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