infiniti Q45. You didn’t suck.

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101 Comments on “Avoidable Contact: Infinity Jest....”


  • avatar
    crtfour

    Excellent article. I agree….the whole automotive naming thing has gotten rediculous.

    On a better note, I used to have a ’90 Q45 and I agree it was an awesome car. I still remember the thrust and growl of that V8 when punching the throttle.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    I enjoyed the post. Very well written.

    I like the look and driving of the G and M. No love for the swoopy M?

  • avatar
    Signal11

    I know the shape is polarizing but when you spend some time in the QX56 versus its competition, the QX is the best of the full sized luxury SUVs. Compared to the Escalade EXT, the QX56 is by far a better vehicle.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Funny, theater-like slow dimming dome light and Bose stereo was also my 1990 Maxima SE’s selling point. So that must be what Nissan equates with luxury. Though regretfully it does not come with a V8. I had the chance to experience a Q45, and the noise its engine make as it push me into the seat back was quite magical indeed.

    So, yes, Infiniti had the magic back then. Too bad they lost it. I think it was Nissan’s near bankruptcy that did it in, all of its product then replaced by a gussied-up Nissan, just like Lincoln today. Surely a recipe for success in the luxury goods market, NOT!

    Hopefully the company can recapture its magic again.

    • 0 avatar

      Let’s see: Acura has no intentions of doing anything remotely noteworthy, Infiniti seems to be having a nomenclature-related stroke, and Lexus has lost its everloving mind with this latest bout of styling. The Japanese luxury brands are decidedly at a low point. Now that Acura has ruined the MDX for 2014, the ONLY new Japanese luxury car I’d buy is the new GS, preferably with the F-Sport package…

      But yes, I hope Infiniti can get its head on straight before it goes the way of the dodo.

      • 0 avatar
        Tosh

        But, just imagine if Acura stuck the awesome Honda diesel in the TSX wagon, plus a stick-shift? Drooool….

      • 0 avatar
        markholli

        I went to the local auto show a few days ago: a sort of dealer-sponsored extended showroom where people pay to slam the doors and sit in the seats of the latest cars and trucks. It was interesting to see people yawn and walk past the Acura exhibit.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    The 2002-04 M45 deserves mention. Power and styling befitting a true “Japanese muscle car”. Interior leaves a little to be desired, but the bold exterior design is right up there with the original Q.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Indeed, a modern incarnation of a late sixties muscle car sedan in my eyes. I loved seeing those things in taxi livery in Tokyo but never managed to hire one.

    • 0 avatar
      Austin Greene

      I wanted to like the M45. V8 power and RWD were just my ticket back in the day.

      But I couldn’t get my 5’10″ body inside with banging my head on the headliner. So I asked the dealer’s son if they could get one without a sun roof. Not available I was told, so I drove the 30 minutes home and never came back.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    It’s true, I used to like Infiniti a lot more. My favorite was the ’02-’04 M45, talk about abscure, the Japanese Crown Vic. When I worked for Nissan near this time, I had a chance to drive a few and really really liked them.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    I’m a current V36 G35 owner and admitted Nissan fanboi (well, a little old for fanboi, more of a palm-frond waving enuch) and I HATE this. I never cared for the brand until the G35 debuted back in 2003, which represented a Japanese take on the 3-series that promised RWD excitement, reliability, and relative affordability. They could keep the luxury aspirations for all I care, shelve the chrome, and call it a Maxima. But give the people what they want — “luxury,” fine. Great product. Despite an uglification in 2007 — 306 HP, RWD, available 6MT, dead reliable, starts at 31K. GREAT PRODUCT. Ten good years of brand (model) equity out the window. Oh, and the price is already up 20% in the past five years. Let’s see what they try to get for the “Q50″. I can’t see “Q” without hearing that british jackass with the giant forehead that used to bark for the Q45. It’s just too oddball for a sport sedan.

    What’s wrong with Skyline? Skyline is a great name. It’s positive, it’s aspiration, it’s urban or not, it’s vast, it’s technology, it’s speed. The only thing wrong with “Skyline” is the associated “mods” your cars likely sports if it’s currently so badged and plying the U.S. highways. As an OEM effort, this is a great name and a great name is what Infiiniti needs. What we don’t need is to learn another alphanumeric hierarchy of silver luxury cars.

    Can’t we use the power of the internet to stop this? THE POWER OF THE INTERNET?!

