By on December 8, 2020

In Part I of this two-parter, we discussed the birth of the Infiniti brand, and Nissan’s decision to reinvent the large luxury car with the Q45. Today we talk technology, advertising, and aftermath.

Infiniti continued its unconventional choices with Q45 into the ride and handling as well and aimed for maximum sportiness. It had fast steering, short lower gears for faster acceleration, and a big 4.5-liter V8 that managed 276 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque. A new engine, the VH45 was used exclusively in two cars, the President and the Q45. Class-leading at the time, the aluminum block engine had multi-port fuel injection, four valves per cylinder, and variable valve timing.

Q45 took its handling much more seriously than any of the competition. Nissan designed a new suspension for both trims above the base (the and a); multi-link all around with front and rear sway bars. There was even four-wheel steering and an active suspension on the Q45a. The suspension system used 10 sensors that controlled hydraulic actuators at each wheel. The benefits of the active suspension were a more balanced ride quality and greatly reduced body roll. The latter tech was on the Q45 about a decade before other manufacturers implemented such technology. There was also a limited-slip differential for good measure.

Unfortunately, Infiniti also took an unconventional approach to advertising and made the now-infamous decision to advertise the Q45 without showing the car. Take the ad above for example, where a man rambled about Infiniti’s qualities in an American Psycho sort of way, while viewers watched sunlight over waves. No Q45, no M30, but give them a call and they’ll sell you whatever.

While Q45’s performance-oriented nature and unique approach to car and commercial found favor with glossy car magazines, it simply did not work with consumers. Americans wanted a big grille, comfortable seats, wood, leather, and ads that showed them the physical product. That’ll be LS 400 then. Worth a mention is another issue in the early Q45: plastic timing change guides. Many Q45s were taken off the roads at low mileage when their timing chains went, which ruined the engines and consumer perception of a new brand.

Infiniti responded in 1993 with a refreshed Q45 which was softened considerably, had slower steering, and almost all the visuals Americans desired. The timing chain issue was fixed in 1993 as well, with the addition of metal timing chain guides.  But by then the Q45’s niche fate was sealed. Infiniti sapped the steering in 1995 to make it even slower and dropped the and trims for the first generation’s final year in 1996. You know the rest.

Today’s Rare Ride is available at an import dealer in Virginia. With 41,000 miles, it’s around the mileage where timing chain failures occurred. Maybe the chain was replaced preemptively. Take the risk for $10,972.

[Images: seller]

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22 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Original Infiniti, a Q45 From 1991 (Part II)...”

  • avatar

    I was an adult when this car came out. I think the advertising campaign killed them. The ads just had pictures of rocks and trees, no pictures of the car. The one person I knew who had a Q45 tepidly liked it. (I went for the LS400 and after a few weeks, found the suspension too soft, to the point of nausea. To Lexus’ credit, they swapped in some stiffer shocks at not cost, and it helped a lot.) I had not heard about the timing chain issues. If they had used a decent advertising campaign on their TV and print ads, I’d wager that a LOT more people would have bought one.

  • avatar

    It wasnt just the advertising that killed the 1st gen Q45 – it was also a Japanese design philosophy that didnt work for the American market. Note the distinct lack of cupholders. When questioned about this choice, Infiniti stated that eating and drinking in the car was not fashionable in Japan, so the design followed. The lack of a grille was also distinct for its time, and its a design feature I liked – but many felt that it made the car look cheap. Nonetheless, these were fun and a hoot to drive. Id consider restoring one as long as it didnt have the adaptive suspension.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    INFINITI lost the race for the large sedan almost as soon as it entered. From this Q45, to various other cars, to the Q70L that bit the dust a few years ago, INFINITI’s large sedans were uniquely cursed. A lot of it was down to marketing and design.

    As for this Q45, its Nissan President counterpart—which *did* always have a grille—looked remarkably similar to the contemporary Jaguar XJ40 at the front, and even from the sides.

    • 0 avatar

      Writing this, I was thinking how they should’ve either brought the standard President over with an Infiniti badge, and sold a big car of Mercedes SEL stature, OR made the shorter one but kept the traditional styling from the President.

      Both of those things would’ve sold better than the car as-is.

  • avatar

    Now do Mazda Millenia.

  • avatar

    Every now and then I see an Infiniti on the road and am reminded they still exist.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    What a beautiful car. I really liked the J30, too. These old Infiniti interiors are to die for.

  • avatar

    That profile is very Oldsmobile Regency 98, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

  • avatar

    That commercial is extremely effective – I just got up for a bathroom break *and* to refill my ice water.

  • avatar

    The history of the ad campaign is almost universally misunderstood. Toyota had invested several years and billions of dollars to revolutionize the luxury car category with the Lexus brand. They re-engineered everything from the feel of ashtray doors to the control of NVH to automotive metallurgy for the LS, imposed new controls on what dealers had to do to get a franchise, even built the first satellite network across the dealer body to ensure instant parts availability.

    Into this landscape strolled Nissan at the 11th hour, tossing together a counter-effort that would hopefully look to the public as if they’d expended 10% as much effort on it (Spoiler Alert: They hadn’t). They slapped the Infiniti badge on two existing home-market models, this being by far the better one. They had to sell it as a performance car by default because it couldn’t possibly compete with the expensively gained, sublimely unique isolation of the Lexus.

    And the “decision” not to show the car? They were running ads before they had one. The agency had no car to photograph.

    Bonus Fun Fact: When Nissan brought out the successful Xterra SUV a few years later with the slogan “Everything you need. Nothing you don’t,” they did have the car. It just didn’t run. So they briskly edited together a bunch of shots of the car standing still on a blank white soundstage. It was a harbinger of Rogues and Altimas with the grenading CVT, one could say.

  • avatar

    Imagine if it was Oldsmobile. Would Oldsmobile be still alive? I mean RWD American standard size sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Would have been interesting had Oldsmobile had a more clearly defined niche. I’m fairly young and could never quite figure out where Oldsmobile was in GM’s hierarchy.

      Chevrolet being the volume brand was always fairly obvious, with Pontiac theoretically carrying the banner of sportiness being somewhat clearish. Oldsmobile and Buick seemed to fill the same segments with largely similar cars, as was GM’s wont. Cadillac playing big cahoona was also clear. Had each had a more clearly defined gimmick, things might have been interesting.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    So that is why Infiniti only showed us pussy willows and nature, they didn’t have a car to sell. ” Big hat and no cattle.”

  • avatar

    I actually rode in one in early 2000s. It had 200K miles and still was going strong. Required injector replacement though. It was roomy, it was fast but trunk was not that big and rear bench did not fold. Utility was questionable. But it was what American sedan should like in 90s – minus fancy suspension and variable valve timing – just simple but modern engine – not that low rpm pushrods that GM and Ford were offering in 90s and poorly assembled bodies and interior.

  • avatar

    Its looks were s huge gamble. The mid/late ’80s Maxima, Cressida and 923 were very stately with prominent/strong facial features.

    Acura and Lexus wisely went with the traditional. So did Infiniti with the facelifted version, but it was too late. Infiniti had no brand cache to override its unfortunate looks.

  • avatar

    @Corey Lewis – can you do one on the Infiniti J30?

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