Spannerhead Dot

Proto-Four-Door Coupe?
The Infiniti J30

July 2, 2013 by Matt

Infiniti J30 Black

The more things change…

At the time it was introduced for the 1993 model year, the major complaint directed at the Infiniti J30 was its puny rear seat volume. One glance at the car reveals its manufacturer obviously prioritized style over function, what with its delicately tapered haunches and miniscule trunk.

Nowadays the “four-door coupe” styling trend, sparked by the introduction of the first-generation Mercedes CLS, is going strong. We’ve seen a whole slew of imitators from the Audi A7 to the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe and even the Volkswagen CC, and although their barely-usable rear seat space is mentioned, it’s hardly a deal-breaker the way it seemed to be for the unloved J30.

Infiniti J30 Black

So why didn’t the J30 catch on? Did luxury car buyers overwhelmingly prioritize interior space over style in the mid-’90s in a way they no longer do? Was the buying public so soured on Infiniti’s awful marketing campaign for the brand flagship Q45 (notoriously not even showing images of the car) that the bad vibes overtook its smaller stablemate as well?

Or perhaps the car wasn’t radical enough? For all its swoopy styling, the J30 retains the overall proportions of a traditional 4-door in the way the later CLS doesn’t, not to mention the fact that the Mercedes car has a great whacking V8 under the hood to prove it’s got the moves to back up its looks. The J30, by contrast, was fitted with a 210-hp variant of Nissan’s VG 3.0l V6 engine—a pleasant enough engine, and routing power to the rear wheels no less, but nothing to write home about.

Infiniti J30 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

So, combine styling that was just a touch too conservative, merely adequate power and dynamic ability as well as the still-uncertain prestige of a luxury brand still finding its footing in the marketplace, and the reasons behind the J30’s failure to gain a foothold in its target market become clearer.

Still, the fact remains that it is RWD, does have quite a nice engine and is very pretty to behold—those three qualities explain my enduring soft spot for the J30. And I do think Infiniti should receive more credit for creating the first luxury sedan with a styling/function priority tradeoff closely in line with that of the more recent crop of fashion-forward four-doors.

Image credits:,,

Filed under: Aesthetics, Infiniti


  1. John D says:

    The front end is attractive enough (especially for the early 90’s), but it’s overall shape seems delicate yet weak, refined yet not particularly appealing…and somewhat, er, blob-like to me. It seems to me that the whole concept of the J30 is based on it’s new aesthetics and luxury brand reputation…neither of which was strong enough to carry it to success. It needed something else to set it apart from the herd, but Infiniti chose not to go the extra mile to cause it’s clientele to sit up and take notice.

    I have always had an interest in the Infiniti brand. They have always made fairly attractive and comfortable cars, but with Acura on one side providing performance oriented vehicles and Lexus on the other providing a superior level of luxury with comparably good (or better) looks, Infiniti has never offered anything most people would pick over it’s competition. Overall the brand has failed to create a niche for itself and rarely garners much attention at all, whether it be criticism or praise. Not a good strategy for selling cars, in my opinion.

    • Matt says:

      Lexus definitely anchors the “luxury first” side of the premium car spectrum for Japanese automakers, but I’d hesitate to say Acura holds down the performance side. All their cars are FWD/AWD and very anonymous-looking and bland-driving. The NSX is either a distant memory or a far-off halo car.

      Infiniti’s has had an opportunity to become the “Japanese BMW” for over 20 years now, and they haven’t had the resolve or focus to capitalize on it. They’ve had flashes of brilliance (as with the original couple of years of the Q45) but have been stuck in tagalog mode for years and years…

      It’s a shame too, since between the awesome LFA and recent F-Sport models (especially the IS F-Sport which as you read beat the BMW F30 and Caddy ATS in a comparo), Lexus is really primed to fill that niche.

      • John D says:

        What I meant is that Acura is a performance oriented brand in comparison to Infiniti…not so much ‘the’ Japanese performance brand. But they have had quite a few performance oriented models, any of which I would choose over it’s Infiniti counterpart. The Integra, TSX, MDX, and (to a lesser extent) the RDX spring to mind. All great cars that appeal not only to ‘Joe consumer’ but also won over their share of acclaim from automotive enthusiasts for their edgy-yet-appealing looks, comfortable interiors, and lively handling and sporting natures at a price that was very competitive. This good press has bolstered Acura’s reputation even for it’s other models and it came to be a very recognized and desired brand. Not as much as BMW, for sure, but they still managed to make a name for themselves back in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Not that they have done anything noteworthy since 2008, which is a pity, but that’s another topic for another time.

        The problem is that Infiniti has done nothing to build it’s reputation or identity. I think they could have added a little more ‘zing’ to their models and stolen some of the lime light from Acura or identified themselves as a real challenger to the luxury car segment…but they have done neither. I think they need better marketing, but they also need models that good marketing minds can work with. Something more than the fact that their air conditioning fans vary in speed to make it feel more organic. (That’s a cool feature, but not anything that’s going to sell cars.)

        • Matt says:

          That’s tough.

          Acura’s styling has traditionally been sharper (except recently), and the Integra, TSX, TL and NSX were/are all sporting machines, but again, the FWD architecture is their mainstream sedans’ Achilles heel. Infiniti, for their part, has a number of competent RWD platforms underpinning the G35/7 and M sedans and FX sport-ute. But they haven’t been able to execute the formula as well as BMW, Merc, Audi and lately, Lexus. So taking the brands’ complete ~25-year history into account, I really don’t consider one more successful than the other from a “sporty image” perspective, overall.

          “The problem is that Infiniti has done nothing to build it’s reputation or identity.”

          This I completely agree with. Like Acura lately (though not for the first 10-15 years of its existence), Infiniti seems to be either totally at a loss when it comes to what its brand represents or unable, for some reason, to execute the ideas it puts forth. It’s weird in a way—all the raw ingredients are there: Decent V6s and V8s, RWD platforms, the Nissan Motorsports connection to help with chassis tuning… But it’s just not working.

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