By on September 16, 2011

Since my daily-driver ’92 Civic is about to become a much less civilized car (plus it’s finally made the transition from “somewhat rough” to “total beater,” I need to start shopping for another DD very soon. Since I’ve developed a fascination with Japanese luxury cars of the 1990s (the era before the Japanese Big Three de-Yakuza-ized the souls of their American flagships and started out-German-ing the Germans), I’ve decided it’s time I owned one. The question is: which one?

Ah, the LS 400. Plenty of them were eaten by The Crusher during the Cash For Clunkers era, but most of these big, dignified V8 sedans are still on the road today. It’s easy to picture a mid-level Nagoya loanshark making his rounds in a discreet gunmetal-gray Celsior, maybe with a couple of kneecap-busting heavies riding in the very comfortable back seat. You might not need to send your muscle out of the car to encourage timely payments from your clients, but the understated menace of the Celsior lets everyone know the option is there. Sadly, Toyota must have ditched their Yakuza consultants from their focus groups by 2000, because the LS 430 and successors were just very comfortable appliances. You can pick up a very nice LS 400 for about five grand, though it costs a bit more if you need to go VIP style with one.

The Infiniti Q45 is a much goofier car than the LS 400. Its V8 has about 40 horses over the early LS 400’s engine and Q45 buyers got variable valve timing, active suspension, and four-wheel steering. The reliability wasn’t quite up to LS 400 standards (watch out for those timing chain guide failures!) but there’s a huge helping of that Japanese love of technology for its own sake that’s sadly lacking in most of this century’s Japanese vehicles. The average age of a Q45 owner tends to be much lower than that of LS 400 owners, and the Q45 didn’t hold its value quite as well, which means most of them have had the crap beaten out of them by now. In addition, I must have a 1990-1993 model, with the strange grille-less face. I might not be able to find a low-mile, solid example, but we’ll see. I’m also tempted by the J30, but it’s just not as extreme as the early Q45.

The Acura Legend/RL of the 1990s lacks both a V8 and rear-wheel-drive, but I like Hondas enough to be able to overlook those glaring problems. Well, maybe. The early Legends were a bit tainted by their Sterling/Rover connections, and they just aren’t radical enough to be interesting to me, but the 3.5 RLs of the late 1990s have a bit of the old Soichiro Honda look about them. I’ll consider a nice RL for my daily driver… but then (if I’m willing to ditch the V8) I might have to take a look at the Mazda 929 or maybe even the Millenia (non-Miller Cycle version, of course). The Mitsubishi Diamante is out of the question, it should go without saying. Not that I’m completely anti-Mitsubishi; if I could find some way to get a Debonair registered in Colorado…

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

95 Comments on “90s Japanese Luxury Car Purchase Dilemma: Q45, LS 400, or RL?...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    LS400, Q45, RL in that order. The LS400 should be the first choice simply because many believe it represents the pinacle of the Toyota System.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. All of them are good choices, really, but the LS400 was a true benchmark in terms of quality.

      The same could be said about the 1992-2000 SC300/400, though the coupes don’t have too much rear seat room.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Simple answer, how many do you still see driving around? I barely see any Q’s few RL’s but tons of LS’s btw I’ve driven a couple of them from that era and they both drove like new.

      • 0 avatar

        @ Volt 230 I completely agree with your observations. I see very few Q45s left on the road, and the ones I do see tend to be 1997+ models.

      • 0 avatar

        Infiniti sold far fewer Q45s. You’ll see far fewer for that reason alone. The active suspension was a very expensive option. It greatly improved the ride of the car, but I’d stay away for reliability reasons. Even for MM finding parts would pose a challenge.

        My favorite Legend is the second-gen car, 1991-1995. Love the proportions. Also a fan of that era’s 929, but it had a tiny trunk and wasn’t a very satisfying car to drive.

    • 0 avatar

      The LS400 may be a quality benchmark, but it is also the dullest, most souless vehicle ever made. I will put it this way, I would rather drive a panther…. At least a panther is so awful it is entertaining!

