By on December 17, 2020

In Part I of this two-parter we were introduced to the J30, Infiniti’s luxurious new sports sedan for the Nineties. Having learned from their Q45 mistakes, the brand was determined their new mid-sizer would be appealable to the American Market.

So what went wrong? Let’s find out.

Like its predecessor the M30, the J30 was tied to the Leopard sold in Japan. This time, instead of taking a Leopard and dressing it up, Nissan created the Infiniti and then sold it domestically as a Leopard. Specifically called the Leopard J Ferie, it was the first time the Leopard was offered without two-door availability; it appeared only as a sedan. While the Japanese version was equipped with the 3.0-liter V6 from the 300ZX or the 4.1-liter V8 shared with the second-generation Q45, American customers received only the V6. Likely a decision made to ensure the J didn’t step on the Q’s toes.

The 3.0 developed 210 horsepower and 192 torques – slightly lower figures than the GS 300, but the J30 had a weight advantage. All J30s whether in North America or Japan were equipped with a four-speed automatic. The J30 was another strong technology showing from Infiniti, particularly in Leopard form. In the US, the t touring trim had a revised MacPherson strut suspension at the front and BBS lace alloys. The J Ferie went further and included optional four-wheel steering, but Infiniti knew Americans were not interested in such technology. More to American tastes, there was a limited edition gold package in 1993 and 1994 which made badges and wheels really shine.

Unfortunately, the style, Italian interior, sporty nature, gold badges, and more traditional ads didn’t help the J30 become a success. Potential shoppers who were fine with the modest midsize exterior dimensions of the J were put off by its surprisingly cramped interior. J30 was so small inside it famously had less interior room than a Sentra, which made it seem like less car for the money to Americans who often purchase based on size. It also sort of looked like the completely unrelated Altima, which in fact ran for the exact same model years.

A failure, the J30 hobbled along for only five model years, and shared one year in the showroom with its more conventional replacement: the Maxima-based I30. J30 bowed out after 1997, as dealers celebrated selling thousands of I30s instead. I had one of those I30s, and I’m here to tell you it was a very good (but not exciting) car.

Today’s Cabernet Pearl and tan J30 is located in rust-free California. Thin on the ground, it’s hard to find a J30 for sale today which has been maintained. This one’s an exception to the rule, and with 166,000 miles asks $4,329.

[Images: seller]

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33 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1996 Infiniti J30, Luxury Sedan With a Heart of 300ZX (Part II)...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Even for the early 90s that engine is a little soft for the premium class (a 5-speed auto, which several brands were moving to at this time, would have likely helped). A RWD mid-size is never going to be especially roomy but that packaging is terrible. 87cuft of interior volume and 10cuft of trunk space on a 191 inch car. That’s about the same as the Cadillac ATS, with the Cadillac being about 10 inches shorter.

    Still a cool design though.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I really liked these cars, esp the sloping rear with the full width tail lights. For the first few years it was out I assumed it was FWD because some years of the Maxima looked like they shared doors.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    For a car that wasn’t a success I sure remember an awful lot of these running around back in the day. I opted for the Nissan Maxima 4DSC with all the bells and whistles because I liked the styling better and it came in about $5K less then this, but I did test drive one of these and remember being quite impressed at the time

  • avatar
    mdoore

    I was given a hand me down J30 from my employer to drive for company business. Unfortunately I was now in possession of a 130k mile basket case that experienced a hard life and the company was too cheap to repair the stuff that was broken so I had little regard for this car. It was plagued by electrical issues, noisy timing belt, noisy wheel bearings, pulsing brakes.. I could go on! If I was driving on a slick surface, the ass end would decide to fishtail for no reason at all. Soon after the radio quit working the transmission failed so I was relieved of this vehicle. They put me in a Panther Gran Marquis Which was similar in age and miles. This car was awesome. Well built and tough. I can see why the police and Taxi fleets loved these vehicles. The only good thing about the Infiniti was the AC. It could chill the interior down to 63 degrees in minutes on a 100 degree day. The compressor would stop working if you drove over 60 MPH though. RIP

  • avatar

    I almost bough one of these about 6 years ago. I had driven one back around 200 I had borrowed for the day. Nice car but as mentioned small back seat. in 2016 I was looking for a cheap commuter and found one of these listed with 110,000 miles for 2k. I went it looked at it and took a test drive. Interior was in mint condition but there were rust bubbles starting on the rockers. On the tests drive it was obvious the front struts were blown out. On the drive home I called the guy and offered him $1200, which he later said he would take. But after I got home I went online to find the struts are unubtanium in the US and decided I would keep looking.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I figured the back seat (or, more accurate, the lack thereof) would be the deal killer Corey was talking about yesterday. Looking back, this could have been the forerunner of the “four door coupe” cars we see now (think BMW Gran Coupes, Mercedes CLS, etc).

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I owned a 96 J30 IIRC for about 3 years and put a ton of miles on it, bought it used and had one repair in my time with it and IIRC it was about $150 bucks. The car was cozy inside but my kids were small and we had a Pilot for long trips , most of the time it was just me, the interior held up great, the car was not great on gas but that engine is not know for that. The truck was small but agin I was not really needing anything bigger, as a used car it wa sa great deal and I enjoyed my time with it b4 I sold it before the miles got to high.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Putting four doors on a small upmarket car just makes it look like a small downmarket car. All of the cramped criticisms and bad comparisons to an Altima would go away if it didn’t try to be one.

    A coupe wouldn’t have done anything about the price ($36,000 sticker in the mid 90s was audacious to say the least) or the underpowered (and this little car somehow weighed 3,600 lbs!) but people still bought two doors back then and they might have bought this one.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Great RR! I really think that Infinti durability is downplayed compared to Lexus. My uncle absolutely abused his q45 and it held up really well.He lives in Cambridge and the only open road time that car spent were once a month blasts to Mohegan Sun.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    These were always a head-scratcher. I had no idea it was rear-wheel drive with a 300ZX engine. On one hand it looked elegant, on the other, just another FWD midsizer that was on the small side of mid. I don’t think I’ve seen one in 20 years and they sure seemed to move down the food chain quickly. Nissan should probably have just built a left-hand-drive Leopard.

  • avatar

    I saw one in our hood in Russian town where I lived in 90s. It usually was parked in the front of one of the stores nearby – probably store owner bought it used from USA. It reminded me back then ovaloid Taurus which we had in town as well. Rear also reminds me the last gen Ford Scorpio. Probably Infiniti was influenced by Ford’s midsize sedans in Europe and USA.

  • avatar
    Bill Henderson

    Is it me or is this car just butt ugly?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Excuse me if this is a duplicate. Or the original may have ended up attached to some other column as this site is still not user friendly.

    I always liked the appearance of this vehicle and the commercials with Jonathan Pryce.

    Is it just me or does anyone else see a bit of Jaguar Mark II in the design/styling cues?

  • avatar
    chaparral

    They were sold in Japan with the VH41 engine.

    It might’ve had a better chance of success if it were V8-only.

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