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Lucky we are that Jack is our very own Tom Wolfe.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Funny, because to me, the original Q was absolutely the Japanese Oldsmobile in the finest sense of the term – restrained, powerful, commanding, opulence without ostentation, and technologically advanced, much in the same vein as the Toronado or Aurora would be. Plus, it shared lines with final Eighty-Eight, which is itself an elegant sedan.

    Ironic, too, that the QX56 is now simply a rebadged flagship Patrol.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Mrs. W. has an ’07 Infiniti FX, purchased new. She loves it to pieces. One of the neighbors is crazy about it. He looked at the current FX. The styling is too cartoonish for his taste. He bought a Lexus RX.

    • 0 avatar

      My neighbor has an ’06 FX35. She’d purchased a blue one–new–and some irresponsible driver totaled it. She loved it so much that she went and got an identical one in black. The sweet spot for the FX was the ’06-’08 time period, as those models were produced after the car had been facelifted and given the nicer interior and tasteful chrome bits, but before it was redesigned for ’09. I can see how the (first-gen) FX took its cues from that ’02-’04 Q45

      • 0 avatar
        vent-L-8

        Purchased a new FX in 2003, now 10 years on I replaced a wheel sensor … and that’s it. Just put a bunch of money into preventative maintenance but then again its been paid for 7 years now. It took me a while to warm to the looks when I first saw it (looked like a hot wheels toy) although it doesn’t stand out these days as much. (Twenty inch wheels? crazy). I agree with your 06-08 sweet spot assessment, they improved the interior (same with the G series). All in all I took a risk on a car laden with technology a decade ago (backup camera, radar cruise control, GPS map, proximity key) and it has been a great car. No one ever believes me, but one day I’ll park her next to a Citroen DS21, and you will see how similar the lines are.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Submitted for Jack’s viewing pleasure http://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-capsule-2003-infiniti-m45-the-closest-thing-to-an-american-style-v8-four-door-hardtop-in-a-long-time/ the conclusion was reached that a 2003 M45 looks a lot like a 22nd century interpretation of a Pontiac Catalina. (To my eyes anyway.)

    And to recap for everyone, Jack encourages all car makers to build the best damn vehicles you can that fit your brand image. (Why executives can’t think of that I have NO idea.)

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I noticed my first Nissan President in 1999 when I first moved to Japan to teach English. I spent my first few weeks in-country as a pedestrian and had to walk by the city hall on my way to work every morning. The mayor’s car was a immaculately kept black President with sheer white curtains in the back windows and lace doilies over the seat tops. I had never seen anything like it.

    About the only comparable car on the road was the Toyota Century, and with styling cribbed from a 1960s Chrysler the Century was clearly a product of the past while the President was a product of the future.

    To be honest, the Infinity Q45 didn’t even show up on my radar when it was sold in the States. It was priced clean out of my ball park and the styling WAS odd. But like a lot of classic cars, there is something about it that grows on you. Today I think they are stunning examples of a better time. Too bad we can’t go back.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    I know of at least one first gen Q45 that’s rotting away quietly on a private lot in Brookline, MA. Every time I see it, I have a sad. :(

  • avatar
    Feds

    Thou shalt not speak ill of the R50 Pathfinder/QX4. Best car I ever owned.

    Sure, it suffered from death wobble until I replaced the rear control arms, and yes, the 3.0 had the unenviable combination of minimal thrust and immense thirst, and of course it was neither very comfortable nor very capable, however…

    One day driving home from work I rounded a corner and was greeted by a loud bang. I stopped the car, noted that all 4 wheels were still attached and pointed in generally the right direction, and that no large carcasses were spilling blood onto the roadway around me. Satisfied, I continued home.

    Arriving home I lifted the hood and immediately noticed the large empty space at the bottom of the strut tower. Seems the strut tower had separated from the frame rail, leaving enough room to pass a loaf of bread through. The Googles told me there was a recall for this very issue. 5 minutes at the dealership and they had rented me a car (which I kept for 2 months) and sent me on my way with the promise of a buy out. The car that I had paid $3,000 for in 2008 was bought back for $5,500 in 2011. I rolled that money into the Delica, and have been laughing ever since.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Completely agree. My R50 (in Nissan trim) was bought new and went 140k miles with only routine maintenance, and was tighter than most new cars when I traded it in due to boredom and a rough ride. In hindsight, I should have kept it.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “Chinese-sewn Kenneth Cole white-trash square-toe monstrosities”

    Thank God. I thought I was the only unhip fool around who thinks these looks hideous.

