By on June 5, 2020

We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on Infiniti lately, primarily due to the grim announcement that the brand will become “Nissan-plus” in the coming years. While the brand produced a few bright spots like the G35 and FX over its 30-year history, most of its products were duds.

That got me thinking about one such dud product, and one that happened to appear for sale right as I was pondering. It’s the 1998 Q45, a disappointing flagship.

Infiniti launched its flagship Q45 at the same time as Lexus’ LS 400. But where Lexus spent years copying Mercedes-Benz ideas and creating a car designed to appeal specifically to the North American consumer, Infiniti took a different tack. It spent much, much less money, presenting a short-wheelbase version of its new Japanese market flagship, the President. The unconventional nature of the first-gen Q45 and its accompanying abstract marketing campaign didn’t go over well with American consumers. We won’t go into the first Q45 too far today, because it’s worth its own Rare Rides entry.

The President, as a traditional Japanese luxury sedan, enjoyed a very long model life. It remained in its basic 1990 guise until 2002, so in the mid-Nineties, when it was time for a new Q45, Infiniti had to reach lower. When the second-generation debuted in 1997, Infiniti clearly exercised much more caution, but still hadn’t spent a lot of money on its most expensive car.

The basis of the new ride was in Nissan’s Cedric/Gloria platform. Using the cheaper executive class car (instead of full-size), Nissan created a new sedan in Japan called the Cima, which was again very lightly reworked for North American duty as Q45. The car’s initial nomenclature reflected the large 4.5-liter V8 under hood. But naming remained unchanged for the second generation, even though displacement shrunk to 4.1 liters. Horsepower dropped from 276 to 266; 60 miles per hour arrived in 7.5 seconds.

All the expected luxury car trappings were present this time: copious ruched leather, wood trim, and a Bose sound system. A single CD was offered as standard, and optionally a multi-disc changer was installed in the trunk. Heated seats were also an optional extra. Focused on comfort (just like Lexus), Infiniti ditched the previous front multi-link suspension for struts, then made everything as soft as possible. Auto journos of the era took no pleasure in this Buick-like Q45, which disappointed after the taut, sporty-handling original Q45. But Infiniti stuck with its choice.

Changes over the years were mostly limited to a 1999 refresh. Changes included HiD lamps up front and smaller brake lamps at the back, which somehow made it look older than before. Optional throughout was a “t” sporty trim that added a spoiler and an optional adjustable suspension (standard on t from 1999).

The second-generation Q45 persisted through 2001, replaced by a new President-based Q45 in 2002. You’ll remember that one because it looked just like a large Altima. Perhaps a better description might be Nissan-plus?

Today’s 1998 Q45 is in spectacular condition in black and tan. With 57,000 miles, it’s about as new as they come and asks $8,950 on eBay.

[Images: seller]

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33 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Unfortunate 1998 Infiniti Q45...”

  • avatar

    I have to say it’s a handsome machine, perhaps they thought that was enough?

    • 0 avatar

      I like this Infiniti. I have unfortunate taste.

      • 0 avatar

        I guess I have unfortunate taste too because this looks good. Then again I recently started watching some of the original X-Files episodes and remarked about how good many of those cars from the 90s looked, with some exceptions obviously. It took me a long time to appreciate how well decent geometric designs age; contrast that with angry fish, homicidal Pokemon, and basking sharks that today’s cars mostly consist of. Finding a car that isn’t eye-searingly terrible is more of a challenge.

        Then again at one point I thought the circa 1994 Taurus was fairly attractive and almost bought a 1992 Crown Vic.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          A 1994 Taurus was an attractive car and still is. The 1992 Crown Victoria IS the best looking of the Panther based Crown Vics. They looked better without the grill.

          Incidentally, companies today that design cars without grills, but keep the lines and space where the grill should be should take a look at this era…this is how you do no grill.

  • avatar

    Japanese Crown Victoria…. Have they no shame?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      While you might view the Vikki and it’s Panther-platform brethren, the Grand Marquis and the Town Car, as failures, you couldn’t be more wrong.
      The Panther lasted over 30 years, and it was not just a taxicab/police cruiser. A great many of the civilian Panthers are still around today, racking up miles in Buick-like fashion. They are tough, comfortable, and bulletproof compared to any full-sized RWD car that doesn’t have a three-pointed star or a big L on it.
      I’m not a FoMoCo fan, but the Panther was a beast and deserves respect.

      • 0 avatar

        @Mike Beranek – I was joking that this car was a Panther clone. I’ve never viewed the Panther platform as a failure. It is actually an evolution of Ford’s 50’s and 60’s era Galaxie 500/XL/LTD platform. The frames are extremely similar. The body mounting to the frame is interchangeable in many cases. I’ve seen various 60’s era Galaxie’s that have had complete drive-line swaps from the Panther. Wheel bases are very close and an expert frame shop could trim the frame enough to turn the Panther into a bolt on application.

  • avatar

    The Primera (G20) was an excellent alternative to the GLI or base BMW of the era.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Nissan back then was like Mopar today…Just replace Hemi with SR20DE. Anything they shoved that in could be fun. G20 Touring got the SE-R set up with the limited slip and was fun in my experience.

