Machine Design

2003 Infiniti Q45

When you buy a $52,000 luxury car, you expect a good-looking vehicle that can run with the best of them and is equipped with all the upscale bells and whistles, maybe even some high-tech new ones. The Infiniti Q45 definitely meets those expectations.

One of the first things you notice once comfortably ensconced in the leather and wood interior is the display panel topping the center console, a sure sign you're in a 'cutting-edge' vehicle. It lets drivers scroll through various pages to select displays and activate controls for the stereo, climate control, and the screen itself. When I picked up the test car, I went through a couple of screens before leaving for a one-hour trip, somewhat disappointed that a navigation system didn't come as standard equipment. (Otherwise the car was fully loaded, all of it standard equipment.)

The car handled excellently and the 4.5-liter V8 put out plenty of power (340 hp, 333 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm). The stereo seemed to crank out just as much power, 300 W, but I wanted to adjust it to get more out of the front speakers. By now I was on the freeway, however, and traffic was moderate. I couldn't safely take my eyes off the road long enough to find the right control. I ran into the same problem when I wanted to get some cool air out of the floor vents.

Before taking it for another spin, I read the manual, paying special attention to the voice-recognition feature and its laundry list of voice commands. It is the only way to take advantage of all the car's features when driving. By pushing a button on the steering wheel, then speaking specific commands, the driver can control the A/C and heater, stereo, and navigation system (if you have one). For example, saying 'Audio bass up,' bumps up the bass a bit, while 'Climate control temperature 72°,' sets the temperature at 72°F. You don't have to train the system to understand your voice, and it gets most commands right the first time. Unfortunately, two of the most important words, 'on' and 'off,' often sound the same to the system.

Learning the commands might be a lot of trouble for a one-week test drive or rental, but I'm sure I'd have them quickly memorized if I shelled out $52K for the car. I got used to telling the car what to do and recommend that Infiniti engineers expand it so drivers can do even more while still watching the road.

Another curious feature is a switch that lets the driver change the angle of the xenon headlights. You can decrease the angle so the lights shine out to about 30 ft, or lift them to point out to the horizon. I toyed with them on the freeway, pushing them down when there was traffic in front of me, letting them illuminate the countryside on deserted stretches. (The round, seven-lens lamps also look good in the daytime, sort of like twin Gatling guns.) But if Infiniti is going high tech, they should automate the headlights. I quickly felt like a rat in a Skinner box, raising and lowering the lights as cars came and went, but without getting much reward.
To sum it up, the car is great to drive, but takes some effort getting used to. It elicits oohs and ahhs from friends and strangers. And children of all ages get a kick out of the car talking and listening to you.


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