All-new I30 combines luxury and style with excellent handling.
by Ron Moorhead
Base Price $29,465
As Tested $30,710
Totally redesigned for model year 2000, the Infiniti I30 boasts exceptional handling, a smooth ride and lots of performance from its twin-cam V6 engine. This car is stable at high speeds and under hard braking. An elegant interior offers supportive leather seats that are comfortable on long trips.
To this, the I30t Touring model adds a sports suspension and other equipment designed to turn this Infiniti into a sports sedan. Both models offer a great value among mid-sized luxury sports sedans.
Infiniti's I30 continues to be available in two models, the I30 Luxury Sedan ($29,465) and I30t Touring Sedan ($31,540).
Trim levels are identical. Both models come with the same 227-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 and 4-speed automatic transmission, a smooth, quiet drivetrain that provides excellent performance. The differences between the I30 and I30t lie in the handling characteristics of each model. The I30 offers a more luxurious ride, while the I30t is tuned for sporty handling.
The I30 Luxury Sedan comes with numerous features we'd expect to find on a luxury sedan, plus some others that surprised us. A large, roomy interior offers excellent visibility all around and invokes an open, airy feeling. Handsome leather seats and an elegant interior design coddles the body and mind, an essential aspect of any vehicle in this highly competitive category. An eight-way power driver's seat complements a four-way passenger seat. Automatic temperature control, leather wrapped steering wheel and supple leather seating surfaces add comfort and warmth. A 200-watt Bose AM/FM/Cassette/CD audio system, tuned to the I30's interior, further enhances the car's elegance. Heated seats and heated outside mirrors are a $420 option.
The I30t Touring Sedan receives all the luxurious treatment of the I30, but is tuned for more precise handling. Its Touring suspension reduces body roll in corners, while wider, larger-diameter tires (225/50VR17) mounted on alloy wheels provide greater grip. A viscous limited-slip differential is added to provide better grip when accelerating out of tight corners. I30t also comes standard with High Intensity Discharge Xenon low-beam headlights offer improved visibility on dark roads.
Infiniti is Nissan's luxury car division and the Infiniti I30 is based on the same basic platform as the superb new Nissan Maxima.
When Nissan redesigned the Maxima and I30 for 2000, the company made a conscience decision to give each vehicle its own character and image. Designed to offer performance, practicality and value, the Nissan Maxima sports radical styling.
The Infiniti I30 is more conservative, designed to offer luxury and attention to detail. The Infiniti retailers (the dealerships) are trained to reflect this, offering a higher level of service and attention to the needs of their customers. I30 owners demand this.
The I30 is actually 2 inches longer than the Maxima, but this isn't noticeable from the outside. Unique styling projects elegance. The soft, gentle slope of the hood and front fender line draws your eye to the redesigned front-end treatment that features Infiniti's trademark grille and powerful lighting design. The rear-end design is less distinctive than the front, although the taillight treatment adds sparkle.
In addition to the wheels and tires, the I30t is distinguished by a smoked headlight treatment. An optional Touring Sport Package ($1,000) adds a rear spoiler and aerodynamic side sills.
It may not be evident from the outside, but glide into any of the I30's seating positions and you immediately get the sense of roominess. Front-seat legroom and headroom have been increased over the previous-generation I30 as has rear-seat legroom. The expansive amount of glass gives excellent visibility in all directions.
The front bucket seats are comfortable. Both the forward movement of the steering wheel and the driver's seat have been increased to offer an improved ergonomic position. The front seats incorporate a new active head restraint system designed to help reduce injury from whiplash by automatically moving the headrest forward to support the head and neck in an accident.
Instruments are highly visible and switches are easy to operate. The instruments are virtually blacked out until you turn the key, then they come alive with a backlit design that makes the needles seem to hang in mid air. Climbing into the rear seats we immediately noticed the additional legroom. On paper it is a scant 1.9-inch improvement, but it seems as though it is much larger. Headroom is good in both locations. A foot-operated parking brake pedal has replaced the hand brake of the previous generation. While we happen to prefer a hand-operated parking brake, moving it to the floor has uncluttered the center console and improved the appearance.
The trunk is large and offers a low lift-in height to make loading cargo much easier. Trunk lid hinges intrude upon the cargo space when you shut the trunk lid, however.
The I30 performs well whether it's in heavy metropolitan traffic, on mountain passes or long, undulating desert roads. We drove the new I30 in the heavy traffic of Southern California and Washington, D.C. Threading our way through the hills east of Newport Beach and into the desert beyond, we found the I30 offers comfort, elegance and style.
The 227-horsepower V6 engine performs well in acceleration from stops as well as in passing maneuvers on long mountain ascents. Indeed, this is one of the best V6 engines available. Horsepower and torque have been increased in the 2000 I30 to compensate for an increase in overall weight of 250 pounds.
The transmission shifts smoothly when cruising, yet is always ready to downshift quickly for quick bursts of acceleration. We recommend the optional electronic traction control system ($300), which minimizes wheelspin when accelerating over slippery surfaces.
As we powered through tight curves on mountain roads, we quickly noticed the advantage of the taut springs and shocks of the Touring Sedan. Though the standard I30 worked fine, the Touring equipment raised the I30t's abilities a notch. The long waves of the roller coaster desert roads put extra demands on a suspension system with peaks and valleys that compress then quickly unload the suspension. These transitions can throw a lesser vehicle out of sorts, but the I30t always maintained its composure. At high speeds, the I30 is smooth and stable as a rock. It feels as solid as a rock when driving though fast-moving heavy traffic.
For 2000, the I30 also benefits from bigger brakes. The front and rear brake rotors are larger diameter and the front brake calipers are bigger as well. We found that the I30 stops in an even and true manner. This remained true following numerous hard braking maneuvers; the brakes performed consistently no matter how we abused them.
The steering seemed to be just a bit vague in the I30, but felt much tighter in the I30t. The I30 is easier to maneuver in tight parking garages, however, because it offers tighter turning circle (35.4 feet curb-to-curb versus 40.0 feet).
Starting at less than $30,000, the 2000 Infiniti I30 offers a luxurious interior wrapped in a stylish package with excellent performance and handling.
I30's smooth engine and transmission are befitting of a luxury car. The cabin is quiet and comfortable when all you want to do is settle into the drive, turn up the Bose system and cruise on down the highway. But if you want to inject some excitement into the drive, the I30 can provide that as well with one of the best V6 engines available. And the I30t adds a sports suspension for driving enthusiasts.
The I30 also comes with Infiniti's Total Ownership Experience, designed to pamper the owner whenever visiting the dealership for service. This is a vehicle one can live with for years and never be disappointed in your choice of wheels.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.