Nissan is rebuilding its Infiniti flagship sedan to compete with the Lexus LS 430, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, all of which have owned the Infiniti in terms of road-ripping performance.
A new 4.5-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8 engine should change that. It pumps out an impressive 340 horsepower (an increase of more than 25 percent over the 2001 model, which managed just 266 horses) and 333 foot-pounds of torque. Mated to a new high-torque capacity, electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission (the previous model offered only a four-speed), Infiniti claims the new powerplant rockets the Q45 from zero to 60 in 5.9 seconds. Wow! If those numbers are accurate, the new Q45 will leave the competition at dry dock.
According to our 2000 Super Luxury Sedan Comparison Test, the new Q's reported zero-to-60 time beats the Audi A8 4.2 quattro, the Jaguar XJ8, the Lexus LS 400 and the V12 BMW 750iL by nearly a second. Only the Mercedes-Benz S500, at 6.1 seconds, comes close.
Although empirical proof is still at large, the new Q's performance numbers should launch it from also-ran to segment leader.
But the all-new engine is only part of the redesign. Infiniti wants you to keep its new flagship on course, so it equipped the Q with four-wheel independent suspension, including a new multi-link rear setup intended to improve handling, stability and steering feel — all positive attributes for driver control.
The new Q also has Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Infiniti-speak for an automatic system that senses understeer, oversteer and loss of traction and then uses brake pressure and suppression of engine torque to keep the Q in line. In addition, traction control and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard.
And just in case all this technology can't help you avoid an accident, dual front airbags and side-impact air curtains are also standard.
Infiniti also doesn't want its valued customers stopping on the side of busy or deserted roads to deal with a flat, so it included run-flat tires (available only with the 17-inch wheels) that can run 50 miles at 55 mph. An automatic low tire pressure monitoring system notifies the driver of a leak or puncture so they can seek help.
One feature of the new Q that Infiniti emphasized during the car's media preview was the power of its new seven-lens high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights. Concentrating on headlights is a little strange since, let's face it, few people care about the effectiveness of nighttime illumination and the car has so many other attributes and cool toys.
For instance, the power heated outside mirrors include turn signal indicators and automatically dip when "reverse" is selected to aid driver vision. Inside, there's a new control interface with a 7-inch, touch-screen LCD display that allows the driver to control everything from heat and A/C to auto ‰ door lock and headlight settings. The screen also supports the Q's DVD-based "Birdview" navigation system and, this is really cool, a rearview monitoring system.
That's right, it is exactly what it sounds like: a small camera mounted near the rear license plate (activated when the driver selects "reverse") provides a picture of what's behind the Q, which is displayed on the screen. Amazing.
We always thought the Q45 provided exemplary passenger comfort and luxury and the new Q is expected to please in this regard. Wider and taller than before, the new Q benefits from a stretched wheelbase that's nearly 2 inches longer, yet overall length is the same. These changes have boosted interior cabin space and trunk volume so that passengers, especially those in the rear, have more knee, hip and headroom.
While the rear passengers are lolling about on the same high-quality leather enjoyed up front, they can use the rear power seat adjustments to get really comfortable and the rear audio controls to make use of the 288-watt, eight-speaker Bose audio system.
Real wood trim, a wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel and other luxurious appointments make the Q45 one of the world's premier super luxury sedans. And now that its performance has been boosted, it challenges the competition for top honors.
On paper it looks good, but stay tuned for future driving impressions to see how well Infiniti's new flagship really sails.