  • avatar
    jco

    i recently came upon an accident scene at a suburban intersection. an otherwise very clean and original Q45 (noticeable in this cold and rusty place) had crashed into the bumper of an F150. one less Q45.

    also recently was cruising behind a very very clean, dark blue G20. again, noticeable because nothing lasts around here. have not seen one in a while. a sharp looking small car.

    for better or worse, Lexus seems to have found their direction. the cars don’t look like German sedans anymore, and the sharp lines are a contrast to all this other garish curvy styling that seems dated already. why do the new Infinitis look like Korean cars?

    they managed to make the idea of Japanese RWD luxury unappealing. but then, it isn’t just infiniti. Nissan’s styling direction in general seems to be garish and overdone, just because. i don’t get it. where did the simple yet sophisticated Japanese minimalism go? can we have it back?

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I had a J 30 (used ) and it was a great car, kind of like a saab that worked all the time, small backseat but I did not sit back there so I did not care, put about 80 K on it and than sold it, never had a problem with it just regular maintenance
    did not see very many of them on the street and that suited me just fine. great interior and stereo, car was class, and a great used car buy , much like saabs. I hope they find their way again.

    • 0 avatar
      Austin Greene

      In 1994 I worked with a very distinguished gentleman who had retired years earlier but had been brought back by the enterprise’s new president as a $1 a year man.

      (I was the one responsible for generating his $1 pay cheque. You have no idea how hard that is to do…)

      Anyways this fine gentleman drove a j30. I asked him how he liked it and he told me that it was the best car he ever owned (in his long and privileged life).

  • avatar
    Times58

    Nonsense. I choose to read this forum not for the pretentious and sophomoric judgements on fashion and personal taste of others, but for automotive content. I also was an Infiniti salesperson many years ago. Believe it or not, they are moving in the right direction. I must say that I have a very soft spot for Infiniti. I am also willing to offer honest criticism about their products. It is time for Infiniti to abandon the past, because it has not served them well. The first generation Q45 and the J30 were interesting cars with character, but were truthfully not very good. The Q45 was a pretty and distinctive car, but it drove like an oversized Maxima, at twice the price. It was sort of a Japanese built Jaguar XJ40 series; distinctive and attractive, but flawed and not in the same league engineering wise as a W126 Mercedes or an E32 BMW of the same era. The LS400 was a masterpiece of design and quality engineering. (Although it would pain me to admit that at the time.) The J30 was elegant, undersized, cramped, overpriced, and impossible to drive in snowy or wet road conditions. Both cars also had the propensity (at least in the frosty Northeast) to decompose after a few short years in the salt belt. (Never mind the QX4 or I30, which created a great deal of warranty claims devoted to that subject.) Can you believe that the first generation G35 had a manual hood prop straight out of a 1982 Stanza? I was shocked at the price that they charged for a car that mechanically was outclassed by a Subaru Legacy, let alone an Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Volvo. Although I may have criticized its shortcomings, it was a huge success because it gave customers what they wanted. That is the whole point of any brand. Period. Although the “Q” and “QX” nomenclature are vaguely familiar to some, they are unknown to most people. The fact is most people are not concerned by the names of the Infiniti products, but simply how good they are. The M37/M56 are very nice cars, which could actually serve as proper flagship sedans, if they had the design and increased content (long wheelbase asian market option) available to them. The need for a true Q45 replacement answers a question that nobody is asking. The QX56 is successful (and always was very successful at the dealership that I had worked for) because it does exactly what the buyers want it do do. It is a brash, overbearing, capable, luxurious and distinctive vehicle. Regardless of personal preferences, it should be groomed into the true flagship for the brand. My marketing degree antenna popped up at the notion of this new naming policy, and I believe that it actually makes sense. First of all, from a trademarking standpoint it simplifies options for securing the rights to new names. Although it is confusing for some, Infiniti has always had a confusing and diverse line up anyway. Rebranding can be a successful way for a product line to move forward. In 1994, Mercedes Benz chose to rebrand their lineup, and Audi started the process in North America in the 1995 model year. The diversity of their respective model lineups completely transitioned both brands in the current marketplace. I think it is time for Infiniti to move on, in order to survive.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Whats funny is that Modern Lexus models still use the cheap plastic door mechanism parts that you can find on Tercels, according to the Toyota dealer who sold me a few parts.

  • avatar

    When I became obsessed with having a 1990s Japanese luxury car as my daily driver, I tried and tried and tried to find a proper (i.e., grille-less) Q45 in nice shape. This proved to be impossible, as every single one of these cars now rolls on at least one space-saver spare, sports a complete thrift store’s worth of bodily-fluids-soaked cloth items stacked in the back seat, and has (expired) out-of-state temporary registration tags in the back window. We won’t discuss the Acura Legend.