  • avatar

    Q45, RL, LS400 in that order. The LS400 should be the last choice simply because there’s so damned many of them. It’s the Camry for the rich. Yeech!

  • avatar

    I owned a ’92 Legend a number of years ago and absolutely loved that car. Parts were expensive (at least up here in Canada), but it was fun to drive, a real good looker, and overall a great experience.

    I haven’t tried the others mentioned, but I think the Legend is a great car.

  • avatar

    Q45. The LS is just too soft and removed for those who may enjoy driving – and if you drive a early ’90s Civic, I am assuming you do.

  • avatar

    You already like Hondas, so the late 90s RL sounds good if there isn’t something else you thing is clearly in better condition.

    I don’t know if you’ll like the way the Lexus handles. It’s not going to feel close to your Civic, I’d think. The Infinity interior is comparatively stark, from what I can remember.

    Infinity has a great opportunity to become a more reliable BMW, since it was considered sportier than the Lexus LS, but that insistence on unconventional, non-soul stirring styling turned people off.

  • avatar

    I learned how to drive standard on my dad’s ’93 Acura Vigor. It’s more akin to a 3-series or Lexus ES, but it’s an oddball car. 5 cylinder, longitudinally mounted engine, with the transmission bolted to the bottom. It is however, FWD. You sure don’t see many of them these days.

    • 0 avatar

      A friend sells used cars, he said the Honda V6 trannys were weak,
      also the 5 cyl were troublesome.

      Others I dont have enuf info.

      Anything from the Fatherland, is either too expensive to own or not overly reliable.
      I have 2 mercs, they werent all bad.

    • 0 avatar

      My buddy’s ’92 Vigor still has a very strong engine at over 200k miles. The only problems were a couple of oil seals that are guaranteed to go bad sometime after a decade, one of which – on the oil cooler – can cause rapid oil loss because it’s pressurized. The other is just a distributor seal. Fortunately he knew to turn off the engine when the oil pressure light came on.

      The engine on his rear-ended parts car that he bought at a salvage auction for $202 has 120k miles and runs well.

      It’s a beautiful car for someone who enjoys good driving dynamics, but it suffers from a very small interior. Two average-sized men and two smallish women is the limit for a highway trip.

  • avatar

    LS400 hand down. It is a true premium car, unlike the rest of them.

  • avatar

    The Q may seem like the enthusiast’s choice, but if you can find a nice one, go with a 1993-1995 “Type II” Legend. It’s less powerful than its V8 competitors (230 hp V6), but available with slick a 6-speed manual, while the Lexus and Infiniti are slushbox-only. Alas, like the Q45, values have declined to a point that most examples have been beaten to hell.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. In addition, you can also find the Legend Coupe, which is a great looking alternative. Yes, there are Type II 6MT Coupes out there. I *almost* bought one while I was living in Denver.

  • avatar

    I’d say drop the RL and pick a 91-95 Legend instead. It’s a much better conceived car than the RL and much more engaging than the LS400.

    The Q45 was a nice car, but it never really found its place in the world.

  • avatar

    I loved my 88 Legend. Fantastic car. Do you really want a V8 in a daily driver?

    LS-400, RS, Q45 in that order based on your preference for RWD. The Q has not aged well. Easily the coolest at the time, it just looks bad today. But a Legend in good shape is a better daily driver than any of them, even has decent economy.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, since my daily driver for years was a P71 Crown Vic, which I loved, I’d say the V8 is a semi-requirement. I’d get another Panther, but the idea of replacing stuff like window regulators and random engine sensors every few months is quite unappealing.

      • 0 avatar

        The string and pulley window regulator was something that many Nissan models share, not sure about the Q.

        Personally I’d rather change a random sensor or few at Ford parts pricing than need to change the rubber band and water pump on an LS or RL.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m still surprised to hear you had so many issues. My 140K mile ’97 P71 (that I sold earlier this year) was damn reliable. In the 5 or 6 years that I owned it, the only parts it required outside normal maintenance items were tie rod ends, an idler arm, rubber exhaust hangers, a radiator, and an intake manifold (thankfully Dorman makes a great replacement for the crack prone original). All of the parts were dirt cheap.

