Not long ago, many were predicting the ugly demise of the Nissan Motor Company. A string of competent but boring products generated slow sales, as strangling debt grew. But in less than two short years, Nissan, with the help of new owner Renault, has turned on a franc and now faces a brighter future. Leading the charge back into the sunshine is luxury division Infiniti with a new high performance flagship, the 2002 Q45. But is a high dollar hot rod what Nissan needs for long term success?

Well, let’s put it this way: it never hurts to have an eye catching, well muscled luxury car in the line up. And for 2002, the third generation of Infiniti’s flagship Q45 sedan is all that and more.

The Q45’s more dominant new look features a large, low-slung titanium-tone grille that’s flanked by artistic Gatling-gun style headlamps. Their blue-cast, high-intensity light eliminates the need for fog lights. Body colored moldings and chrome accented door handles dress up the sides of the rakish profile, while the upswept rear houses equally prominent lamps at the corner’s peaks. Long front and rear overhangs make it clear this is a large car.

Our test Q with the optional sport suspension rode on 18 inch, 8-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in Z-rated rubber. Run-flat tires are also available on the standard 17 inch rims. Out on the highway, the 18 inch tires and sport suspension combined with the Q45’s long wheelbase and front strut and completely new multi-link independent rear suspension to deliver a controlled and compliant ride with quite agile handling at high speeds.

The included automatic variable damping system firms things up more at spirited velocities. The driver can also lock it in sport mode. But when the pace slows and the corners get tighter, you do feel the Q45’s largeness. During switchbacks there is a noticeable weighty shift from side to side, and the variable assist steering could do a better job of telling the driver more about the car’s dynamics. But, even with considerable lean, the Q45 is a pretty neutral handling machine that inspires confidence.

And the Q45 has plenty of confident muscle too. For under the hood is a 4.5 liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8 that produces a crunchy 340 horsepower and 333 pound-feet of torque. That’s nearly 40 more ponies than the current Mercedes S500 and Cadillac Seville STS! Bristling with technology gleaned from years of racing experience, the Q’s engine features lightweight pistons, titanium valves, a variable length induction system, and continuously variable valve timing.

When we cracked the whip over the Q’s horses, we sprinted to 60 in 6.6 seconds, and down the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds at 96 MPH. The Q45 has plenty of low end grunt, and power builds rapidly once you reach 3,200 rpm. But we found the new high-torque capacity 5-speed electronic transmission unsatisfying. Shifts were smooth but somewhat lazy, and came way too far from the redline, even in the manual-override mode. Crisper shifts would better serve the Q45’s sweet and potent potential.

The Q keeps it all in hand, however, by governing the 11.5 inch vented discs at the corners with ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist. This combo hauled us in from 60 in 118 feet, an excellent distance for this heavy hauler. There is a fair amount of nose dive, but stability is first rate. And when you’re up to speed again, the sophisticated Vehicle Dynamic Control system that provides both traction and skid control will keep you safely on your intended course.

Indeed the Q45 is a great combination of brawn and brain. There’s plenty of thinking going on in its bright and airy cabin. Get yourself comfortable in the available heated 10-way power adjustable leather seats, and you’ll discover the power tilt/telescoping wheel is mounted with satellite controls for audio and optional navigation system. You can also activate the Visteon Voice Technology system which gives you control over the nav, audio, and climate controls with spoken commands. And that’s a good thing. Because quite frankly, until you master all the functions in the center control pod, it’s more than a little confusing. Once you do learn it, however, it works fine and the DVD driven Nav system is one of the best.

The screen is also used for a rear-view video camera that aids in parking and backing. Use the guidelines on either side of the screen and you’ll soon be threading the needle like a pro. A Distronic radar cruise control system comes later this year. Also on board is a 300-watt Bose sound system with a glove box-mounted CD changer and cassette deck. Climate controls are dual zone with auto settings.

Rear occupants are treated just as royally as those in the front. Side curtain airbags, heated and power adjustable seats, separate audio and climate controls in the center console, and what seems like acres of room too. Now, there’s no folding seatback or pass-through, but there is 13.7 cubic feet of storage capacity in the trunk.

And for this much car, there’s also one heck of a price. Base on the 2002 Infiniti Q45 is $51,048. The sport package adds $1,500, and the Premium package, that includes all the bells and whistles, is $8,000. Still compared to Lexus and Mercedes competitors, it’s a lot of Q for just under 60 grand.

In fact, our friends at AMI AutoWorld Weekly said, “...the 2002 Infiniti Q45 is easily the best Infiniti yet.”

Well we certainly agree. And a car that’s capable of delivering this kind of long-term pleasure for the driver can only mean long-term success for its maker


  • Engine: 4.5 Liter, Dohc, 32-valve V8
  • Horsepower: 340
  • Torque: 333 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.6 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 96 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 118 Feet
  • EPA Mileage: 17 MPG City 25 MPG Highway