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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1990-96 Infiniti Q45

Jim Brennan November 28, 2014 Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage 30 Comments

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Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to show that obscure muscle cars can come from the land of the rising sun. The Japanese Automakers were exploring the possibility of introducing flagship models to North America for years. Their attempts with up-scale models within their model range was met with tepid sales. Cars like the Toyota Crown and Cressida, and the Datsun (Nissan) 810 Maxima were never though of as true competitors to the European Luxury Cars of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Jaguar. All that was about to change in the 1987 model year when Honda introduced their flagship models under an entirely new brand called Acura, and the Legend would lead the charge. Toyota soon entered the Luxury Market with their return salvo in the form of Lexus, and their flagship – the LS400 – that went on sale in the States on September of 1989. Nissan was not to be left out of this arena, and made ready a version of their home market President for North American consumption. They also went for a new upscale name to market the new Luxury Performance sedan. Introducing the Infiniti Q45, and it’s the subject of this installment of the Obscure Muscle Car Garage.

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It has been written that the name Q45 was inspired by the term “Q-car”, which implied a high-performance vehicle without a high-performance appearance. The Q45 was an inspiring vehicle when it was introduced to the public in the autumn of 1989, though you would never know it due to a very unusual advertising campaign used here in the states. Instead of showing images of the vehicle, the advertisements (both print and televised) centered around stones, water, and plants, creating a zen like message that appealed to absolutely no one.

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When the public was given the chance to view the car, they were met with a different kind of luxury performance car. There was no grill on the front of the vehicle, just a Cloisonné insignia mounted at the center of the nose. There was very little in the way of chrome accents, and while the outside of the car was finished beautifully, it didn’t scream luxury. The interior of the vehicle was also somewhat understated, with no wood work on the dash, no chrome accents, and with seats that were firmer than the norm of the day. The interior could be termed as modern minimalist, yet included all the luxury features you would expect in a flagship Luxury Performance car like top grain leather, a high-tech Bose sound system, Power Adjustable seats with memory, power one-touch windows, electrically adjustable steering wheel, and keyless entry.

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Power was this car’s trump card when it came to competing with both the Acura and the Lexus sedans. Because of a “gentleman’s agreement” among Japanese manufacturers, vehicles above a certain horsepower rating were not exported. The 4.5 L VH45DE V8 installed in the Q45 was published as having 278hp, but the actual horsepower produced was between 300 and 305 HP. Steering was much more responsive with the Q45 than with the competing LS400, with a ratio of 15:1. And performance was quite good, with 0-60 times coming in around six seconds, and a top speed of 152 MPH. A peculiar trait of the 4-speed automatic was that it started in second gear, unless you hit the go pedal hard…

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Year over year changes were few, but the 1991 Q45 saw a couple of significant options in the form of an optioanl traction-control system, and the world’s first production “Full-Active Suspension (FAS)”. In that latter setup, computer-controlled hydraulic actuators at each wheel generate forces in response to signals from 10 different sensors to counteract body lean, nose lift and nose dive, and fore/aft pitch. the 1992 Q45 with the FAS setup were now called the Q45a, but the 1992 model year started the trend in softening the hard edges of the Q45, with steering that became lighter and transmission shifts that became smoother. For 1993, the transmission was programmed to start in 1st gear…

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The 1994 model year saw significant changes to the first generation of the Q45, and included the addition of a passenger side airbag, thicker window glass for a quieter cabin, and the interior was treated to natural earth tones, wood inlays in the center console, less seat bolstering, wider seat bottoms, and a softer leather trim was used. The suspension was also made more compliant with the use of softer suspension bushings. But the biggest change was to the design at the front, with a new grill greeting the world, and exclaiming to all that the Q45 is indeed a Luxury Car.

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For the 1996 model year, which was the last year for the G50 edition of the Q45, Nissan eliminated the fully active height-adjustable suspension, along with the the variable valve timing aspect of the 4.5L V-8. The engine was still stated as having 278hp, and this was done to meet tougher US emission standards. There was some cutbacks in the last year Q45, and included the substituting of some vinyl bits instead of leather in the interior, a change to a lesser quality head liner, and the metal door handles were replaced with plastic ones. Lesser quality for a car that had so much potential.

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There you have it, a somewhat muscular sedan from a new car company that started life in the 90’s. This was the Luxury Performance Sedan that took the playbook from some of the best German players at the time. Sure, the introduction was flawed, and the car wasn’t to everyone’s taste. However, it did introduce a fully active suspension to the public, and offered 4 wheel steering in some models. It sought zen like performance without any of the old world luxury frippery, and with actual horsepower of over 300 to boot. So, I have to ask this; Is the G50 Infiniti Q45 an Obscure Muscle Car? I’m sure there will be plenty of talk about this nominee.

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So what do you think about admitting the G50 Series of the Infiniti Q45 into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

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  • Number_Six
  • Sjalabais

    Very pleasant design, but the fact that it is unmistakably Nissan inside would have put me off.

    Muscle car? Still issues with calling a sedan out like that.

  • austinminiman
  • zetep

    I still like it, even better after all those years, but a muscle car it is not.

  • peugeotdude505

    10/10 would hoon.

  • njhoon

    These cars were deceptively fast. While in them they were quite and as a passenger it was hard to tell how fast you were going until the other cars started to seem like they were going backwards. My old boss had one with the active suspension and would take a turn by our office faster and faster to see what it could do, he stopped because of the 'unsafe speeds' he was hitting. And he was pretty much a hoon/jackass with his cars.
    I vote yes.

  • wunno sev

    gosh, that is a handsome car…..once you slap a grille on it.

  • I'm going with Yep.

