In the fall of 2000, I bought a car, and one year later I recorded my thoughts on those first twelve months. Last summer, after it was totaled in a wreck, I bought another car, and it's now one year later, and time to reflect on life with the 2000 Infiniti I30 I call "Gwendolyn."

There wasn't a real World Tour last year, so I haven't put a lot of miles on her: just under 8000, or about one-twelfth of her existence so far. She was in pretty good shape for six and a half years old, and exactly one function is nonfunctional: the indicator light for the driver's-side seat heater does not work. (The seat heater itself works fine; it's just that you can't tell it's on until your keister goes into toasty mode.)

I anticipated, what with 88,000 miles on the clock to start out, that there'd be some maintenance to catch up on, and it would probably cost me $1500, maybe $2000 to get everything taken care of. I wish. The usual 90k service runs $500 or so; however, in addition to this, I've had to replace both front and rear brakes (including rotor resurfacing), the starter, the A/C compressor, the front exhaust tube (where the pre-cat lives), and one of two catalytic converters (the one in front). The service manager at the Infiniti store assures me that he's never seen a car that needed that back cat replaced, but there's a first time for everything. So instead of $2000, I've put out about $4500. On the upside, everything else seems to be in fine shape, and the replaced parts, I assume, should be good for another 90k miles or so. Spark-plug replacement at 105k is the next hurdle: these are NGK platinum plugs, and they're about fifteen bucks. Each. Still, the replacement interval is 105k, and it will be something like 2016 before I hit 210,000 miles.

Which I think Gwendolyn can do. The Nissan VQ-series V6 is considered by most observers to be just this side of bulletproof, electrical and emissions-related peripherals excepted, and the bodywork is in fine shape: there's only one slight paint chip, and it's in the scratch strip on the driver's-side door, although the original gold badge plating has pretty much worn off. Rattles are evident only on the worst roads. (Unfortunately, the Oklahoma City metropolitan area is almost a sanctuary for lousy pavement.) And while the BFGoodrich Touring T/As she's wearing now don't have much grip on dry roads, they're surprisingly reliable in the wet, and they have probably another year or two before they need to be replaced.

Infiniti sold this car in two varieties: Luxury and Touring. The Touring model offered traction control, 17-inch wheels instead of 16s, and stiffer suspension tuning. Gwendolyn is definitely a Luxury model. On the other hand, despite her softer suspension, she does not wallow: only the worst bumps upset her composure, and not for long. Further, everything I've seen on the Touring models says that they have a humongous turning circle, which Gwendolyn does not. (Maybe those 17s were a hair too big for the fender wells.)

EPA reports this car — or did, anyway, until the new 2008 numbers appeared — gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. I find these numbers to be at least plausible: my usual around-town figure (which includes about one-third freeway jaunts) is 21 mpg, and an 800-mile round trip, Kansas City and back, registered a respectable 27.5 mpg. (Worst case, during a week of near-blizzard conditions which suggested I stay in second gear most of the time, was 18.7 mpg.) The gas gauge is less reliable: at the 1/4 mark, refilling takes about 12 gallons, rather less than three quarters of the advertised 18.5-gallon capacity. And the new EPA numbers say 17 city, 25 highway. I expect to beat those easily.

At the age of fifty-three, I've learned to appreciate my creature comforts, and God knows Infiniti didn't stint on those. This is the first car I've ever had that had automatic climate control; it took me the better part of six months to get used to the idea of leaving it alone instead of constantly fiddling with the row of pushbuttons. And the electronic logic works well enough, though it's still offputting when the machine decides okay, you don't need the upper vents running now. The Bose-designed stereo is pretty decent, with full-range drivers in the front doors and the rear deck, tweeters in the A-pillars, and a subwoofer hanging out back, though said subwoofer will rattle if you turn it up too high. Its tape player is superlative; the CD section has trouble with some CD-Rs run too close to the 80-minute mark but is otherwise exemplary, and the AM radio, like most such, is simply terrible. (I hesitate to pass judgment on the FM section, since local FM stations are, shall we say, less than obsessed with their sound quality.) The seat heaters prove useful maybe ten days a year, but that's enough of a justification for me, and the package came with heated outside mirrors, a definite plus during our overabundance of ice storms. And I admit that I have been spoiled by the seat valet, or whatever it's called, which backs up the seat when the key is removed, thereby making it easier to get out of the car (although it's less of an advantage today, inasmuch as I am about 40 lb lighter than I was when I bought it).

All in all, it's not a bad showing, though I really hate having a car payment again (and they'll be around for three more years). And if nothing else, owning this Infiniti has given me a chance to experience some of the newer models, which in turn gives them a chance to sell me another one some day. I'm definitely going to have to go easy on the covetousness for a while.

The Vent

  17 June 2007

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 Copyright © 2007 by Charles G. Hill