Nissan Cima / Infiniti Q45

Debut: 2001
Maker: Nissan
Predecessor: Cima / Q45 (1996)
The best Q45 in 2 generations is still the Mk1 - most beautiful, most elegant, advanced technology used (4-wheel steering and even semi-active suspensions). There’s no doubt that it is perceived classier than the 2nd generation, otherwise Nissan won’t keep the Mk1 in its top of the range in the name of "President" until today. We don’t know why Nissan chose a wrong strategy to downgrade the second generation, merged it with the cheaper and smaller Cima, detuned its V8 engine to 4.1-litre and 266 hp, gifted it a conservative appearance and took away its sporty-biased suspensions. Perhaps that was a reaction to economic recession, but was that over-reacted ?

Comparatively, the third generation was born of positive thinking, though saying Renault has any significant influence to its development is untrue. The new Q45 (and Japan’s Cima) dares to be different. From the radical - if a bit inartistic and insensible - shape you’ll see Nissan’s designers have restored confidence, perhaps over-confident. The organic face with big eyes and man-eating mouth looks better in real thing than photo, as I can testify, but it fails to deliver any messages of prestige or elegance. Park beside an Audi A8 or Jaguar XJ8, it suddenly become a pump-up Maxima (Cefiro). Even a Volkswagen Passat feels more elegant than the radical Nissan, blame to the organic design and scarce of chromed details.

As before, the car is 5 meters long, rear-drive and rides on front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspensions. The body is wider, taller but no longer. Cd. is a so-so 0.30. 40% increase of torsional rigidity provides the necessary crash protection and tauter handling that today’s customers require. More usage of aluminium castings help reducing the unsprung weight of suspensions by a little bit, about 5-10%.

Forget it. What improves most is the V8 power plant, a development from the famous VQ-series V6 engine. Now it has restored the 4.5-litre displacement, in addition to continuous variable valve timing, 2-stage variable length intake manifold and 2-stage variable exhaust, it would have pumped out 330hp. However, the final figure has been increased to 340hp because the Japanese engineers pioneered the world’s first valves made of titanium alloy, which is 40% lighter. Why not titanium connecting rods like many supercars? that would have been more effective to power enhancement but Nissan’s intention was actually to cut valve-gear noise.

Japanese version of the engine, called VK45DD, even employs direct-injection (therefore the second "D" in its name) to improve fuel economy, which is 22% more efficient than the old 4.1-litre engine. As usual, direct injection allow a higher compression ratio - 11.0:1 instead of the overseas version’s 10.5:1, though power figure will never reflect that because it is bounded by the 280hp voluntary limit - officially. Who believe that ?

Still, 340 hp and 333 lbft of torque is already class leading (don’t compare it with 12-cylinders). You need a sporting Audi S8 to beat it. The problem is no one ever matches the wild performance claim of doing 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. Most found 6.5 sec more reasonable while the car never feel as powerful as the number suggest. The 5-speed Tiptronic-style automatic seems not the reason. It is the torque curve that prevent it from feeling fire-breathing. At 1,600 rpm, there is "just" 78% of the maximum torque available. The peak arrives at 4,000rpm, some 500 above Lexus LS430.

The chassis is another let down. While it does not ride as supple as the Lexus arch-rival or Mercedes S-class, it never feel as spirited to handle as all German rivals. No matter how the sporting look and sporting engine suggest, suspensions are still bias towards comfort - maybe a bit stiffer than Lexus but body control is no better. Steering is over-assisted and lack feel. It is easy to drive fast, by then engine noise and wind noise are still Lexus-like, but it does not inspire the driver.

Inside, the Q45 looks sophisticated. Light color scheme differs it from others while the center console with computer screen looks playful. Like HAL2000, the computer is too clever and hard to be controlled unless you own a university degree. Styling-wise, I am not a fan of the light color wood and Mitsubishi-style center console, they just do not look as classy as rivals. Moreover, the plastic material could be better. Leg and shoulder room is abundance while rear headroom is limited by the sporting roofline. Although most people won't find touching the roof, the cramped feeling above your head is just at odds to this kind of top luxury saloon. Equipment is perhaps the only area I have no complaint - the massager seat is still there, so is the integrated control located at rear arm rest. The front seat back can be folded down to serve as leg rest for the rear passenger, moreover, it has leg massager incorporated. To exaggerate the sense of luxury, Nissan even gifted it electric doors and electric boot lid. Now you need not to close the door and boot lid with strong hand. Just push it lightly towards the shut line and the electric motor will do the rest of the job and lock it. Useful? I’m not sure. What I’m sure is that this is a luxurious car designed for the back-seat boss.

So what is it? It’s not sporting, nor classy, nor the most comfortable. It’s an infiniti without identity. The best of the 3 generations Q45 is still the Mk1.
The above report was last updated on 21 July 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Cima update and President

2008 Cima facelift

As Nissan's large car failed to catch the hearts of overseas buyers, Infiniti Q45 came to the end in 2006. However, its domestic version Cima continued to soldier in Japan. Changes to the Cima had been minor - in 2003 the direct injection V8 was replaced by non-direct-injection VK45DE; in 2005 the V6 turbo was dropped as it no longer complied with new emission regulations; in 2008 the car was facelifted with a more prominent front grille and a pair of Skyline / Fuga-style taillights.


Sold alongside the Cima in the domestic market is President. As before, President is the more luxurious version of Cima aimed at the richest Japanese businessmen, government leaders and royal family - something like Toyota Century. Its low volume means it can hardly afford exclusive mechanicals. Differences from Cima are limited to minor cosmetic changes and a more luxurious interior. Most cars are ordered in 4-seater form to better cater the rear passengers. Comfy rear chairs offer electric recline and massager function.
The above report was last updated on 16 Aug 2009. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

Cima V6
Infiniti Q45
Cima (2008)
Front-engined, RWD
Front-engined, RWD
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
Mainly steel Mainly steel
Length / width / height 4995 / 1845 / 1490 mm 5070 / 1845 / 1490 mm
5120 / 1845 / 1490 mm
Wheelbase 2870 mm 2870 mm
2870 mm
V6, 60-degree
V8, 90-degree
V8, 90-degree
2987 cc
4494 cc 4494 cc
Valve gears
DOHC 24 valves
DOHC 32 valves, VVT DOHC 32 valves, VVT
Other engine features
Max power
280 hp 340 hp 280 hp
Max torque
285 lbft 333 lbft 333 lbft
5-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
Suspension layout
F: strut
R: multi-link
F: strut
R: multi-link
F: strut
R: multi-link
Suspension features
- Adaptive damping
Tyres front/rear
Kerb weight
1700 kg (est)
1785 kg
1830 kg
Top speed
155 mph (limited)
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Performance tested by: *R&T

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