ROME - Infiniti Division's redesigned Q45 flagship goes back to its roots, even though those roots only go back about a decade.
When the brand was launched in 1989, the Q45 was heavy on performance and rich on style, a graceful, luxurious, cavernous sedan with a powerful 4.5-liter V-8. But Infiniti switched gears and messages with the second generation: A smaller-displacement engine, less horsepower and indistinctive me-too styling had fans of the first-generation wondering, what happened?
The 2002 Q45 is an elegant sedan filled with technology that's engineered for 100-mph-plus autobahn performance.
'In a way, the new Q45 is a little bit of a throwback to the first Q,' Randy Fior, Infiniti's corporate manager of product planning, said here at the car's press introduction in January.
'When we talked to customers who drive the current Q or had driven the previous Q, they hearken back to the original. It was really a car that made a big difference for Infiniti. So this car is meant to go back to that heritage and give you even more.'
Back under the hood is a 32-valve, 4.5-liter V-8, this time with more horsepower and torque than the engines in the first- and second-generation Q45s.
The V-8, rated at 340 hp and 333 pounds-feet of torque, features a variable induction air intake manifold, a continuously variable valve timing control system and modular cylinder heads.
Engine noise also was targeted: Titanium valves, lighter weight pistons, a single cam drive chain and a hydraulically driven cooling fan contribute to a quieter engine, Infiniti says.
The first-generation Q45 was powered by a 278-hp 4.5-liter V-8 that generated 292 pounds-feet of torque. But the second-generation engine, downsized to 4.1 liters, generated only 266 hp and 278 pounds-feet of torque.
To handle the increased torque, the 2002 Q45 is equipped with an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission that also provides smoother shifts and is 48 pounds lighter than the four-speed automatic in the 2001 Q45. The transmission allows manual gate shifts.
Infiniti promises the Q package will deliver 0-60 mph acceleration in about six seconds, compared with about 7.8 seconds for the 2001 model.
One of the striking features of the Q45's exterior is the large, multi-lens projector, high-intensity discharge headlamp, which is 157 percent brighter than the headlamp on the 2001 model.
Among the standard safety features on the Q45 are stability control and supplemental side-curtain airbags that deploy from the roof for head protection. Front-seat passengers also have side-impact airbags and active head restraints for protection.
The head restraints are designed to protect against excessive backward head movement and reduce whiplash neck injuries in low-speed rear-end accidents.
A 7-inch liquid crystal display in the center of the instrument panel features switches for the Q45's climate control and Bose audio systems.
Rear-view monitor is a first
Also standard is Visteon's second-generation voice recognition system, which activates the audio system, climate control and several features on the optional navigation system.
The Infiniti Q45 is the first car sold in the United States with an optional, factory-installed rear-view monitor. When reverse gear is selected, a small camera mounted near the rear license plate projects the image onto the liquid crystal display in the instrument panel, making it unnecessary for the driver to turn his or her head when backing up.
Other optional equipment includes adaptive cruise control (available in July); power-operated reclining and sliding rear seat; 18-inch, eight-spoke aluminum wheels; heated front and rear seats; and rear window and rear door sun shades.
The 2002 Q45 goes on sale in April priced at $51,045, including $545 for transportation.