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 will need to be changed, 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. 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 needs to be cleaned) and coil pack replacement, but they haven't come up on me, yet.
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.
Ample power comes from the legendary smooth and quiet VQ engine; more than enough for passing and uphill climbs, though the automatic transmission doesn't shift as smoothly as an ES300 or TL (Camry/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 (20MPG) in all city driving.
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) starts to fail well before the drive train and mechanics.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 12th September, 2011