By on February 28, 2010

The gen 1 Infiniti Q45 (G50) deserves a full-on CC. But when I stumbled unto these two together in CA over the holidays, I realized how incredibly rare the gen2 Q45 (FY33) is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in Eugene. Well, it was a sales bomb, and from an enthusiast’s point of view, a well deserved one. The original Q45 (’90-’96) was such a remarkable beast, one of the best things to ever come along in its era. It had a killer motor, rated conservatively at 278 hp, which put the big German sedans to shame at the time. It had a fast steering ratio, and its suspension tuning was all about the right stuff. But except for the (limited) enthusiast crowd, it never broke through in sales like it Lexus LS 400 competitor. And then it went downhill.

The ’94 update put an affected little grille on its nose, and the steering ratio was slowed down, and suspension tuning headed towards softness. But it’s gen2 successor of ’97 (front) destroyed any equity the gen1 built up as a legitimate 7-Series competitor. Now it was almost a Lincolnesque Mercedes/LS 400 imitator, with a downsized engine and everything else softened up. A well deserved dud.

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21 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: Infinitis Unbounded...”

  • avatar

    The enthusiast market is tough to crack. According to the car rags the latest Infinitis are decent BMW competitors.

  • avatar

    Right out of the starting gate, the first Q was never quite as well sorted out as the Lexus LS, which was priced similarly. Magazine tests of the day mentioned a lack of drivetrain refinement when compared not only to the Lexus, but also to Benz and BMW competitors of similar size ad power (if not price). Infiniti seemed to fix some of these initial issues in the next couple of model years, but by then Lexus had developed a following.

    At about the same time that the second generation came out in 1997, Nissan was having cash flow problems that were probably the cause of yet another half-hearted effort. In this case, the Cima platform, along with moves to improve comfort, saddled the Q a very bland driving experience. For whatever reason the styling was not very popular; in fact, one of the major U.S. car magazines noted a strong resemblance to a 1970 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Not the sort of stuff that makes for a good automotive flagship.

    • 0 avatar

      This is largely what I remember. The LS was really class-leading in its day and for so much less than a Benz or BMW. Infinitis have never equalled Lexus build and quality, although the new M may finally close the gap. I sat in one and the interior is beautiful. Lexus, in fact, has suffered from Toyota’s cost cutting yielding the most unadorned plastic I’ve seen in years in the ES and GS.

  • avatar

    When Infiniti first started selling, the local dealership installed a large gray obelisk in the front at the street, as the only identifier. You couldn’t tell what it was. A smaller obelisk (think 2001) was set up in the dealership lobby–you were supposed to go before it and “contemplate” your prospective purchase. Very Zen-like, I guess. The idea of buying a car at a Japanese tea ceremony was really out of place with the usual dealer experience: giant inflato gorilla out front, balloons and hot dogs for the kids, air-raid spotlights criss-crossing the sky typical of an American dealership. Soon thereafter the dealership modified the outside obelisk to hold another sign that actually spelled out the name INFINITI. Not sure if they started selling hot dogs by the inside obelisk, but I do think I once saw an inflato gorilla out front.

    • 0 avatar

      When we got our G20 in the early 90’s, the sales folks were all still wearing the mandatory black turtleneck and sport jacket. Frankly, the buying experience exceeded my earlier Lexus (where salespeople still acted like they were selling low end Toyotas) and the car never went back to the dealer until the lease was up 3 years later. A car that was not really worthy of a premium name, but it was certainly trouble free.

    • 0 avatar

      For some reason, the Infiniti marque has never achieved the same cachet as the Lexus marque has. Maybe it’s the awkward name. For example, I have never heard of a stripper named “Infiniti.”

  • avatar

    The second generation Q used a 4.1L engine that had very little in common with the original VH45DE used in Gen 1. The VH45 was a one-off motor – used only in the President/Q45, and had a beefy bottom end with hand-finished con-rods, sodium filled valves up top, and lots of nice details throughout. It’s weakness was a tendency to eat the timing chain tensioners, which were plastic for some damn reason. Aside from that they have a good mechanical reputation. If you ignore the driveshafts that wear out at 100K and the grenading transmissions anyway.

    The timing chain problem was fixed in 96, right before they dropped the (expensive) VH45 for the (cheaper to build) 4.1L mill. The 4.1 also gives up a little HP and torque. Where the 4.5 was underrated, the 4.1 was noticeably weaker.

    These things get astonishingly bad fuel economy in the city. I’ve clocked mine at between 8 and 9.5 mpg on average. It gets around 27, imperial, on the highway.

    These things can hustle quite well, much like a W140 S-class, but minus the sense of bank-vault weight. I’ve got a 91 with a Tokico suspension. As ridiculous as that may sound, it actually works well, as long as you keep within the limits of the 15″ tyres.

    I like mine, but it’s a money pit, as most of these old luxo barges are. I’m going to be happy to get rid of it soon so I can get something that can hit double digit fuel economy.

  • avatar

    I watched the Motorweek review of early 90’s luxury sedans. The LS400 and Q45 had lots of body roll during the slalom test.

