1997 Infiniti I30 Touring 3.0L from North America
If you're considering Toyota/Lexus or Honda/Acura, consider this
Replaced knock sensor, left bank upstream (front left heated) oxygen sensor and starter. Ignition switch appears to be on its way out.
A/C system doesn't leak (re-charged) but doesn't blow cold. Expecting to change compressor, evaporator core/condenser and expansion valve to be sure.
While the body style is different and more mature (elegant) than the '95-99 Maxima, mechanically it shares all the same parts.
Like its Maxima cousin, it shares all the common issues. The knock sensor tends to crack over time and will need to be changed - it's a simple job if you have a swivel socket and an extension, and even more helpful, a small pair of hands (or a pair that you can borrow; I used my girlfriend's) to catch the bolt. If the car doesn't feel like it has its 190HP, it's likely that the knock sensor has failed. The left side oxygen sensor tends to fail first over the others, and though it doesn't affect fuel economy, it may impact your ability to pass emissions testing due to the check engine light trigger. I swapped a working one from my Maxima, but recently the CEL came on again, so I'm going to have to replace it with a new one instead.
There are a few other common issues that need to be looked after like the EGR (usually the tube gets clogged and needs to be cleaned out) and coil pack replacement, but they haven't come up on me, yet. This is an expensive dealer/indie shop repair, so if you are at all able to turn a rachet, buy a new set on eBay (OEM only, aftermarket units trigger CEL due to a slight variance in resistance) or low mileage used from a yard and replace all 6 yourself in about 30 minutes.
Aside from those, it truly is a turn key car. Regular fluid changes (oil, transmission, coolant, brake, power steering) seem to be all it really needs. Even major service interval items tend to last the life of the engine (i.e.: the timing chain) and things like the water pump tend to go pretty far.
Ample power comes from the legendary smooth and quiet VQ engine; more than enough for passing and uphill climbs, but the automatic transmission doesn't shift as smoothly as an ES300, TL, Camry or Accord, for example. Fuel economy is quite good given the thirst it can have when you romp on the throttle or do short trips, I easily get 11.5/100kms (20 MPG) in all city driving, and have gotten nearly 500 miles on all highway on a tank.
It handles well for a mid-size car, especially if you factor in the inferior solid rear-beam suspension. Unfortunately, the steering wheel lacks on center feel and just doesn't feel as good as other cars in its class, like the Accord. Compare and you'll understand. The '98-99 I30/Maximas have a different steering rack, which provides better steering response and "feel" compared to the earlier years, which have a softer and numb input. Personal preference, however.
The cabin room and trunk space are sizable, and the seating is quite comfortable on long hauls. Viewing angles are large, and while appearing mundane, it's understated and has all the creature comforts.
With preventative maintenance and general upkeep, these cars easily fly into the 400,000km mark. Typically the cosmetic aspects (body, interior) start to fail well before the drive train and mechanics. There are a few pricey items that will fail, but are easy enough to do on your own where you can save a lot of money. This seems to be the contention for those who have found this car expensive to maintain or those who found this a joy to own. I've owned a number of cars over the years, and this one, along with my lower mileage Maxima, are the ones I have owned the longest, while both have cost me the least in repairs.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 12th September, 2011
13th Oct 2014, 07:40
To update the original review, my I30t now has 323,000 mostly city km and rising as it is my daily driver. I think I have a good grasp of long term reliability and will detail below what you can expect for maintenance.
Things I have replaced since the original review (wear and unexpected items):
- Starter, then shortly after the ignition switch (wear item).
- Oxygen sensor (the other upstream one, closest to the cat) (wear item).
- Spark plugs (while trying to solve a misfire and constantly replacing coilpacks, turns out the previous owner used Bosch plugs, ONLY USE NGK V-POWER - misfire gone immediately after replacement).
- CV boots replaced (lowering the car tore them up quicker) (wear item).
- Rear wheel bearings (premature wear - my winter wheels do not clear the grease cap, so I removed them to mount the wheels on, resulting in debris getting in).
- Brake pads and rotors (wear item).
- Steering rack bushings (premature wear - rotted, from oil leaks).
- Radiator (wear item).
- Flex section on the Y-pipe (wear item, but likely hastened from scraping - lowered car).
- All drive belts (wear item).
- All fluids changed (wear item).
Oil leaks are fairly notorious on this car and the sister Maxima. I haven't bothered with it yet, but the valve covers, intake manifold, timing cover O-rings, oil pressure sensor, oil pan gasket and differential bearing (if manual transmission) are the usual suspects. It's getting them all over the suspension bushings underneath and wearing them out prematurely. Add to that the usual wear and tear from city roads and my current mileage,and I'll be needing to replace all the suspension bushings up front to get rid of the steering slop.
The automatic transmission still shifts nicely, even better after dropping the pan, cleaning the filter and magnets, and doing several drain and fills with conventional ATF (specifically Castrol Import ATF/Valvoline MaxLife ATF). These transmissions have a firm 1-2 shift, but it seems to have stood the test of time in terms of reliability (versus the infamous V6 Honda transmissions of similar vintage).
It was mostly tongue in cheek when I noted that the body would give out first before the drivetrain. I am getting some reoccurring surface rust on both rear wheel arch lips (not Honda bad however) and at the weld seams by the front strut towers in the engine bay. It's supposed to be a common problem with these cars in snow/wet areas, but extra care in cleaning should be enough. I just assumed that I wouldn't get it. The most common rusted area is the lower radiator support beam, and I definitely have rust there, but can hold off on addressing it.
The A/C issue is still unaddressed (intermittent cold, but removes moisture), but is very likely isolated to a clogged expansion valve and/or failed drier. I have learnt that the drier is supposed to be replaced every time the system is serviced. Mine is original and the desiccants inside may not be working as efficiently. Outside of this, the HVAC system on these cars does not have any issues that creep up.
Interior panels and materials wear well over time, other than the typical cracking at the bolster seams with the front leather seats. Nissans and Infinitis tend to develop some interior rattles over time, and mine is no different, but it is hardly the worst I have heard.
With what may sound like a host of repairs, there has been no unexpected maintenance outside of wear and tear from mileage and things that I have done that hasten failure (i.e.: rear wheel bearings). Absolutely a turn key car that always starts. All power accessories are original and working (even the power antenna).
From my log of receipts, I have averaged a couple hundred dollars annually since ownership for repairs and maintenance, which is fantastic.
I fully expect this car to hit 400,000kms without much incident, and I look ahead to half a million.