New Car Review

1996 INFINITI G20

Infiniti G20

SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide

by Tom/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 24,800
     Price As Tested                                    $ 27,645
     Engine Type                             2.0 Liter I4 w/PFI*
     Engine Size                                 122 cid/1998 cc
     Horsepower                                   140 @ 6400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               132 @ 4800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  100.4"/66.7"/174.8"
    Transmission                           Four-speed automatic 
    Curb Weight                                     2926 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      195/65R14
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                       None
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.30

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/28/25
     0-60 MPH                                        9.6 seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                       17.6 seconds @ 82 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                    125 mph
     * Port fuel injection

(When Infiniti popped onto the American market in 1990, its parent Nissan immediately realized that there was a relatively unplumbed market niche it could mine if it introduced a compact luxury car here. The G20 was brought on line the next year and while road tester Tom Hagin likes the idea of luxury coming in a small package, his dad Bob believes "luxury" means "big.")

BOB - Regardless of what you say, Tom, I still think that $27,000 is a lot to spend on a two-liter sedan that seats four people. The Infiniti people should at least offer a V6 for that much money. Then it would at least have a lot of muscle to show for the money.

TOM - That much extra power might well upset the good balance that the G20 exhibits, Dad, and remember that it's really not a slug in the performance department. According to the factory, it's good for 130 MPH and as you well know, the handling is nearly as good as any rear-drive sports sedan on the market. Straight line performance isn't everything and you can drive the G20 all day with as much comfort as cars costing a lot more. As for the size, it points up the fact that the definition of "sports" means that performance outweighs carrying capacity.

BOB - Well, you're right about the G20 being a luxury car. The company encourages its dealers to offer low-pressure in the sales room and the red carpet treatment for owners having their cars serviced. The warranty is good at four years or 60,000 miles and even better on its powertrain. And the company also picks up the tab for any roadside assistance that's needed. I like the idea of being catered to - especially when it comes to buying a big-ticket item like a new car. And that goes for any car on the market.

TOM - I wish that we had been given the Touring model to evaluate. It's another $2700, but it includes a viscous-drive limited slip differential which should make it grip even better, and it also offers leather upholstery and some additional fancy trim inside. The twin-cam16-valve engine is the same on both models, but I don't feel either version needs more than 140 horses. I would have also enjoyed the standard five-speed manual transmission, too. I think that a sportssedan like the G20 cries out for a stick shift when the driver is whipping along mountain roads.

BOB - My "whipping" days are few and far between, Tom, and the automatic is a fine choice as far as I'm concerned. But I would have liked to try the Touring version too, since it comes standard with Yokohama performance tires which are the same size, but a bit more "sticky." Both versions have the same sophisticated suspension systems front and back and this is refreshing. Its makes the G20 handle superbly, without being incredibly expensive. Many of the cheaper imports have had to revert to less-inspired underpinnings this year in order to achieve "decontenting," which simply means that they have to make their cars more cheaply in order to keep their prices competitive.

TOM - Right - and that's another plus for buying a luxury car regardless of its size. Its maker doesn't have to skimp to meet a budget. An additional plus for the Touring model is that the front seats are built like aftermarket sports units that have a wrap-around design. This gives a tighter seating position when the car is driven fast on curving roads. They're more in keeping with the car's sporting nature. Anti-lock disc brakes are standard fare on both versions, too, and that's another feature that helps to keep the driver out of trouble.

TOM - Although it doesn't do much for the safety of the G20, Dad, even you have to appreciate the quality of the sound system. Standard on all models is an AM/FM/CD player, although its only a single-disc system. The A-pillars even have a couple of small "tweeters" built into them as well as four other speakers around the interior.

BOB - True, and a quality sound system could have an influence on the mental health of the driver, Tom. If I'd had really good systems like this one in those old cars we used while you guys were growing up, I'd have been much calmer on family trips.

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