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SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide

1996 INFINITI J30

by Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 35,750
     Price As Tested                                    $ 36,245
     Engine Type                             3.0 liter V6 w/PFI*
     Engine Size                                 181 cid/2960 cc
     Horsepower                                   210 @ 6400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               193 @ 4800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   108.7"/69.7"/191.3
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3580 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  19.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      215/60R15
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                  5 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.35

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/23/20
     0-60 MPH                                       9.1  seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                       16.8 seconds @ 82 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                    128 mph
     * Port fuel injection

According to industry reports, now would be a good time to buy an Infiniti J30, because its prices has been dramatically slashed.

The mid-sized J30 caused a nervous stir in the automotive press when it arrived in 1993 because of its unconventional shape. Curiously though, this "unconventional" shape is now being embraced by many manufacturers - just compare one to the new cars on a crowded freeway.

This mid-sized luxury sedan from Nissan's luxury division is available two ways - as the "standard" J30, and as the same car fitted with a touring package featuring special suspension and outside trim.

OUTSIDE - Since styling is a primary factor in shaping public reaction to a car, the shape of the J30 is sure to draw a response. Its sagging hindquarters and lack of straight lines draw strong feelings: it's either loved or hated, and there seems to be no in-between. The elegant sedan is more coupe-like, and draws on traditions deeply steeped in the European car design. But it's origins are in California, at Nissan Design International, and many car enthusiasts compare the car to the Jaguar sedan of years ago. Our test vehicle, the base J30, was almost completely devoid of chrome, save for a small strip wrapped around the glass.

INSIDE - A long list of standard comfort equipment is included in both J30 models. The seating position up front offers a a good view of the road and the analog instruments, and it's an easy reach to the 200-watt, in-dash AM/FM cassette/CD player. Its front bucket seats are power eight ways, covered in extra soft leather upholstery, have large map pockets behind and built-in heating elements. Up front is a very comfortable and supportive place to be, but in back is rather nice as well. Since the standard power sunroof robs a hint of headroom, taller passengers may scrape the headliner a bit. Other standard features include automatic climate control, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, along with cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror and variable-speed intermittent wipers.

ON THE R0AD - The J30 uses an adaptation of the powerplant that was under the hood of the now-defunct Nissan 300ZX, and the successful Maxima sports sedan. The 3.0 liter V6 gives 210 horsepower and 193 lb-ft of torque, but does so with hushed authority. It uses dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, but what makes is different from the other variants is its quieter intake and exhaust manifolds, revised crankshaft damper, hydraulic engine mounts and whisper-like cooling fan. All these components significantly contribute to less drivetrain noise, as engine sounds are barely audible from inside. Gear changes from its electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission are imperceptible as well, but manually moving through the gears requires some practice since the notched shift gate has an unusual pattern.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The J30 ride favors comfort rather than performance, but nevertheless, its underpinnings are state-of-the-art. The suspension uses MacPherson struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the rear is independent, and consists of upper and lower A-arms, coil springs and another anti-roll bar. Both ends are connected to isolated subframes, which further reduces noise and controls vibration. Driven moderately into a corner, the J30 feels well-balanced and poised, with minimal body roll and tire scrub. Applying the throttle hard when exiting the corner can produce oversteer, as this is a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. Fortunately, J30 comes standard with a viscous limited-slip rear differential, which controls wheelspin on slippery surfaces, as well as speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering, a configuration that makes parking easier, but gives more road feel at speed. Very effective four-wheel disc brakes are standard, along with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), which brings the car quickly to a straight stop.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact protection are standard.

OPTIONS - The Touring Package (rear spoiler, stiffer suspension) adds $2000.

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