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A SUBDUED STATUS SYMBOL

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Nov 14, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A SUBDUED STATUS SYMBOL

By JOHN GRAFMAN

What a difference a day makes! Or, in the automotive world, a few years. Not too long ago, the Infiniti Q45 was at the top of its game. But in the luxury automobile segment, the competition is stiff and fierce. The Q is not getting knocked down from the top without a fight.

Over the past few years, the offerings from Acura, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes and the rest have all been chipping away at the market for the Q45. It used to be that only a few models offered all the luxury trappings, and could adequately handle a sporting drive (let alone actually encourage its master to push it harder). Now, nearly everyone is jumping on this bandwagon in one way or another. Some lean towards the luxury end of the spectrum, and some towards the sporty extreme. No matter how you slice it or dice it, the field is getting just a tad bit crowded.

Power in the Q45 is significant at 340 horsepower and 333 pound feet of torque in an extremely smooth motor. A feature laden, refined interior is what discriminating buyers want, and Infiniti delivers. The styling looks just as stately as it did from Q's introduction a few years ago, albeit it is still a bit formal and conservative for some.

Infiniti loaded the Q45 with nearly everything they knew: Global positioning systems, a driver-selectable performance-tuned active damping suspension, individual climate zones, touch screen activation, and even a back up monitor when in reverse, and a whole host of other goodies.

The public is fickle when it comes to plunking their hard-earned (or not-so-hard-earned) green down on the table. It seems whatever is the flavor of the month, it gets all the attention. The rest just comes in at a distant second place. When it comes to ice cream, where double and triple scoops are there for the asking, being flavor of the month is nice but not essential. In the car business, flavor of the month is everything. When most are out to buy one car and one car only, second best doesn't cut it. Sadly, the best-selling doesn't need to be really better than the competition. The public's perception of a car can be even more important than anything else. This is why those marketing departments have such huge budgets.

Unfortunately, like bobsledding, after the initial push it's all down hill. Regrettably, the Q45 suffers from underexposure lately. Does this make the Q45 a lesser car? Not in the least.

After a few laps on the 405, it becomes strikingly obvious that this car is up to the task of making the driver's life less of a hellish experience - even when confronted with the most mundane and banal of drives.

For 2005, Infiniti added an advanced five-speed automatic transmission that has been recalibrated for improved downshift response and smoother acceleration. Previously available only on the Q45 Premium model, the performance-tuned active damping suspension is now standard on all 2005 Q45s. Giving new life to the design are a number of exterior changes from the 2004 Q45, which include new front and rear fascias, restyled hood and grille, new headlights and integrated fog lamps, restyled trunk lid and finisher, LED taillights and new fine-line chrome trim. Inside, I find additional refinements such as new sport contour seats, a new all-white meter cluster with soft touch control cluster finish, an all-new metal-trimmed shifter bezel, and rich, genuine dark maple wood and chrome accents.

On all accounts, this car is among the best in nearly every department, with one exception: The jealousy factor. Some cars like Lamborghini need no push from the PR department to create a buzz. But this is no Lamborghini. The flip side to the coin is, those lucky to see the Q45 for what it is - a high-powered, luxury cruiser - have a special car. A car that's not in every driveway becomes a standout and something off the beaten path. True, there is comfort in numbers. Ask any Lexus buyer. Does the Infiniti buyer feel as lonely as the Maytag repairman? Hardly. In the past few years, Nissan and Infiniti have exploded onto the automotive scene with some top-notch cars. Certainly, the Q45 is not as numerous as the G35, but they have their fan base - being a premium name in the marketplace for over a dozen years.

As in prior years, the Q45 provides voice-activated controls, a DVD navigation system with a seven-inch LCD information display screen, Rearview Monitor and one of the most powerful headlight systems in the world. Climate controlled seats, Intelligent Cruise Control with Preview Braking and heated, reclining rear seats are available for those who are willing to spend a bit more.

Sales figures are only one means of a vehicle's popularity, but by no means provide the full story. If sales numbers were the only criteria considered, one would find Ferrari near the bottom of the list.

Driving the Infiniti is confidence-boosting. This machine is well refined, solid and dimensionally just right for romps on the freeway. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there on the asphalt playground of the San Diego Freeway. The Q45 is big enough where only the semis and raised SUVs can make any attempt at intimidating this sedan. All of this mass translates to a nominal weight of 4,050 pounds, which is expected in this mid-size car. The handling allows the Q to avoid the potholes and knucklehead drivers out there like a car of smaller dimensions. A big reason to being so agile lies in the four-wheel independent suspension with a strut front and multi-link rear that provides a smooth, confidence-inspiring handling. The other option I find makes the commute livable is the Intelligent Cruise Control, which uses laser sensors, throttle and brakes to maintain a driver-selected distance between the Q45 and a vehicle in front of it.

After just a short orientation of the interior functions layout, I find myself resting easily at the wheel for what normally is a drive filled with stress and anxiety. Little touches like real metal knobs, an all-new shifter bezel and the previously mentioned dark, genuine bird's eye maple wood and chrome accents lend themselves to creating an environment that one wants to be in - even when traffic is abysmal. Perhaps this is the calling card of the Q: The ability to be low-key while providing all of the goods a modern luxury car is expected to offer and then some allows. This allows the driver to focus on other things in life. Maybe that's the greatest luxury of all.

For more information please go to www.infiniti.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Vehicle: 2005 Infiniti Q45

Base price: $56,400, as tested

Engine type: 4.5 liters, DOHC 32-valve, V8 with molybdenum coated pistons, Aluminum-alloy / aluminum-alloy

Horsepower: 340 hp @ 6,400 rpm

Drive configuration: Front engine/rear drive

Gas mileage: EPA 17 city, 23 highway

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