Last week, Infiniti announced that it's going to put a larger, more powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the 2002 edition of its entry-level I30 sedan. Believe us. Power is not the issue. The I30 dukes it out with some pretty rugged rivals in the near-luxury class - Lexus ES300, Acura 3.2TL, BMW 3-series and Audi A6, to name just a few. A couple of quirks, including the lack of dual-zone climate controls and standard heated seats, keeps this a whisker away from world-class status. Also, the $34,965 I30 Touring Sedan that we drove had a chassis so stiff, the Michigan potholes made our teeth chatter a little too constantly. And who ever heard of a sport sedan that doesn't come with a manual transmission?

He: Gee, I really enjoy driving the I30t. It has one of the truly great engines in the business, a sweet twin-cam 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 227 horsepower and is coupled with a pretty smooth four-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is geared to take good advantage of the engine's power band, and it returns surprising good mileage - up to 26 miles per gallon on the highway, according to the EPA. But there are still going to be some die-hard sports fans who'd prefer a manual. I have a harder time reconciling the ride quality.

She: I have a more basic issue. Does the I30 Touring Sedan want to be a guy car or a girl car? In some ways, it's undergone a certain Oprah-zation. It's in touch with its feminine side, with things like an elegant little analog clock in the center of the instrument panel, plus cushy leather seats and tinted glass that protects you from UV radiation. Is that something guys worry about - whether or not they're going to develop cataracts because of their exposure to UV rays?

He: UV Rays? I thought that was some new techno band.

She: My point exactly. And then you pair up all those soft touches with all that horsepower and a stiff ride that left me uncomfortable even on the 25-miles-an-hour suburban side streets we were on. I just hate a car with an identity crisis. I have a hard enough time dealing with my own. So do you want me to talk now about my gripes with the $2,400 navigation system or do you have something intelligent to add?

He: Duh-Gee, I liked the navigation system, honey. It was kind of cute, with the bird's-eye view and those icons of the Detroit Zoo and the RenCen.

She: I could not take my eyes off the darling little giraffe popping his head out of the zoo icon. These navigation screens ought to be banned entirely. I don't care how clever they are. There's got to be a better way to give drivers directions than to have them squinting at little TV screens. I would recommend against this option. I find it extremely distracting and plain dangerous.

He: Maybe you're just easily distracted. I've often wondered if they should just ban wives from driving. Believe me, it's far easier to follow directions from the navigation system, which by the way doesn't talk back as often. Speaking of safety issues, you should be impressed with the Infiniti's standard package of four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, plus front and side air bags. Or is that not gender-specific enough for you? OK, let's talk handling. There's the big compromise on the I30t, which features a sport-tuned suspension, low-profile 17-inch tires, plus speed-sensitive variable-assist steering. All guy stuff, I know, but it really makes the I30 fun to drive.

She: At the expense of your comfort. You've got to get in and give this car a serious test drive. It's not for everyone. The I30 may look fairly generic on the outside, with some modest chrome touches and simple character lines. It doesn't shout "sporty." But it implies "luxury." And that theme certainly follows through in the cabin, which is unusually roomy. Jump in the back seat. It has an almost limousine-like feel. And I love touches like grab handles on the backs of the front seats that pop out slight en you tug on them. But in some other ways, it's really aggressive and harsh.

He: You want a soft weinie-mobile? Buy a Lexus or a Lincoln. But if you want to feel the road under your bottom and some power under your right foot, check out the I30 Touring Sedan.

2001 Infiniti I30t

Anita's rating: Above average

Paul's rating: Above average

Likes: Precise and responsive handling. Impressive power and acceleration. Roomy cabin. Attractive styling. Great 4-year/60,000-mile warranty with free roadside assistance. Cleverly designed navigation system (Paul).

Dislikes: A "touring sedan" with no manual transmission? Choppy ride on rough pavement. No dual temperature controls. No standard heated seats. Optional navigation system is distracting (Anita). Skip the $500 side sill "spoilers".

Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury sedan.

Price: Base, $31,540; as tested, $34,965 (inc. $525 destination charge).

Engine: 3.0-liter V-6; 227-hp; 217 lb-ft torque.

EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway.

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,198 (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)

Where built: Japan