    So, I bought a ’97 LS400. It is to German luxury of its era as Hitachi SU carbs were to British SUs: a copy, but one that works way better than the original. The build quality on this car is so good that it makes anything I will ever accomplish seem like nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Gordon

      “So, I bought a ’97 LS400. It is to German luxury of its era as Hitachi SU carbs were to British SUs: a copy, but one that works way better than the original.”

      Hitachi flat-tops are awful, I’m not quite sure where you get the notion that they are better than SUs.

    • 0 avatar
      jco

      the 1UZ v8 will probably remain one of THE best motors that Toyota has ever made.

  • avatar
    ffdr4

    I own an Infiniti J30t with HICAS (bought from an Infiniti dealer in the late 90′s). It’s no longer a daily driver, but a summer car. To this day, I am impressed at the over engineering and quality of this car. everything still works and looks like new. Although, by today’s standards it is no longer quick, it can still give newer German sedans a good scare on twisty roads (The HICAS is the definition of handling “on rails”). Since rust has killed so many of these cars and its been years since, I’ve seen another one on the road (in any condition), this car has become a head turner. Infiniti use to have incredible customer service, in the early 2000′s with the introduction of the G35 and later the FX, new found success and new customers, customer service(they took us older customer for granted- a lot of us went elsewhere for our next car), attractive futuristic design language and the quality of the cars all went downhill.

  • avatar

    Thanks for mentioning the G20 Jack. It didn’t suck either.
    Good piece of writing, again.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    There is so much “win” in this article that I just randomly threw a dart at it and excerpted this line, as just one example of its winning ways:

    “…you’ll never beat BMW at the game of copiously defecating all over BMW’s legacy while simultaneously blowing 100,000-plus lease-deal angel-eye crapwagons out the door. Admit defeat and walk away.”

    Damnit, Jack, such precise truthiness is a gift to be cherished.

    This op/ed-history lesson is no “[t]he watery Big Bang, the 32-step power steering fluid check, disposable faux-ury,”* but then again, so very few op/ed-history lessons before or since are.

    It’s still triple AAA & your 2013 is off to a glorious start.

    Release the Kraken and the 3600 lbs, 4 cylinder eco-boosted auto stop-start, “we’re #1 in highway fuel economy” 3 Series!!!

    *If you haven’t read Jack’s “[t]he watery Big Bang, the 32-step power steering fluid check, disposable faux-ury,” here is the link:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/avoidable-contact-the-watery-big-bang-the-32-step-power-steering-fluid-check-disposable-faux-ury/

  • avatar
    kmoney

    I don’t know if it died in 1996. At least in Canada, we got the q45 until the early 2000s. There are several third generation (f50) cars still rolling around my neighborhood and they come up on craigslist every so often. Never see second gens though and the first generations are getting much rarer.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The adoration thrown at the M & J 30 are what did it for me. M30? Sleek????????? GIS the interior. It made the ES250 look like… well… a Lexus LS… from 2010. J30 was cramped, heavy, slow, and rendered visually useless by the same year Altima. The 4×114.3 wheels even swapped over. G20 is what the Altima should have been. 1st gen Q45 is good money, but it, the G35, and the VLSD manual transmission in the I30 are the only things its really brought to the table in its 20+ years of existence. Lexus has brought way more to the table… LS, SC, GS, RX, ES, Infiniti doesn’t have an answer to any of these.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Shame they are ditching the G series, the 35 and 37 names actually made sense and, as mentioned, where really good cars. Finally we could get the “Skyline” in the US. Came close to getting a G35 (brother had one as lease) but realized I’ll never use the rear seats and prefer hatchbacks… so I just got a Z instead.

  • avatar
    JGlanton

    it “looked weird”.
    ——————-

    That’s how I felt about the looks of all of the Infiniti’s at the time. I always felt that Nissan was trying so hard to be different that they crossed over in to fugly territory. I wanted to like some of the Infiniti’s for their performance and tech specs, but could never get past the “polarizing” looks. I wasn’t interested in the bland looks of Lexus, either.

    Appearances got better in the current generation and I decided to take a test drive in a G37. I was seeing the coupe everywhere, seemed very popular with the younger execs and salesmen so I thought I’d go see what the attraction was. I was looking for something sporty. This was the first test drive in my life that I cut short and rushed to get back to the dealership. I could not get out of that car fast enough. It was buzzy, busy, and cramped. The salesman told me to drive it faster to check out the great performance but it only got more buzzy and sounded like a sewing machine. When I got back in my 4-cyl Subaru and started to drive off, I breathed an audible sigh of relief and realized how much better I liked it. Ended up buying a BMW later.

