By Jeremy Cato
When Infiniti renamed its I30 executive sedan the I35, it signaled a major power boost (to 255 horsepower) for the 2002 model year – just two years after the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (or AJAC) voted the then-new 2000 Infiniti I30 its Luxury Car of the Year based on a major re-fit.
So it’s fair to say the I30/I35 has been quite the work in progress for Infiniti. I mean, for 2000, Infiniti re-invented the I30’s styling, stretched its length and width to give it more cabin room and a better highway ride, and bumped up the luxury quotient, while also making things more comfortable and safer.
Then for 2002, they made what was already a pretty darn good car that much better by also throwing in a stronger automatic transmission, standard traction, better brakes, new front and rear styling and 17-inch wheels and tires. The Sport model also began coming with standard with a stability control system called Vehicle Dynamic Control or VDC. It applies braking at selected corners to keep drivers from spinning out.
And aside from the performance boost for 2002 (from the I30’s 227 hp), the I35’s engine also got a “silent” timing chain and drive-by-wire or electronically controlled throttle. In other words, the power comes with less noise and more precision.
So many changes have occurred in the years since Infiniti introduced a seriously updated second generation I30 following the success of the 1996-99 first generation I30. I do mean success, too.
The original version of the I30 was good enough to get top marks from:
- the research firm J.D. Power & Associates for its quality;
- the well-regarded Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine for its value;
- the tech gurus at Ward’s Engine and Vehicle Technology for its 3.0-litre V6 engine (one of the 10 best in the world).
The point is, an I30 or an I35 from any of the last half-dozen years or so is a very good luxury buy. Problems have been minimal, there’s been only three recalls since 1999 (five in all) and prices are quite reasonable. Put this car on your shopping list if you’re looking at, say, a used Acura TL, Lexus ES300 and BMW 3-series to name three rivals.
That said, you should also know that the I30/I35 shares many of its mechanical components with the less expensive Nissan Maxima, although styling is decidedly different. The hood is a particular standout, with its creases which fall forward to the vertical chrome grille. The one-piece headlamps have a kind of cat’s eye look to them that I like, too. And the I30/I35’s Touring version has high intensity discharge (HID) or “Xenon” type headlights that compared to halogens throw 70 per cent more light down darkened roads.
If you’re comparing the ’99 I30 to the 2000, note that the view is better from the roomier cabin of the newer car, with its slightly larger windows. Visibility is especially better for those in the back seat.
For a size comparison: the I30 has an edge in cabin space over its two main rivals from 2000, the Acura 3.2TL and Lexus ES300. I’d argue the cabin looks more handsome than either of those model, too. I really love that analog clock located centre dashboard.
On long cruises, firm yet forgiving front bucket seats feel luxurious, although they do lack some sideways support in cornering. Thick door glass muffles road and engine noise almost entirely.
In terms of road manners, well, compared to the Maxima, the I30 feels a tad softer, but not by much-unless you go for the Touring package with its firmer feel and bigger wheels and tires. But even the base model is a true sport touring sedan, one composed and controlled over all types of roads.
To be sure there’s no shortage of zoom in the I30/I35. Goose the throttle with your right foot and lots of good things happen very quickly. Believe me, you will have no trouble merging into traffic. And a host of engineering refinements have managed to make the I30/I35 engine very, very smooth. At stoplights you might find yourself checking the tachometer just to be sure the engine’s running.
As for the I35 specifically, its 255 horses stand up well when compared to rivals from 2002: the 3.2 litre V6 in the Acura TL 3.2 has a 225 horsepower V6 in the base model, 260 horsepower for the 3.2 Type S; the sharp-edged Cadillac CTS has a 220 horsepower V6; the BMW 3-series comes with 168 horsepower to 225 horsepower, depending on which model; Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive X-Type comes with a V6 rated up to 231 horsepower; and the 2002 Lexus ES300 has 210 horsepower, while the more performance-oriented Lexus IS300 has 215 horsepower. Finally, the Volvo offered a 247 horsepower version of the S60 sedan in 2002.
In short, the I30/I35 represents a good, solid buy. I’d be pleased to own one myself.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.