Mopar folks have long had to endure Chryslers which were little more than returned Plymouths and Dodges. In recent history, the various LeBarons and the Cirrus are prime examples. We won't even mention the PT Cruiser, an undisguised Plymouth.
The Infiniti G20 is a similar concept, though better executed: it is basically a Nissan Primera (not sold in the US). The instrument panel is reasonable dignified, the exterior looks appropriate for a luxury model, the suspension is more comfortable, and the wind noise has been reduced. It isn't a Lexus, but it's a better effort than Chrysler and Mercury owners are used to. The G20 is a little smaller inside than the Nissan Altima, more expensive, but better in handling.
According to Shawn Lee, the front suspension is related to the R-34 Skyline, and CAR has rated the Primera/G20 one of the top 10 handling cars in the world (including supercars). An Infiniti-sponsored G20 will be in the Motorola cup starting in january in the c2k category. Shawn also said that the G20 has a firm reputation for reliability.
The G20 has a relatively small engine for cars in its class, but thanks to its tuning - for low-end grunt rather than redline performance - it was more than sufficient to move the small sedan around, even with an automatic transmission and the air conditioner on. Indeed, though the G20 has fewer horsepower than the Altima, it felt faster. The acceleration is not breathtaking but it is sufficient.
The automatic transmission downshifts quietly and unobtrusively at highway speeds, providing passing power as needed without sacrificing fuel economy.
While the ride is better than that of the Altima, it still is biased to firm feel and good handling. The interior is comfortable and pleasant. The driver's seat is very adjustable, though there is no up-down control. There is an electric front-back, an electric lean control, and two knobs for other adjustments. Lighting at night is pleasant and functional.
On the other hand, cup-holders and change trays were given little, if any, thought. The Altima's sunglass holder is gone, replaced by an optional information/emergency cell-phone system (only available with the automatic transmission).
If you have short fingers, you may find it hard to press the cruise control buttons. On the other hand, there are lights both for the system being on, and for a speed being set.
The defroster is easy to find, and very fast. Effective side de-misters help to keep visibility high. The automatic climate control works well and is easy to figure out and set. There is an economy mode, something we miss seeing on other cars. The system is quiet even when the fan is on the high settings.
The stereo is very good; it was surprisingly good at reproducing the bass in music without exaggerating, distorting, or dropping it, as some other systems do.
The side mirrors are both tinted, which can limit their utility in low light conditions. The generously sized sunroof is tinted with wire mesh, keeping the car from getting too hot in summer.
We generally enjoyed the G20, but have to say that this price range includes excellent alternatives such as the Dodge Intrepid, Chevrolet Impala, Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS, and Toyota Camry. None, however, can boast of the excellent reputation of the Infiniti dealer network, and that is quite an asset if you like being treated as a first-class citizen. The G20 also looks more like a luxury car. And guess what? You can set the radio on cold mornings without taking your gloves off.
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