  • avatar

    My only memory of this car is that it seemed really cramped (in terms of headroom) versus the LS and the Europeans. It was a nice car, but it wasn’t very comfortable.

    I recall the G20 being roomier, at least in the front.

    Hey, any chance of a CC on the J30? I haven’t seen on of those in a while.

    • 0 avatar

      I have the misfortune of seeing a J30 on occasion whose owner’s commute apparently intersects mine. The J30 is without a doubt the ugliest most misshapen vehicle to ever meet mass production. It looks like a dog scooting its butt across the ground.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, the J30. My late sister had one as a new car back in the early ’90s.

      I had the occasion to use it occasionally when I’d fly home to visit my family…beautifully put together, wonderfully smooth drivetrain.

      But the exterior size of a Maxima combined with the interior size and trunk space of a Sentra. No, really…in fact, I think the interior may actually have been smaller than a Sentra’s. The IRS and fuel tank directly behind the back seat made the trunk oddly short fore-and-aft (not unlike some of today’s hybrid sedans), yet deep. We used to joke that it was perfect for a golf bag or groceries, but sucked for luggage.

      But to my 30-ish senses, it felt, drove and coddled like a dream.

    • 0 avatar

      Um, the G20 has no where near the headroom of the Q45 (FY33 at least)

    • 0 avatar

      J30 – my father bought one of the first ones delivered to dealers, black on black, a week before I turned 16 in April 1992 (and was forced to buy his “safe” Olds 98 Regency – but that’s for another story). That car was great – yes, it was small inside and smallish trunk (similar legroom / headroom to my later Sentra – really a 4 door coupe) but when the VG30DE shifted the cam/valve timing around 4000 RPM, it made beautiful music. The few times I was allowed to drive it in high school were memorable (especially with the garbage Dunlops that put the car sideways if you sneezed – and Dad got Infiniti to replace under warranty for free after 15k miles).

      He kept that car for 9+ years – only problems a jammed sunroof once and loose wire in the radio – until an idiot running a red light, slamming into a suburban that then careened into the front of Dad’s car (stopped at said red light on opposite side of the road) wasted it away. I guarantee he would still be driving it today were it not totaled. And as much as an improvement in many ways his G35 is over the J30, he liked the J30 much, much better.

      Love it or hate it, the J30 led a style revolution. Even today, a nearly 20 year old model looks quite modern.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Thank you, nullo! For many, many years I have been trying to figure out what that car reminded ME of. You hit it right on the head!!

  • avatar

    Vintage classics hidden and forgotten, consider the MB 300D’s 1990+. Not for the faint hearted or non DIY’s.

  • avatar

    It might have sold better if you could tell it from a Taurus from more than 30 feet away. It surely had some nice details when you got closer. I remember being somewhat interested in it, but I had a nearly new Legend, which I’m very glad I kept for years, then and now. There weren’t too many better entry-level luxury cars in the late 80s-early 90s.

    The only obscure Infiniti I’d be interested in these days is the original M45 (JDM Nissan Gloria Y34, I believe). Styling is understated to the point of being invisible. Looks almost … American.

  • avatar

    I was a test driver for Nissan during the development of the Q. By far the best Sedan I had driven up to that point, and I drove them all. They really screwed up the marketing though. The Lexus was a snore- fest comared to this and the only thing that came close was the 7, which at the time was woefully underpowered.

  • avatar

    The FY33’s are a money pit when they get up in miles. Most of them begin to suffer a “miss” throwing all sorts of codes. Usually knock sensors… injectors.. plugs… that aren’t always obvious to find. I’ve been battling with my mother in laws’ car…

  • avatar

    Wow, still looks great. My dad had a ’94 and that car was a panty dropper for me in high school. I wish he’d have given it to me instead of trading it in when he got a new one in 2002. Thanks for bringing back the memories of that car. Truly sharp and an amazing car to drive as a teenager. Thanks, Dad.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, closest I’ve come to a “panty dropper” was my F150 and I have a feeling that a TOTALLY different type of woman goes for the F150 over the Infiniti. Especially when the F150 is a no options model.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    One of the hardest thing is take a vehicle’s qualities in context of their time.

    When the Q45 was released, it retailed for $38,000.

    It was faster, more comfortable, and more sporty to drive than almost all of it’s competitors. The S-Class and LS had the comfort zone covered. But that was really about it.

    Where the Q45 lost… was in the interior feel. It had virtually none of the luxury affectations of the competition. Wood was non-existent. The dashboard and door panels seemed exceptionally cheap. The warthog front end badge was a really controversial piece and Infiniti’s advertising campaign didn’t define the Q’s role in the marketplace.

    About the only wonderful thing I can say about these models is that their engine was simply remarkable for the time. I’ve had three of them and they all had more oomph than any other luxury vehicle I’ve owned for that time period.

    The side and rear profile was also much nicer than the LS and in the right colors (silver and blackish) it definitely looked the part of a luxury car. It’s amazing overall when you consider that Nissan was really struggling to put all the pieces together while Toyota was becoming the Babe Ruth of the automotive world. The LS and Q symbolized the states of the two companies at that time like no other.

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