- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2000

MODEL: Infiniti I30t
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
MILEAGE: 20 city, 28 highway

Diversity has been a hallmark of the 1990s and nowhere more so than in the motor vehicle industry.
Pickup trucks, minivans, sports cars, sport utility vehicles and other special-purpose vehicles have nearly crowded out the traditional family car, and more are on the way.
The trouble with these vehicles is that they give up something in their specialization. For example, SUVs and pickup trucks are thirstier and don't handle as well as minivans or standard sedans. Most minivans, in turn, aren't rugged enough for heavy-duty hauling or towing.
None of those offers the driving pleasure of a sports car, which itself is limited by its lack of passenger and luggage space.
So if you're the sort who focuses on driving pleasure as a worthy pursuit, enjoys a level of luxury that's not too pricey, but also must carry people and luggage, you likely will want to check out midsize sports/luxury sedans.
Fortunately, there are a number of fairly classy machines from which to choose: the Acura TL, Lexus ES 300, Mitsubishi Diamante, Mazda Millennia, Cadillac Catera, Chrysler 300M, Lincoln LS, Volvo S70 and the Infiniti I30.
The I30, following a not uncommon practice, is spun off from a sibling, the Nissan Maxima just as the Lexus comes from the Toyota Camry and the Acura from the Honda Accord.
So you can order a loaded Maxima GLE and get a car that's very similar to the I30 for about $5,000 less.
Despite that, a lot of people who buy entry-level luxury cars swear that their vehicles are far superior than their lower-priced siblings, and worth the extra dough. At a minimum, they carry more prestige.
The I30 has that sort of cachet. Its styling is more restrained and tasteful than that of the Maxima. In a tuxedo or evening gown, you'd feel more at home in the Infiniti.
Overall, the I30 offers just about everything the sports/luxury customer might want, including a powerful V-6 engine mated to a competent four-speed automatic transmission, leather upholstery, traction control, alloy wheels, anti-lock disc brakes, automatic climate control, front and side air bags, and power adjustments for everything but the steering wheel.
In addition, the tested I30t had heated front seats and a power sunshade to protect rear-seat passengers from red necks. The "t" stands for the touring version, which has such extras as bigger wheels and tires.
Unfortunately for hard-core enthusiasts, the I30 can no longer be ordered with a five-speed manual transmission.
The standard I30 has a suggested retail price of $29,990. The I30t lists at $32,065 and the test car, with a few options, came in at $33,525. All of those are in the entry-level luxury ballpark.
For 2000, the I30's horsepower has been bumped from 190 to 227. It's also five horsepower more than the 222 in the lower-priced Maxima, but the truth is you would never notice the difference.
However, compared with last year's model, the I30 is a stormer. It gets a good jump off the line and pulls smoothly to extra-legal speeds in less time than it takes to brag about it.
Handling is sports-sedan precise, with a tactile steering feel. The ride is supple, neither squishy nor hard.
Inside, the leather-surfaced front bucket seats lack lateral bolstering for spirited driving but provide comfortable support for long-distance cruising.
The only jarring note in an otherwise ergonomically correct interior is the instrument lighting. Despite fluorescent backlighting that stays on during the daytime, the white-on-black instruments disappear into a black hole and are virtually impossible to read quickly on a bright, sunny day.
They need either brighter lighting or a switch to the Maxima-style black on white gauges.
In back, the seat can accommodate two six-footers comfortably; a third can also squeeze in, with far less comfort. There's a large trunk, well-shaped and padded.
The I30, as Infiniti's best-selling model, offers ride, handling and luxury amenities at a price that doesn't frighten too many people in the booming U.S. economy.

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