        Never had to touch any of the interior electrics. In fact the only reason I ever had to pull off the door panels was to upgrade speakers.

  • avatar

    The Q45 may be the most interesting car out of the bunch, but the LS400 is the best overall. These were hand built at a time when Toyota was on the top of their game and were seriously trying to make an impression on the buyers. AND they have a non-interference engine = find one with a snapped belt, tow it home, swap the belt, and drive away.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      They don’t all have non-interference engines, 1990-1997 are non interference, 1998 and later are interference.

    • 0 avatar

      LS 400s were never hand built, which is not a knock. Toyota had superior assembly line production, which is documented in the book “The Machine that Changed the World,” written by a couple of MIT engineers in the early 1990s. Check it out.

  • avatar

    929. Nothing says I heart unnece-tech quite like a solar panel sun roof.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I could have bought a low mileage Q (about 70k) at a Carmax auction last Monday.

    I’ve had all five cars (you apparently want to consider 2 Lexuses, 2 Acuras, and 1 Infinitii). This is what it pretty much boils down to.

    The 1st gen Lexus is surprisingly fun to drive. The 2nd one is more ‘established’ as a luxury car. The Infiniti doesn’t have that much sport in it. Though it’s an excellent high speed cruiser. The last Legend is best off bought as a coupe… the sedan was a bit bland and nowhere near the Lexus or Infiniti.

    The RL may be the best value overall. They don’t carry as much of the Japanese luxury car premium as the Lexus. It’s far less of a gas guzzler than the Infinii, and it handles surprisingly nice.

    Personally, I would simply opt for the best specimen you can find for the cash you have. I have a very weak spot for the Volvo 850’s of this time period. A 1997 850R model I once bought seemed to offer 90% of the comfort and power of an early 2000’s S-Class for about a third of the price. But that was a creme puff with only 69k miles.

    At this point it really comes down to the best bang for the buck. Find a low mileage ride that has been well kept. Either that or one that had an engine or tranny blown.

    You know the deal. Good luck!

  • avatar

    The earliest Millenia’s (nee Amati) with the waterfall grill were pretty sweet, though you’ll have a very hard time finding one in decent condition. Probably the most unique and befitting of your eccentric tastes. You’ll live with a permanent orange CE light on, and the automatic tranny is as reliable as all Mazda V6 automatics (as in, not at all). Also, if you’re over 6′, then the seat travel will not accommodate you well, in the best Japanese tradition. I know all this from personal experience, when I fed my own Yakuza-fetish monster a couple of years ago: (

    • 0 avatar

      The Millenia apparently had some bad problems – it only has a 37% “satisfaction/would buy again” rating on Ouch. Compare to the Lexus LS’s 84%, the Q45’s 69%, or the RL’s 65%. Even the Mitsubishi Diamante has a 59% rating.

      CV boots, ECUs, transmissions, and wheel bearings seem to be the major culprits.

  • avatar

    None of those.

    J30t, man! They are awesome. Twin cam 300ZX motor, HORRENDOUS styling, and early ones had super plush interiors. Couch-like leather heated seats, Bose stereos, funky funky. Easier to find parts for a VG30DE than that V8, too.

    Or like an earlier posted said, a series II Legend – great looking car, and you can get the 230bhp GS with a 6-speed manual (if you look hard enough.) I think you could get SI Legends with a 5-speed too.

    • 0 avatar

      I read once that the 6-speed in the GS Legends was balky and not very Honda-like. Any personal experience?

      • 0 avatar

        There was a 6-speed, 180,000 mile Legend coupe that I drove occasionally for a couple of years. It was difficult to shift slowly or with vigor. Rev-matching helped a lot, so it was probably tired synchros, but it was not a typical Honda gearshift. I hate to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, since this seems like such a popular dream, but make sure you drive thoroughly before you buy. The example I tried never felt remotely fast or fun to drive. I’d roll on and hit the stop when I thought I was at 50% throttle. It never felt like 230 hp. It never felt like 175 hp. The nicest thing about it was the interstellar 6th gear for covering serious ground.