    I love understated stuff like this can frighten many an alleged sports car.

  • Russell

    My dad had one of these. A '95 silver with a gray interior that he bought slightly used in '97. He followed that one up with another '01 Q45, which subsequently became my first car when I got my drivers license in '07. I hated the car at the time because it "wasn't cool for a 16 year old", but looking back on it, I wish I still had it.

  • Ate Up With Motor

    I don't think the U.S. power ratings had anything to do with the voluntary limit in Japan. That limit, which is 280 PS (276 hp), is for cars sold in the Japanese domestic market, not export cars, which since the '90s have often carried ratings higher than 280 PS. (Nissan did that with the Z32 300ZX Twin Turbo, which was rated at 300 hp for U.S. five-speed cars.) Besides, 278 hp would be 282 PS, which is higher than the voluntary limit anyway.

    • Sjalabais

      Is that all the difference between SAE and DIN?

      • Ate Up With Motor

        No. SAE, DIN, and JIS net rating methodologies — test conditions, correction factors and so forth — are all slightly different, although JIS and DIN ratings are both stated in metric horsepower rather than mechanical horsepower. (One metric horsepower is about 0.986 mechanical horsepower (735.5 versus 745.7 watts).) The 280 PS rating for the JDM Q45 was JIS net.

        • Sjalabais

          Wow, thanks for your reply! I wasn't even aware of the split between metric and "mechanical" horsepower. Guess I have some more reading to do. Never seizes to amaze that humanity can't even agree on one (1) standard way to measure our world.

          • nanoop

            My hope is that we will get kW as a common unit in mainstream language. The reason is that current and voltage have the same units all over this planet, even in UK and North Korea, and electric power is just U x I.
            Electric cars have interesting side effects!

            • Sjalabais

              My rational side agrees wholeheartedly! Pretty easy to convert kW-numbers to the hp-number I know, too…in a transition period.

    • Rover_1

      The V8 from one of these in a 300ZX would be cool.

      And fast.

      <img src="http://www.beatnikbrotherhood.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Datsun-450zx-Engine.jpg"width="600"&gt;

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    I LOVED these when they were new. Was even shopping for an off-lease '91-'93 Q45a in about '95, when I drove an 'a'. You have to remember, this is almost 25 years ago, and yes, they were mighty quick and unlike the LS400, tuned for performance.

    Muscle car? Yes.

    In retrospect, seeing how well the interiors aged, I'm glad I went with something else, because they didn't tolerate heat/sun all that well.

    Still like the styling, even if the nose is downright odd.

    edit: The term is "Q-ship", and the reason behind 2nd gear starts is the same reason W126 Mercedes did the same, MPG tweaking.

    I lurve sedans which are quite a surprise to the unfamiliar, this one very much qualifies, and I'd still like a first-gen M45.

  • mr smee
  • Preludacris

    Obscure is right. I can't remember the last time I saw one. Now I want to!

  • ptschett

    Nice car, but hell no. As far as I'm concerned this goes in the same category as the Benzes from earlier this year (which I'd also kick out of the muscle car garage.) High-$$ luxury sport sedans are almost always powerful cars, but that does not make them a muscle car. I can't say it was really obscure, either, considering the SNL "Q45 toilet" parody commercial.

  • Van_Sarockin

    It was a samurai take on a five series, and a very good job. The intro and ad series tried to be too different and transgressive, and fell flat, sadly. FWIW, I had a client who bought Mitsu's version – the Diamante – and you couldn't tell him that anything about that car was less than perfection, and I thought it was many steps behind the Q.

    • Rover_1

      And you were right. The Diamante was just an ugly Maxima with AWD.

      Edit: The Diamante was effectively just an ugly Maxima with AWD.

    • Ate Up With Motor

      The Diamante was really a class down; despite all the features, it was notably smaller than a Q45, had FWD (there was an AWD car in Japan, but it wasn't sold in the states), and offered nothing larger than a 3.0-liter V-6.

  • Das Shtig

    This was my first car! My dad handed his down to me when I turned 16. Mine was a 1995, and I can attest to the power being massive. Every morning on the way to school, I stomped on it pulling out on the main road all the way up to the speed limit, with a massive grin on my face. It was extremely fast, and not much could touch it. Total sleeper. I can't believe my first car had a V8, RWD, LSD, leather everything, power everything (power headrests for crissakes!), digital lotsathings– I was indeed spoiled for good, as I haven't had a V8 since. I moved to a N/A I5 Volvo S70 directly after, and it felt like it was dragging a rhinoceros behind it. I'm up to a I6 V90 after having a turbo-4 760… but, its just not the same. That Q45 was a rocket ship. Bona-fide muscle car!

  • There are a couple in the hoon price price range on our Seattle CL: http://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/ctd/4744915681….
    http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/ctd/4755560740….

    I will have to keep these on my radar next time I need a 90s cruiser!

  • ptschett

    Another thought re: "Q-ship", "understated", "sleeper", etc…
    The 2004 Pontiac GTO, a relaunch of the nameplate that arguably defines what a "muscle car" is, had its styling panned with words like uninspired and forgettable, "the styling is a snooze", etc.

    How can the Infiniti possibly help its cause by having comparable attributes?

    I grew up in a family that owned (and still owns) '60's musclecars. I know one when I see one. This Inifiniti is not a musclecar.

    • JayP2112

      In the day, the styling was questioned because it didn't have a grille.
      Really.

      It was a sedan with a V8. Not really a muscle car. The Infiniti M Y34 makes a better argument. The engine came first, everything else was second.

      • Das Shtig

        But it was the same engine!

        • JayP2112

          The M was a cheaper car with the same engine. An Infiniti formula for success.