SEATTLE - While things may be a bit gloomy at Nissan’s accounting offices these days, the sun is shining brightly on Infiniti, the automaker’s luxury franchise. Although Nissan reportedly lost $517 million on its U.S. operations last year, Infiniti had another record sales year in 1997, thanks in large part to the sales success of its QX4 sport-utility vehicle (SUV).
The fact is, aging baby boomers have been snapping them up with nearly as much gusto as the Beanie Babies they’ve been scooping up for their grandkids. Fortunately for Infiniti, the solid market acceptance of the rugged-looking QX4 has helped boost sales volumes and kept the Infiniti side profitable.
This summer the sun should begin shining even brighter at Infiniti, with the reintroduction of their entry-level model - the G20. The first G20s wound up being the company’s volume leader between 1991 and 1996. It’s low-20s price tag, along with the red carpet "pamper" treatment accorded its young buyers proved attractive. Many near-luxury buyers - especially women - took advantage of the G20’s value and turned up their noses at pricier alternatives from BMW and Lexus.
G20, handling gem
But instead of a bland little car with a tame little four-cylinder under the hood, the new G20 has a hot 140-horsepower unit, and a suspension that turns it into one of the best handling cars on the market, regardless of price.
The advanced overhead cam, 16-valve 2.0-liter is paired with either a five-speed manual or optional four-speed overdrive automatic.
This latest version of the G20 is based on the highly successful European version, called the Primera. Designed to deliver the kind of sporting flair that European buyers expect, the G20 does precisely that. Poised on the roads, yet comfortable to drive, the European motoring press rated the car "one of the best handling cars in the world."