  • avatar

    The answer is obviously Q45. It’s the only weird one. (By the same logic, a 929 is an excellent idea.)

    My wife used to own an RL. It’s a perfectly lovely fwd Buick.

    The LS400 is hard to argue against, but the Q45 is for people who care more about cars than decor.

    I seem to remember BaT offering a Canadian tri-rotor Eunos Cosmo several months ago. It doesn’t have quite enough doors, but perhaps it would do the trick?

    • 0 avatar

      Forgot to mention that I’ve owned a 929. Pretty nice car, but flakier build quality than I expect to see in a Japanese sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d agree with the Q45, and for the same reasons. I do see first-generation Q’s around LA now and then–in fact, I pulled in behind one when I filled up my car last night. The conventional wisdom is that they’re prone to expensive problems, but I don’t know how accurate that is, and besides, I can’t see a veteran of the 1965 Impala and Dodge A100 Hell Projects letting that get in the way.

  • avatar

    My take on the early Japanese luxury cars was that Toyota was making their version of a Mercedes S and that Nissan was making their version of a Jaguar XJ. I like Jaguars, and think Toyota is boring so of course I’d say go with the Q car.

  • avatar

    The LS400 is the gold standard. The Q looks like a stretched ’86 Taurus.
    BTW, what exactly is a Miller Cycle and what’s so bad about them? I recall them being advertised back in the day as being super fuel efficient.

  • avatar

    I remember the LS400 and the Q45 as being over engineered and overbuilt when they were first introduced. Look at he detailing on these cars, it is incredible. Under the truck mat, bottom of the doors, everything has been tended too. No stone left unturned and first rate materials throughout. I used to own a 2003 RX300 and it was GOLD. I should have kept it, sold it at 130K. Still drove like new.

  • avatar

    LS400 with a Junction Produce body kit.(sarcasm) But seriously, the Q was a great car, the Acura was forgettable, but the LS just makes good all around sense, and also a mid-level loan shark would more likely have a few year old Toyota Century, not a LS/Celsior. (mild sarcasm)

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    If I was going to go full-scale luxury sedan, I’d forget about driving dynamics. Get the real deal. The LS400 is stately, and built incredibly well. Odd as it sounds, this car is a legend, and it is the closest you will get to this car:

    without suffering the maintenance headaches.

  • avatar

    I’ve always loved the first-gen Q. It was my original dream car. Odd one, yes. But…

    Why no Diamante? I know they may seem a bit run-of-the-mill compared with the LS and Q, but they had everything the RL had. I absolutely adored my 2002 Diamante LS. If one can avoid the inevitable heater core failure (repair of which necessitates removal of the dash!) by finding one that’s already been fixed, they are extremely reliable, halfway fun to drive (for what they are – thanks multilink suspension!), and I think they look gorgeous (I go for nondescript cars). Well, the 2004 Olivier Boulay redesign ruined them, just in time for the much needed 5-speed INVECS automatic… Too bad. But the ’02-03 sweet spot was great, and lots of interesting features were initially available at the ’97 debut. TCS (Trace Control) works very well at keeping the car in line, given that it’s a relatively unsophisticated traction control-based stability system.

  • avatar
    John R

    Your best bet of finding any of these in at least good condition is probably either the Acura or the Lexus.

    Yet, I would try my damnedest to find a Q45 in good condition, perhaps as far as traveling 500 miles to obtain one. They’re rare, but they’re a hoot – probably.

  • avatar

    1st gen Infiniti M45, rare, unique and last of the pre Carlos Ghosn Nissans + about the same price used as an LS

    • 0 avatar

      Hmmm… I’d forgotten about the M45. So did everyone else, which makes them underpriced.

