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.
The other day while we were reviewing the daringly spectacular first generation Q45, commenter SSJeep requested coverage of Infiniti’s other rear-drive sedan from the period, the J30. I thought Rare Rides already covered Infiniti’s mid-size offering, but it turned out I was remembering an installment of Buy/Drive/Burn.
That means it’s time for J30.
I want to tell you this, although I know many of you will not believe. I want you to close your eyes and give me the gift of your trust for a few minutes, to travel through memory and dream and ambition with me. I want you to experience the “theater dim” of the interior lights. To open the throttle on the Bose-by-Nissan stereo. To feel the perfect response from the small sedan’s leather-wrapped steering wheel, to catch a slide as the four-wheel-steering kicks in at the most bizarre time during an irresponsible freeway maneuver. To pose Yakuza-style in the baddest sedan on the block, B-pillars swimming barely seen beneath the glass. To feel the 276-horsepower, quad-cam V-8 punch you back into the impeccably tasteful interior.
Then, and only then, if you can dream with me, if you can believe what I believe, then you might be able to look through the stupid Q-names and the dumb-assed rocks-and-trees marketing and the aftermarket Skyline badges and the unfocused-looking Pathfinder rebadge and the Jersey shore types crowding each owner’s meet and just hold this idea in your head:
Infiniti didn’t always suck.
“We need young, college-educated people like you,” the man said, “because the old way of selling cars is dead and gone. That’s why I was hired — to bring the dealership into the present day.” And with those thoroughly self-deceived words, the new sales manager at “Infiniti Of Columbus” welcomed to me to the team in March of 1994. It was the end of winter in Ohio, but it was just the middle of Infiniti’s long winter of discontent. We had three products. There was a facelifted Q45 which precisely nobody wanted. There was a facelifted G20 which cost nearly as much as a Lexus ES300 while closely resembling a Nissan Sentra inside and out. Note, however, that the G20 shared nothing but the engine with the aforementioned Sentra. On any given month, we would sell two G20s and no Q45s. In fact, during my entire six months’ tenure at the store, we only sold two Q45s, one of them to a salesman who was quitting to go work for Merrill Lynch.
It was the new-for-1993 J30 that kept the lights on and paid our meager draws against commission. The jellybean-shaped, rear-wheel-drive sedan was available as a J30 or J30t. Neither car had any options available: in an amazing reductio ad absurdum of the Japanese export philosophy, the equipment list was the same for every single car that came off the boat. The “t” model added HICAS four-wheel-steering, a rear spoiler that truly spoiled the otherwise interesting design, and some cross-spoke wheels. They were hideously expensive — $37,995 and up in an era where an LS400 could be had for fifty grand or less — and they were both controversial-looking and suspiciously similar to a Nissan Altima at a distance. (Jerry Hirschberg designed ’em both.)
It didn’t matter. We rarely sold any outright, but more than 20 would leave the lot every month thanks to the Magic Lease.
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