  • avatar
    James2

    Beautifully written. I too tried to get my parents to look in the direction of the G20 but, guess what, they could not resist the Lexus ES.

  • avatar

    Your last chance at a Q45 (using the old and more-logical nomenclature) was immediately before Infiniti retired the 4.5L V8 engine as the M was redesigned for 2011. The closest thing now is the 5.0L engine available in the FX, so your dream car would have to be called the Q50, which leaves us…right back where we started…

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I remember one car reviewer characterized the G20 as “having the voice of Ethel Merman,” which wasn’t far off the mark, in my experience. Given people’s expectations of a car’s acceleration capabilities at the time it was launched, the G20 wasn’t that slow. Apart from the coarse engine, it was a very pleasant car to drive, roomy enough and stone reliable.

    The J30 I never understood. It looked like a copy of a Jaguar saloon from the 1950s . . . or a slightly smaller Hudson Hornet. When I drove the car, it felt . . . ponderous. And, IIRC, had a big thirst for fuel.

    As did the Q45 (first gen), but at least it was stinkin’ fast and made the right noises getting there. I was surprised to see “Times 58″ slam the car’s reliability. I had understood that it was pretty good, although not as good as the LS 400.

    The bottom line, however, is that the LS400 fulfilled its mission: it was a luxury car that drove luxuriously and, unlike similar cars from Germany the U.K., was stone reliable. It also was comparatively inexpensive.

    The Q45 did not fulfill its mission: luxury car buyers are conservative in their taste . . . and the Q45 was “different.”

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Yep, this one goes in the “Best Baruths Ever” file. Sigh, Infiniti, you treated the original Q so badly (in North America). The only car you gave some respect to is the G35/37 and now you want to go all Lincoln and change its name to Q-some-number-or-another. And look where you are now, Lexus eats your lunch and is even showing more soul than you.

  • avatar
    Styles79

    Just a minor correction Jack (and yes, I am nit-picking), the Q45 was produced and sold as Q45 in Japan (under the Infiniti brand too) and used the model code G50, the same as the US. It was produced between October 89 and August 97 inclusive.

    The President was it’s own model from 1965 (models 150 and 250) through until 1990, when it was replaced by the JHG50 model, essentially a higher-spec Q45, available in short- or long-wheelbase specification.

    So to say ” In Japan, the Q45 was simply the current generation of the Nissan President.” isn’t really correct.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The whole relationship thing btwn the President, Cima and Q45 can be a bit tricky.

      The Q45 was also launched in Australia in 1991 as a standalone Infiniti (which promptly failed).

      And I think the Q45 in Japan was technically listed as the Nissan Infiniti Q45.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I read this then fumbled around for a cigarette. I realized I’ve never smoked.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I predict Infiniti’s demise based on the fact that is now launching in Australia. This shows the desperation of a decrepit, old performer. We typically get tours by has-beens such as Neil Diamond or Status Quo. We even had the recent launch of the almost catatonic Opel. We never had either of these brands in Oz. The cars sold as Nissans or Holdens. The end is nigh. Remember for 2113 these words of local GM Snell.
    “Snell acknowledges that it may take up to 10 years to establish the brand in Australia, and that the first attempt with the Q45 full-size sedan between 1993 and 1998 was unsuccessful.”

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      The notion of throwing in the towel on the brand and just expanding the Nissan lineup is interesting. Granted, they had 22% growth in 2012 and I can’t even imagine what a PITA that would be on the dealership side. But those realities aside, even Acura’s heinously ugly lineup easily outsells Infiniti and had stronger growth to boot. Lexus sells 2 vehicles for every Infiniti. I’d love to see detailed revenue/margin details for the Nissan and Infiniti lines. Granted none of that may be apples to apples depending on what markets those 3 compete in, but I don’t care enough to research that at the moment.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      What’s that about “a decrepit, old performer”? Doesn’t the never-been aussie Mark Webber drive an Infiniti badged car? That should help, right?

  • avatar
    Spartan

    What they should hav done is just drop the numbers after the letter and been done. Acura did this with their 2.5 / 3.2 TL and 3.5 RL. The TL and RL have been around since 1996 and we all know what it is.