      • 0 avatar

        Hi Art,
        The Japanese assembled P10 had a great suspension and excellent build quality to go with that sublime engine. Add in the superb level of content in the US G20 version it was a great car. Factor in the sleeper status? It was a great deal.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Agreed. I loved those. Not so rowdy as the SE-R, but definitely a more refined platform and much more friendly off the track. If you see one today though, it is usually an auto.

          • 0 avatar

            Haven’t seen one in years.
            I actually looked at the SER, the kicker was the dealers marking ’em up to the point that a fully loaded (Leather/Roof)manual G20 was only $1800 more after negotiating a deal at the Infiniti store for a 93.5.

            The added sweetener was the G20 insurance literally 25% of the insurance on the SER. Add in the warranty and the loaner cars? That G20 was a COAL.

  • avatar

    “You’ll remember that one because it looked just like a large Altima.”

    It wasn’t sexy but compared to today’s over-grilled offerings I don’t think it looks too bad.

    It also had a lot of motor. 340hp, 6800RPM redline, and 0-60 in about 5.7 with only 5 forward gears.

  • avatar

    Interior looks like a copy/paste from the same period Audi A8. That’s a compliment. This example looks pristine.

  • avatar

    And boom! It’s no longer available!

  • avatar

    This should’ve been the original Q45. It returned to the stately looks of where the ’87 Maxima left off.

    Infinity was already late to the game and stared off with alienating, squinty eyed, and grill-less Taurus looks.

    The LS 400 did look like an upscale (early ’80s) Cressida spin-off and nicely scooped up Toyota buyers with a thirst for a more luxury nameplate.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    One of the people in my neighborhood has this exact car in maroon and it still looks this good (had it for over 20 years). Nissan needs to go back to the quality that they had in 1998. This is still a beautiful car and it is timeless.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The Q45t or Touring edition with the larger wheels, ducktail rear spoiler and electronic adjustable suspension was the sportier version of this. What a RWD Cadillac DTS/STS could have been. Find one and you’ll be happy.

  • avatar

    Like all Nissans (and most Japanese cars) of its era, this car when compared to its predecessor was ferociously cost-cut.

    I particularly remember it because I looked it over at my local auto show, knowing its real wood had been cheapened to fake. I asked the Infiniti sales rep, a hotheaded young male, whether the wood was real. He lied that it was real, I called him out on his lie, and it took the old British(!) guy sharing the display with him to keep him from following through on taking a swing at me. Aaah, good times.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I wonder if it has side airbags. I didn’t notice unless there was some subtle tag or something on the side of the seat.

  • avatar

    That is one good lookin car.
    I bet it’s a road trip beast.

  • avatar

    I find it interesting that during this time (the 90s) that Nissan could get the Maxima so right, but neglected to do the same for it’s flagship :(

  • avatar

    Understated class, unlike many new vehicles. Very nice.

  • avatar

    This Q45 looks as if the styling themes of the Pontiac Catalina were carried through and continued to evolve from 1981 to the late 90s. Almost like an alternate timeline. (Just slap an arrowhead on that grille.)

    It is an alternate universe that I’d like to live in.

  • avatar

    I had an ’01 Q45t and loved it (black over black). It was a wonderful, high-speed, long-distance cruiser. Superbly comfortable and quiet. I only replaced the twin pipes with larger-diameter chrome pieces and put a JDM Cima grille on it (far more attractive, in my opinion). It was a replacement for my M-B 560SEL, when that car reached 366k miles (the absolutely best car I have ever owned). Both cars had +75k miles per year put on them, with hardly a problem (no mechanical problems at all with the Mercedes, and only one knock sensor and one O2 sensor replacement on the Infiniti).

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Ah, the Cima. Half-step between the upper management Cedric/Gloria and the keiretsu head/undersecretary President. Started out as a Buickish upsizing of the Cedric/Gloria in 1988, got a Jaguarish restyle in 1991, then this Celsior-aping body in 1996. All perfectly competent unpretentious chariots, but a poor match to the exhibitionist, post-Plaza Accord US market.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Oh, and this
    “Horsepower dropped from 276”
    is a bit of a fib. The VH45DE was rated at that level (supposedly by unplugging the cam phasers) but the true output was somewhere around 310 or so.

  • avatar

    Can’t say I even remember seeing one of these. A roaring sales success, then.

    The original 1990 Q45 was very nice to drive in a lumpen way. Had to be flogged a bit to get up and dance, otherwise it just did the standard Japanese murmur around thing and felt heavy. A 1990 S-Class was a much more Sacco-sane exterior yet austere looking thing inside, but felt alive and ready-to-go. Too bad they never did figure out how to properly fit the right rear door on any of them. And then the cost-cutting Benz era began, but after the initial success of the Toyota Overseas Aid Program to give the 1990 LS away to Camry V6 owners, sales of even that car have declined to virtually nothing these days. Look at the sad sack LS Mr Healey so deeply “reviews” today. The car and the review both phone-ins.

    As for this 1998 Q45, anonymous is thy name.

  • avatar

    While much has been made of the current state of Infiniti (much less Nissan), things were already bad for Infiniti/Nissan sedans when Nissan let Mitsu sell the Fuga and Cima, but rebadged as the Mitsu Proudia and Dignity in Japan from 2012-16.

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