SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide
The luxury car market in this country has changed considerably over the past few decades. Once the province of the traditional domestic makes, it was dominated, at least in image, by upscale European marques in the mid-nineteen-eighties. By the late 'eighties, the Japanese emerged as serious contenders in the luxury field.
Nissan introduced its upscale Infiniti division for the 1990 model year, with the prestigious, expensive, high-tech, state-of-the-automotive-art Q45 sedan as its first offering. As much research and development went into the distribution and sales of the new line as was put into engineering. In order to differentiate itself in the highly-competitive luxury car field, Infiniti stressed high levels of customer satisfaction and the complete ownership experience. This "Total Ownership Experience" has been a large factor in Infiniti's success, and continues to benefit customers today.
Even luxury manufacturers need variety, and the flagship Q was soon joined by other offerings. With the economic retrenchment of the 1990s, an new Infiniti entry into the high-volume low end of the luxury field was needed. This need has been filled by the recently-introduced I30. Although based on the same platform as the current Nissan Maxima, the I30 features unique styling and interior design and its own very distinctive character.
By now it is likely that almost everyone with a TV has seen one or more of the Infiniti commercials with actor Jonathan Pryce extolling the virtues of the 1996 I30 - "a luxury sedan for around $30,000." Our test car was the "Leather-Appointed Model", equipped with heated leather seats and other options and priced out a bit over that $30,000 figure. Nevertheless, in base or fully optioned form the newest I-30 has been designed to provide flagship styling, interior space, and hearty V6 performance for a very competitive price.
APPEARANCE: The newest member of the Infiniti line takes many of its styling cues from the family flagship, the Q45. Its hood is long, the cabin large, and the trunk lid deceptively short considering the size of the trunk. With a nearly vertical front and rear panels plus a modest amount of brightwork, the I-30 appears quite traditional. From the front it displays a large waterfall grille and a lower air intake with broad headlights and driving lights. Bright cast alloy wheels plus Goodyear Eagle touring tires hint at roadholding performance.
COMFORT: The I30's roomy, quiet interior is appropriately luxurious. Supportive leather-faced seats provide comfortable accommodations for front and rear passengers. The front seats are power-adjustable. Three people can fit in the rear seat or the center armrest may be folded down to reveal a ski pass- through door. The well-designed instrument panel is unique to the I30, and presents necessary information for the driver well. Controls are logical and placed for ease of use. The steering column is adjustable for tilt, and windows, door locks, and remote releases are power-operated. A very good climate control system and Bose six-speaker audio system enhance the civilized nature of the car. The "HomeLink" transmitter can be linked to garage door, gate, and home light remote controls for convenience and safety.
SAFETY: The I-30 has the full complement of modern safety features. These include dual front air bags, a rigid body shell with front and rear crumple zones, adjustable shoulder height front seat belts, retractors on the outboard seat belts, child-resistant rear door safety locks, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, plus remote keyless entry and the HomeLink security system. It meets 1997 Federal side-impact standards.
ROADABILITY: The I30 has excellent road manners. It is a front-wheel drive machine with a rigid chassis, Mac Pherson strut front suspension and patented "Multi-Link Beam" rear axle. As befits a luxury car, the I30 has good soundproofing. With low levels of wind noise and close tolerances in fit and finish, it is a quiet car on the road. Ride comfort in the I30 is quite good, and its handling is closer to sports sedan expectations than is the norm for the luxury class. It is a most enjoyable car for any journey.
PERFORMANCE: The I30 has an all-aluminum alloy 3-liter V6 engine. It is an electronically fuel- injected, dual overhead cam, 32-valve design that is very lightweight, has minimal maintenance requirements, and produces 190 smooth horsepower. Matched with the quick-shifting 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission, it gives refined luxury performance.
CONCLUSIONS: The new Infiniti I30 is an important entry in the middle-class luxury car market and provides a good combination of style, comfort, convenience, and performance features.
1996 INFINITI I30 SEDAN
Base Price $ 31,120 Price As Tested $ 32,000 Engine Type V-6, dohc - 24v, smpfi Engine Size 3.0 liter/183 cid Horsepower 190 @ 5600 Torque (ft/lbs) 205 @ 4000 Wheelbase/Length 106"/190" Transmission four speed auto w/overdrive Curb Weight 3170 lbs. Pounds per Horsepower 16.7 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement Unleaded regular (87 oct)/premium (92 oct) Tires Goodyear Eagle GA P205/65 R15 m+s Brakes vented disc/disc, ABS standard Drive Train Front engine/front drive PERFORMANCE EPA Economy - miles per gallon city/highway/observed 21/28/24.1 0 to 60 mph 8.7 sec 1/4 mi (E.T.) 16.8 sec Coefficient of Drag (Cd) 0.32