    Infiniti G
    Infiniti EX
    Infiniti FX
    Infiniti QX
    Infiniti M

    That would have been a lot better of an idea than throwing all your brand equity out the window for the sake of making everyone know which model is BETTER than the other. What makes a coupe better than the Sedan? For what it’s worth, the Infiniti G sedan has always been faster than the coupe because it’s lighter.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      Exactly. All of their equity is built up into a few models (G/M/FX, order of the last two may be debatable…women love the FX). Erasing those doesn’t magically transform that model equity into brand equity. It still solves their whole engine displacement naming conundrum and doesn’t diminish the perceived consumer value that the models have built up over the years.

    • 0 avatar

      Right. And to indicate engine displacements as trim levels, as every luxury automaker is wont to do, Infiniti could just slap a 5.0L logo or something like that on the deckid, or maybe on the door panels, as BMW does…

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Dropping the numeric from the alphanumeric designation would solve their model depth issue but not their model width issue, in that they would be limited to their seven model lines (you forgot JX and Q). What would they call their four door coupe and their supercar? I don’t agree that they need to expand their lineup when so many existing models are not competitive, but I understand their reasoning. Well, except for the part where everything becomes a Q and QX. F and FX would have been much sexier if you felt the need to do this.

      Infiniti’s new president explains their reasoning for the nomenclature shift in an interview somewhere.

  • avatar
    MR2turbo4evr

    Jack, can you please confirm that this is the interior which all the fuss is about: http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/1331/521/3325260002_large.jpg (I googled 1994 Q45 interior).
    Yes, I’m biased, but to me that interior looks second rate even compared to an ES, never mind the LS. Regular gauges (compared to optitron), basic steering wheel, lots of plastic…..I really don’t get it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I like the President shown above, although the front end strangely resembles an ’89 E-body Cadillac (in that picture at least). Why is it they aren’t selling THAT car in North America and instead sell, um junk.

    Tisk tisk heed the words said here today Mr Ghosn, The Baruth is wise.

  • avatar
    markholli

    Tell us how you really feel, Jack!

    Brilliant piece, although I think you’re flat wrong about the original LS400. Helluva car.

    Also thank you for finally putting to words the enmity I feel toward the QX56:

    “…the QX56, a vehicle so unspeakably crass it depresses the space-time curve around it for kilometers and causes cordovan Alden penny loafers to spontaneously evolve into Chinese-sewn Kenneth Cole white-trash square-toe monstrosities as all notions of human decency are shattered beyond hope or recognition in its lumbering, cetacean wake.”

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I agree about the LS400. I think it essentially out-luxuried the Mercedes S Class of the time, while being about 880% more reliable, and 1/3 the price (even optioned “out”).

      I never thought that Toyota resorted to the bin parts in putting the LS400′s interior together, and thought I remembered that there was nothing shared between the LS400 and mere “Toyotas” (but could be wrong, as always).

    • 0 avatar

      Why have enmity toward a car? What did it do to you?

      • 0 avatar
        markholli

        en·mi·ty
        /ˈenmitē/

        Noun
        The state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.

        Synonyms
        hostility – animosity – antagonism – hatred – feud

  • avatar
    redav

    I remember the first commercials for Infiniti. They were stupid–especially the one for the clock. They were so bad a comic of the time ran a whole week’s worth of strips mocking it–the Absurditi, which was a house plant, IIRC: “The car is one. The plant is one. 1 = 1. The plant is the car!”

    To this day, I’ve never been able to look at an Infiniti seriously.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Infiniti? 4Q!

  • avatar
    tenperct

    In 2010, My wife and I looked at the G37 and the CTS. Both cars were impressive, the Caddy just seamed to be tighter, the infiniti just seamed to be an enhanced Nissan. Bought the Caddy, it now has over 100k on it without any problems, great car!

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “The Q45 — that gorgeous, machined-billet, time-shifting, four-cam masterpiece”

    Machine-billet – really? I doubt it to tell you the truth. Why do you think that such a production method would constitute a ‘master piece’.

  • avatar
    JSF22

    Great analysis. You surely are right on the original Q45 versus the original LS. A lot of people blamed it on the “rocks and trees” campaign, and that might have been part of it, but this is by no means the only time we have seen the more average product best the more imaginative product. I would only add that Toyota did a better job selecting dealers to ensure top customer treatment and reduce variability. This helped them clinch sales with customers trying a new brand, and they were so terrific that they kept the customers and kept growing through reputation.

