New Car Review

1996 INFINITI G20t SPORTS SEDAN

INFINITI G30t

SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide

by: CAREY and BILL RUSS

The Infiniti G20 made its debut in 1991, providing an entry-level machine for Nissan's luxury division. It received some upgrades in 1993, and continues to provide luxury, value, and performance. Two grades are available. The standard G20 is a well-equipped compact luxury car in the European or Japanese tradition, offering a good blend of comfort, performance, and economical operation. The G20t follows the Infiniti practice with its "Touring Package" of included luxury and sports options. A leather-appointed interior with front power-adjustable sports seats and split fold-down rear seat, and a remote keyless entry system give the G20t luxury appointments and feel. Integrated foglamps, a rear spoiler, and a power-operated sunroof distinguish it from the regular G20 externally. A viscous limited-slip differential increases traction and helps improve the handling and response.

Both versions of the G20 offer a 5-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, with a 4- speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission optional. I tested a G20 with the automatic several years ago and recently spent a week in a G20t with the 5-speed. There is quite a difference in the character of the car with each transmission. The automatic-equipped car was a comfortable small luxury machine; the 5-speed brings out the car's sporting side. It is one of the sportier cars in its class and one of the handful that offer the benefits of front-wheel drive. It gives a unique combination of luxury and fun.

APPEARANCE: The Infiniti G20t is tastefully conservative in design, as befits a luxury automobile. The crisp angular styling hasn't changed since its introduction, and wears well. The large passenger cabin is placed well forward and has plenty of glass and thin pillars for good visibility. In the modern idiom, bumper fascias and mirrors are body-colored. The only chrome trim is around the small grille, and on the door handles and badges. Alloy wheels, foglights integrated into the front air dam, and a prominent rear wing announce the G20t's sporting nature.

COMFORT: Infiniti made its reputation on luxury appointments and attention to details. The G20t keeps that reputation intact. The seats, steering wheel, shift knob, and door panels are all trimmed with leather. The front seats are special sport models exclusive to the G20t and are firm, supportive, and very comfortable. Both driver and passenger seats are power-adjustable. The rear seat folds down with a 60/40 split to allow for long cargo such as skis. Details like automatically-lighted vanity mirrors inside the visors, separate front and rear dome lights, and many useful storage compartments set the G20t apart. The six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system has good radio reception and sound quality.

SAFETY: The G20t has a rigid unit construction chassis with front and rear crumple zones, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, and side reinforcement. It provides a secure platform for interior safety features that include dual air bags, child safety rear door locks, and 3-point automatic and emergency locking retractor safety belts for all outboard seating positions.

ROADABILITY: The "t" in G20t stands for the "Touring Package" of performance and luxury options. The interior enhancements have been covered elsewhere. The most notable performance feature unique to the G20t is a limited-slip differential for better traction. It is one of the few front-wheel drive cars so equipped. Combined with the firm but supple sport-tuned suspension, it helps make the G20t a real joy to drive. Road feel is good. Steering and clutch effort are light, and the manual transmission linkage is crisp and positive. The G20t is a car that makes touring a very pleasant experience.

PERFORMANCE: The G20 is powered by a 2.0-liter dual overhead cam, 16-valve engine that makes 140 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 132 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. As can be guessed from the relatively high engine speeds for peak power and torque, this motor likes to be revved. Low rpm power is good, but to be appreciated it helps to keep the engine speed up in the finest sports car manner. The performance and musical note of the exhaust are rewarding for the enthusiast driver. The standard 5-speed manual transmission is the perfect match for the engine, making the G20t a very sporty car. The optional 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission shifts quickly, quietly, and smoothly and brings out the luxury side of the car's nature.

CONCLUSIONS: The Infiniti G20t is a well-equipped small luxury car that combines understated styling with enthusiastic character and performance.

SPECIFICATIONS:
1996 Infiniti G20t

Base Price                              $ 23,800
Price As Tested                         $ 27,380
Engine Type                             DOHC 16 valve inline 4
Engine Size                             2.0 liters, 122 cu. in.
Horsepower                              140 @ 6400
Torque (lb-ft)                          132 @ 4800
Transmission                            5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length                      100.4 in. / 174.8 in.
Curb Weight                             2954 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower                   21.1
Fuel Capacity                           15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement                        unleaded regular
Tires                                   P195/65 HR14
Brakes, front/rear                      vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear                  independent multi-link with coil springs / independent
                                        parallel link strut with coil springs
Drivetrain                              front engine, front drive
                    PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed           24/32/27
0 to 60 mph                             9.1 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)                         16.9 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)                .31

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