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

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.

[Images: seller]

Join the conversation
2 of 34 comments
  • Chaparral Chaparral on Dec 21, 2020

    They were sold in Japan with the VH41 engine. It might've had a better chance of success if it were V8-only.

  • Chacorya Chacorya on May 27, 2022

    I have a 1996 Infinit J30 sedan tan original parts also! It turns on and in really great condition. I would like to do something with it not sure tho. I am tired of looking at it

  • Arthur Dailey For the Hornet less expensive interior materials/finishings, decontent just a little, build it in North America and sell it for less and everyone should be happy with both the Dodge and the Alfa.
  • Bunkie I so wanted to love this car back in the day. At the time I owned a GT6+ and I was looking for something more modern. But, as they say, this car had *issues*. The first of which was the very high price premium for the V8. It was a several thousand dollar premium over the TR-7. The second was the absolutely awful fuel economy. That put me off the car and I bought a new RX-7 which, despite the thirsty rotary, still got better mileage and didn’t require premium fuel. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction because, two years later, I test-drove a leftover that had a $2,000 price cut. I don’t remember being impressed, the RX-7 had spoiled me with how easy it was to own. The TR-8 didn’t feel quick to me and it felt heavy. The first-gen RX was more in line with the idea of a light car that punched above its weight. I parted ways with both the GT6+ and the RX7 and, to this day, I miss them both.
  • Fred Where you going to build it? Even in Texas near Cat Springs they wanted to put up a country club for sport cars. People complained, mostly rich people who had weekend hobby farms. They said the noise would scare their cows. So they ended up in Dickinson, where they were more eager for development of any kind.
  • MaintenanceCosts I like the styling of this car inside and out, but not any of the powertrains. Give it the 4xe powertrain - or, better yet, a version of that powertrain with the 6-cylinder Hurricane - and I'd be very interested.
  • Daniel J I believe anyone, at any level, should get paid as much as the market will bear. Why should CEOs have capped salaries or compensation but middle management shouldn't? If companies support poor CEOs and poor CEOs keep getting rewarded, it's up to the consumer and investors to force that company to either get a better CEO or to reduce the salary of that CEO. What I find hilarious is that consumers will continue to support companies where the pay for the CEOs is very high. And the same people complain. I stopped buying from Amazon during the pandemic. Everyone happily buys from them but the CEO makes bank. Same way with Walmart and many other retailers. Tim Cook got 100m in compensation last year yet people line up to buy Iphones. People who complain and still buy the products must not really care that much.