    I will only take small issue with your comments about the QX4. Yes, it was just a badge, leather, and cladding job to gussy up a Pathfinder. But the added amenities were great, if you chose the right dealer. I leased a QX4 in 2001 (yes, it should have been called the Q399) and it withstood three years of abuse by one wife, two kids, and two dogs. The only things it needed besides scheduled maintenance were a new power antenna (was driven through car wash with radio on) and repainted lower cladding (stone bruise from being driven at a high rate of speed on a gravel road). Infiniti repaired both under warranty with no questions asked, and picked up and delivered the car. Sort of proves the Lexus point, I guess: great experience trumps product if you’re not a driving enthusiast, and my wife still remembers the QX4 as the best car she ever had. But, she wouldn’t be caught dead in today’s QX, for reasons you point out.

  • avatar
    Ihateusernames

    Fun Fact:

    Due to the state of abs programming at the time, and the excellent low rpm torque of the engine, under light snow conditions the rear wheels would spin of their own accord at idle while braked for a stoplight.

    Since experiencing that while a child, I have come to think of the Q45 power as a benchmark for sufficient.

    I wasn’t driving, and I am sure if the driver stomped on the pedal hard enough it could be prevented, but as a kid in the back seat, I thought it was awesome when the back end was wiggling back and forth at the light with no throttle input.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The Lexus didn’t just win because it looked like the front of a W126 welded to the back of an E32 while the Q45 looked like a Taurus knockoff with tacky chrome football medallions for door handles. It didn’t just win because it was advertised in a way that made sense to shoppers. It didn’t just win because Toyota had a million happy customers in their peak earning years while Datsun had aging underachievers that had been hoodwinked into thinking that all Japanese cars were the same. It was all these things plus the first genuine luxury dealership experience and unprecedented JD Power scores for the most complex cars on the market. They didn’t just run with 560SELs and 735is. They ran with 750iLs while carrying features unimagined by the spartan Germans or the kludging British. The Q45 was as fast, but it wasn’t reliable and it looked like a $15,000 car. Its interior was a sea of plastic while the Lexus had real wood, leather, and electroluminescent gauges. The only thing phony about the Lexus was its price. Almost nobody got one for under $40K, and the MSRP soon matched transaction prices of over $50K.

    Mind you I had an SC400 company car in the mid ’90s, and I hated it. That doesn’t mean that Lexus didn’t positively bitch-slap everyone else in the sector, confusing the Germans to this day and making jokes of the US chintz merchants.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I bought one of the first 1992 LS400 to hit the dealership. They were heavily discounted. I got one that stickered for $48K for $40 K. Many were sold for $35K with lesser equipment. I was thrilled to trade my MBZ for a V8 sedan which cost less than the Mercedes E six cylinder. I distinctly remember that the Lexus dealer had more used MBZs on its lot than the local Mercedes dealership. What few issues I had with the car were resolved promptly and courtesly by Lexus.
    The MBZ dealer had never fixed anything right the first time, charged a fortune and had an attitude of condescension.
    Was the LS 400 reliable, comfortable and boring….yes. We went from a two Mercedes family to a two Lexus family. No trees and rocks for me….just show me the car. Rocket ship like performance is overrated in the bumper to bumper traffic of Los Angeles. The Lexus combo of style, luxury, reliability and enough performance is fine for me. I’m on my fifth Lexus.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Oh damn my Lex has the screen printed gold Nak logo on the wood. It sounds pretty good for 2001, like a true audio guy tuned it with a flat EQ throughout the volume range, and the amp weighs a ton something good is going on in there. Oh and that logo is printed on wood, actual bird’s eye maple.

    I don’t think the Q45 is as honestly good a car as you remember, and the LS400 was more the real deal than you like to think it was…crapping on Toyota is the new car guy sport don’t you know.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    “Everything about the LS400 was fake. Everything about the Q45 was real”

    Yes, the ugliness of the Q45 was real. The cheapness of the Q45 was very real. The failure that was the Q45 was all too real.

    The LS continues its steriling legacy to this day, and Lexus continues to see great success as a tier 1 luxury brand that is expanding globally. Infiniti, meanwhile, can’t decide what to name their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Not everyone agrees that Lexus is tier 1, though everyone agrees that Infiniti and Acura aren’t.

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      I disagree with 84Cressida. We have owned three Q45′s, 91, 95, and 03. They all have been great cars. The 91 handled like a BMW but had typical Japanese reliability. The 95 was a little softer but was reliable and rattle free at 225,000 miles when we sold it. The current 03 has covered 170,000 miles and still has no squeeks, rattles or wind noise. I almost forgot…it has 340 hp too.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Lexus isn’t Tier outside the US and even in the US, it’s not Tier 1 (more like Tier 1.5).

      The bulk of Lexus sales are the cheaper FWD ES and RX and those sales have continued to rise in proportion to overall Lexus sales (and will only get even larger w/ the upcoming RAV-4 based CUV).

