The cars we loved.
The Infiniti G20 (called the Nissan Primera in Japan and codenamed P10), was the entry level near luxry offering anchoring the Infiniti line of cars in the North American market. Similar in size to Nissan’s own Sentra, the G20 shared many of the mechanicals with its lower priced sibling. The most important of those parts was the Sentra SE-R’s 2.0 L 4 cylinder DOHC engine. It produced 140 hp in both cars. The G20 was separated from the Sentra by virtue of it’s luxury appointments and ride tuning which made for similar performance, yet with a softer ride due to the multi-link front suspension and an independent MacPherson strut in the rear. This was Nissan’s first application of this type of suspension in a front wheel drive car.
Initially the G20 was met with lots of fanfare from the press, but never really caught on with the public. despite having the limited slip differential, 5 speed manual transmission and comfortable and supportive sport seats, the G20 was never seen in the same light as it’s European competition. Marketing efforts pitted the G20 against the Audi A4 and BMW 3 series, but the G20 was a long way off in establishing the reputation these cars had. Even worse, it cost almost as much when fully loaded and did not look too much different from a loaded Sentra SE sedan, especially when both were fitted with 14 in aluminum wheels. The concept of a luxurious Sentra SE-R might have gained traction in the G20 if it had more power to offset it’s weight increase over the SE-R.
The G20 took a strange leave of absence in the years between 1996 to 1998. When it returned, it was an all new design further distinguished from the Sentra, but still sharing most of its mechanicals. The second generation car, called P11, replaced the advanced suspension of the P10 with a simple beam axel design, called by Nissan “multi beam”. It was done to save money, but made the car’s overall performance suffer in combination with the increased weight and small increase of only 5 hp over the previous car.
Throughout it’s life the G20 garnered positive reviews from media outlets as diverse as Consumer Reports to Motor Trend, but it’s sales continued to decline, despite refinements. In its final years the G20 carried on with minor changes, mostly cosmetic, like larger wheels and a rear spoiler. By 2003, Infiniti had replaced the G20 with the new G35 sedan, a car that would not only be popular with the press, but the public as well.