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Nissan’s Infiniti luxury division has been in the American market for 10 years now, and their flagship Q45 has undergone numerous changes. Whereas Toyota/Lexus seemed to target the Mercedes market with the LS-400, Infiniti at first aimed their Q45 sedan at the BMW driver — focusing on the “performance” aspect of driving a luxury car. Some critics feel the current Q45 is in the midst of an identity crisis because it is no longer a BMW imitator (assuming it ever was). But in fact, the Q45 stands on its own as a very distinct luxury sedan. Though reminiscent of the smaller Lincoln sedans of a few years ago, the Q45′s exterior styling is more muscular and contemporary. The car has a wide, low, and powerful stance. Fit and finish are first-rate, and the Q draws its share of admiring glances. The body-colored bumpers, spoiler, and splash guards and the 17-inch alloy wheels of the Touring edition combine for a sophisticated yet sporty aesthetic. The Q45 looks fast and luxurious, and it is. The power comes from a 4.1-liter, 266-horsepower V8 with 278 foot-pounds of torque. This engine has plenty of reserve power, and it runs as smooth as glass. The Q45′s availability of power on demand is strikingly reminiscent of the even heavier Bentley Arnage. The Q’s highway and street manners are terrific — especially for a large car. The handling at highway speeds is precise and controlled, yet quiet and comfortable. Inside, the Q45 needs a little work. The luxury appointments include a standard-power rear sun shade, but the low roofline impedes visibility, and the seats could have been designed better. Even after a week of driving, I still wasn’t able to adjust the seats properly for thigh and lower back support — a problem I’ve never had with either Mercedes or Saab. But that’s not all that’s wrong inside. While the Q’s center storage console and cup holders add much to its utility, many of the sound system functions are not adjustable from the steering wheel. The sound system itself leaves a lot to be desired. Audiophiles will not be thrilled with the sounds they hear here. And while passenger room is acceptable, the tiny 12.6 cubic foot trunk is an embarrassment. All of which makes the final verdict on the Infiniti a closer call than one might imagine. On the one hand, this is a car with looks, luxury, mechanics, and handling. On the other hand, it’s an automobile with all-too-apparent flaws that can be seen, felt, and heard. Clearly, the Infiniti’s designers could still take a lesson — or two — in ergonomics from their European competitors.

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