The Unfortunate 1998 Infiniti Q45

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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