      Lexus still has to undercut the German flagships by a significant amount – anywhere from $10k to $20k for starting MSRPs.

      Akio Toyoda had to be talked out of killing the GS and Lexus still canceled the V8 GS.

      A Tier 1 auto brand does not contemplate killing off a model that is in the “meat” of the luxury market.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Who is tier 1 by your conception? The best selling BMW and Mercedes models worldwide are sub-Camcord in content, power, and comfort. Even in the US, their best sellers are compact lease fodder. What is a real luxury car, an ES350 or a 120d? It is to laugh.

  • avatar

    Bravo. Nice to see someone else who appreciates the G50. I owned one for two years, ditched it when the transmission and driveshaft started making ominous rumblings (while the motor was built impeccably well, save for some timing chain tensioner issues, the rest of the driveline was a time bomb as many high-mile owners have discovered). I was unfortunate in that the previous owner had tacked on fake wood veneer over the bare dash – I spent several sessions ripping it off, but I was NEVER able to remove all the godawful adhesive backing, which damaged the finish in some areas.

    Performance was great for a luxo barge you could nab for 2000-3000$. That engine was magnificent and sounded perfect. I had Tokico struts which contributed to tidy handling despite over 250 000 kms. The limited slip diff made it a hoot to drive in the winter.

    Fuel economy in the city was utterly horrifying though. I got between 8-12 mpg. Highway was 25 ish. I always cringed when I had to fill the 85 litre tank with premium. That and the repair bills started to catch up to me. I kept getting electrical gremlins in EFI system that would throw it into fail safe mode constantly. I dumped it for 1500$. Miss the model, but not that particular car. I’d love to own a cherry low-mile example again someday.

  • avatar
    Morea

    An appropriate Hamlet reference in the title.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The Q45 was sold through 2006.

  • avatar
    q451990

    “Before you turn out the lights, however, I want a few minutes alone with an original 1990 Q45. Triple black, if you can manage it. If you have one in the archives.”

    If you’re ever in SC and wanna buy me a beer, I have one you can see… of course I might not leave you alone with it! She just rolled over the 100K mark last summer – not bad for a 23 year old car! It’s not triple black – but has a black (all original and glossy)exterior with gray interior. I’m pretty sure it didn’t come with a black interior option in 1990.

    Anyhow, I’ve owned the same car since 1996 (this one is a twin of the first one) and I still love this car. It’s getting to the point that I’m afraid some nucklehead will t-bone me in an intersection so I don’t get her out of the garage much anymore, but give me this car over a soul-less Toyota any day!

    So Jack, who’s making the 1990 Q of 2013? I join in sometimes in the whole “they don’t make them like they used to” lament of many Nissan and Infiniti owners, but so far I’ve still been buying their stuff. The rest of my fleet is a 2004 Frontier and a 2005 G35 Sedan for the wife. Neither one matches Nissan’s quality of the early 90s, but I spent a few hours stuck in a Toyota showroom and their stuff felt even more decontented. I’ve rented a couple of Hyundai and fell out of love with whatever styling I liked on them when I pulled out of the parking lot within about 12 hours. There’s no way I’m buying anything out of Motown – so what’s left – Honda? I think we’re going to just have to hold on for the next automotive golden age and hope for the best.

  • avatar
    davew833

    I worked in the parts & service dept. of the local Infiniti dealership when I was in college from 1991-93. I don’t remember there ever being a black-on-black Q45. Perhaps the most striking color combination of the time that I remember was a burgundy red metallic with black and white leather interior. My manager often joked about the Q45 looking like a glorified Ford Taurus, but they were amazing to drive, especially since my personal ride at the time was an 80-hp mid-eighties Honda Accord. I thought the Q45 was the ultimate sleeper– nothing ostentatious about it in its natural form, except the weird “belt buckle” hood ornament (which I still have a few of). Unfortunately, our sales staff felt the need to “tart” them up with gold plated emblems, aftermarket wheels, chrome wheel arch “lips”, wood dash overlays, pinstripes, etc. It was my job to put most of that stuff on!

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I had a G37 for a few years. 6MT Coupe, black on black, all options. Helluva car, too. I just hate they threw that brand equity out the window for this “Q” business.

    They could have dropped the numbers after the lettering and been done.

    Infiniti G
    Infiniti EX
    Infiniti FX
    Infiniti JX
    Infiniti M
    Infiniti QX

    If they didn’t want to confuse people with engine displacement, just leave it as it was above. This new naming scheme is just terrible and they’ll pay for it dearly over the next xx number of years.


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