When Infiniti introduced the I30 sedan for 1996, they had a hard time convincing some buyers that this Maxima-based near-luxury sedan was a worthy competitor for the benchmark Lexus ES300. So Infiniti began a program of constant upgrades that saw the I30 blossom into a formidable contender. And now for 2000, the I30 has been completely redesigned. But is it really ready to push Lexus aside?
The folks at Infiniti are confident that it can, claiming that the all-new 2000-model I30 offers “more of everything” that near-luxury class buyers demand.
Starting with a fresh look. One that’s more distinctive and elegant than the previous I30s, or a Lexus ES300. And on our I30T, for Touring, test car, features smoked headlamp covers over high intensity Xenon lights
The new styling does away with the last similarities between the I30 and its Nissan Maxima relative. The new shape is 4.1-inches longer than before, and rides on a 2-inch longer 108.3-inch wheelbase.
The front-drive I30 is propelled by a refined version of last year’s 3.0-liter V6 engine. Now making a formidable 227 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque, that’s slightly more than Maxima, and now best-in-class. Noteworthy features include a variable induction system as well as a variable capacity muffler. Though all these ponies make us wish for a manual transmission to supplement the excellent standard 4-speed automatic. A standard limited-slip differential completes our Touring-grade test car’s drivetrain.
On the test track, the I30’s 0 to 60 time of 8.9-seconds is still a full second slower than the last Lexus ES300 that we tested. 1/4 mile acceleration also takes longer, 16.7-seconds at 85 miles-per-hour. But with the smooth, sophisticated feel that near-luxury buyers value.
Those buyers also put a premium on handling and ride. Which in the 2000 I30 is controlled by a MacPherson strut front, and multi-link beam rear suspension. And, on our Touring model, rides on 17-inch alloy wheels shod with grippy Bridgestone Potenza rubber. While the I30 exhibits a true luxury car ride, the feel is more compliant, as expected on today’s better luxury cars.
Handling, however, was a little too luxury oriented for our tastes. Front plow is prodigious, and steering is slow to respond to quick inputs. Front push grows with speed, followed by a lightness out back that we didn’t find in the Maxima. So, while the Lexus ES300 still has a better compromise between ride and handling, the I30 will appeal to buyers who’d rather be soothed during long, slow commutes.
But you’ll have plenty of brake for stop and go. Halts from 60 averaged a reasonable 130 feet. Anti-lock equipped 4-wheel discs are standard. The soft suspension does allow plenty of nose dive, but stability is top notch.
Inside the I30, there is no doubt about the luxurious aims of the designers. It’s largest-in-class interior includes a full range of power accessories, including a rear sunshade.
The smart looking dash is also most efficient and features classy touches like Infiniti’s trademark analog clock. The driver’s clocks are also analog, and very well laid out.
The front power seats are luxuriously trimmed with leather and are also very supportive. They include side airbags and whiplash reducing head restraints.
While a navigation system is not yet offered, our staff did praise the standard 7-speaker, 200-watt Bose CD stereo as well as the idiot proof automatic climate controls.
The rear cabin is big, with plenty of room for tall adults, and a split-folding seatback. Trunk space is also noteworthy at a healthy 14.9 cubic-feet. In total the I30 is a fine mid-size package, and sure to please many buyers looking for a first rate near-luxury sedan.
Even more so when they see its very competitive price. Base sticker for an Infiniti I30 is $29,990. The Touring model is only slightly higher, at $32,065.
With its high level of standard equipment and a genuine luxury car character, the 2000 Infiniti I30 is a more-than-worthy ES300 opponent and will have all of its more established competitors watching their rear mirrors for a rapidly-gaining Infiniti I30.
Engine: 3.0-Liter V6
Torque: 217 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.9 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.7 Seconds @ 85 MPH
60-0 MPH: 130 Feet