Origin and Epilouge: 1992 Infiniti Q45

The Q45 was the very first Infiniti.

In the late 1980s Nissan were pressured by the launch of Lexus from Toyota to create their own luxury spin-off. To inaugurate the brand, they developed a sedan intended to compete with the best of the best. By 1989, BMW and Jaguar sedans still hadn't touched 8-cylinder engines yet, leaving the sole V8 competition in the Mercedes W126. But Lexus had installed an ultra-smooth and efficient V8 in their new LS400. Nissan sought to do the same with the Q45. They were not only taking on the Germans, but their fellow countrymen as well. It was an all-out competitive free market product war and the consumer had only to win.

Nissan used the new for '89 President HG50 platform for the new Q45. The President was their flagship sedan not offered in the U.S., so it made a perfect basis for the introduction of the Q45 in North America. Initial Q45 cars were 5 millimeters shorter than the President, though that miniscule difference was regained in 1992.

Under the hood was a beastly 4.5-liter 8-cylinder engine that pumped out 278 horsepower to the rear wheels. In a December 1989 Car and Driver road test, the Q45 came in second to just the Lexus in a crowded field of competitors, but its 0-60 mph time was 7.9 seconds, the fastest of the group. It blew the 6-cylinder powered BMW 735i and Jaguar XJ6 out of the water.

The Q45 also featured 15:1:1 ratio steering, multi-link suspension with a viscous limited-slip differential and four-wheel steering on "T" models. This thing was a powerhouse of early 1990s automotive technologies coming out of Japan.

Styling is intriguing, too. While Lexus took a very safe path with designing the LS400, Infiniti tried to incorporate some new and unusual themes not seen in high-end luxury sedan design yet, starting with a grille-less front end that gave car an oddly subdued and androgynous face. Still, the boldness on display deserves some credit.

The profile is low and lean, almost Jaguar-like, but the body is smooth, clean and simple. The tail end does feature one rip-off, however: a taillight sectioned off by the trunk opening, very similar to the BMW E32 L-shaped taillights of just a few years earlier (a design theme that is still being used by several different car makers and has become beyond cliche).

Although the profile is graceful, there are some small details that make up-close inspection rewarding, too. The door handles are large ellipitcal chrome units that are welcoming and make a good first impression.The front badge features a cloisonne floral karakuza pattern behind the recognizable Infiniti logo.

The seller of this 1992 example (thankfully before the more conventional 1993 front fascia update and foolish performance de-tuning) is a dealer and state the mileage as reading 159,789. They offer no other details behind the sale. Since the car was moderately complex for the time and the engine large, any kind of service records would be helpful in understanding just how much life this could have left, and whether anything serious needs to be put into it.

The Q45 made quite an splash when it debuted, and while the industry certainly took notice (with Mercedes adding a V8 to even their W124 with the 400E and BMW finally putting one in their E32, the 740i/iL), it didn't catch on with consumers. That's a shame, and it probably hurt morale at Nissan/Infiniti, not to mention their pocketbooks. Subsequent generations of the Q45 (there have been just two) were never the same, and arguably worse. Currently, there is no Q45 in the Infiniti range, and I find it rather sad considering how full of promise this car was in bringing consumers a competitively priced, innovative, fast and well-built large sedan. Today, the attention is on entry-level and mid-size, understandably. But the credit belongs where it belongs.

Find it here on autotrader in Illinois for $2,999 and the dealer page here.


  1. Infiniti didn't do themselves any favors early on. The fact that their initial offering, the Q45, was just too weird and different for typical luxury car buyers, was only part of the problem.

    Before any cars were even shown, Nissan launched a marketing campaign to introduce the US market to their new Infiniti brand. Unfortunately, instead of clearly positioning themselves as a manufacturer of high quality, performance luxury cars, they tried to be all kinds of deep and intriguing.

    The TV and print ads featured all kinds of nature images of plants and rocks and flowing streams. No cars anywhere to be seen. At all. For months.

    As you noted, the performance luxury sedan market was VERY competitive at the time. Introducing a very unusual (albeit very good) entry into that field was going to be challenging enough, but doing that with a new brand whose only public image was ripples in a pond?

    All of that didn't help the Q45, which was actually a very good car with nearly class-leading performance.

    1. Thanks for the historical note Larry, I'll see if anybody uploaded footage of the ad to youtube. Sounds very New Age! And there weren't there also ads snootily narrated by Jonathan Pryce that everybody made fun of too? They say any publicity is good publicity but these may be exceptions.

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