    • 0 avatar

      Thats an excellent suggestion… right up Murilee’s alley too I bet. Remember the ads for it, touting it as the civilized muscle car, for guys who had outgrown thier 69 Implala SS?? :)

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t care for the M45 when I drove one. And if you’ll consider one, and want a V8, then should a Lexus GS 400 also be on the list? I could have hooked you up with one at a good price earlier this year. Maybe the people I sold mine to are ready to move on, with winter on the way. But I doubt it. They got a great car for $7k.

      • 0 avatar

        I feel it’s an apples to oranges comparison even though market positioning of the two was the same. There were maybe 3000-4000 1st gen M45’s imported so one knows what the car is whenever I drive mine, you can’t say that about the Lexus. The styling is pure Japanese without any Italian help or derivative there of.

    • 0 avatar

      Good pick on the 1st-gen M45. If you are taller than 5’10”, then forget about it, but if its the Yakuza look you are after, this one is hard to beat.

      • 0 avatar

        The M45 has about the same acceleration performance specs as the ’67 GTO, only without the terrible handling/brakes/interior/build quality. I had a ’67 GTO many years ago and I must admit I sort of miss it. I think I will take a look at some M45s.

  • avatar

    Go with a Q if you can find one. So far we’ve had three….a 91, 95, and 03. The 91 was by far the best handling, the 95 the most trouble free, and the 03 is the quietest and most powerful. All were purchased as 4 year old lease returns with 60K miles for $20K, and easily ran up 200,000 miles without any major issues.

  • avatar

    The LS400 is the best of the bunch, it’s just incredibly boring. The Q45 would be the most interesting, but the body style AFTER the on you have pictured is much better looking, imo. Sort of a Japanese Town Car look, very Yakuza.

    I actually looked at an older Acura RL a while ago, and it’s clear that it’s a different grade of car, the fit, finish, etc was more of a “Accord Premium” than a true contender for Mercedes.

  • avatar

    The Q-ship looks like a Japanese Panther. Is there any other choice?

  • avatar

    I remember taking a JTB bus tour of Tokyo on one of my first trips there (late 80s). The nice lady tour guide was showing us through a Yukuza area and informed us that they could be recognized because “zey drive big Rincolns or Benz.” I still remember that line after all these years.

  • avatar

    Forget the RL, when Acura switched from real names to letters, they lost thier soul. Go earlier and get a Legend. You can find mid-90s Legends that are still in perfect, excellent condition, and they will easily run to 250k+ miles. The coupe is a real looker too, kind of like the old shark BMW 635CSi without the headaches. That would easily be my first choice, simply an excellent choice from the days when Honda could really make a great car.

    If you prefer the Lexus V8/RWD feel, forget the LS and go for the GS400/430. It has all of the build quality and reliability of the GS but in a much more sporting package. Plus, owners tended to be fanatical enthusiasts who took care of them, as opposed to the luxury appliance buyers of the LS. And the styling is better too, throw a set of 19″ BBS rims and a suspension package on it and you will love it. Most definitely the GS is my second choice.

    Good luck finding a Q that hasnt been beat to death. The mechanicals may be great, but Nissan was never as good as Toyota or Honda when it comes to trim and upholstery. And they are ugly.

  • avatar

    I’d pick the LS, then RL. I do like my 98 3.2TL, which is essentially a shorter 2nd-gen Legend. The first RL is a very nice cruiser, same longitudinal layout as Legend. Older Legends do have headgasket issues around 130-150k. However build quality is very much top notch on the Acuras, mine has aged nicely.

  • avatar

    Q45, LS 400, or RL?

    Neither of them. smart fortwo!

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    This is a question after my own heart. This December will be the tenth anniversary of my purchase of my CPO 1998 LS400, from which my handle derives and it accurately describes the character of the car.

    My other car is a Miata so I definitely appreciate fun driving. However for day to day living in real world traffic conditions (I have a 30 mile one way commute) the LS400 is just as great today as it was the day I took delivery of it. The quiet and effortless power is a driving virtue all its own. I average 23mpg in mixed driving.

    The car is still totally bulletproof, as long as you do those 90K timing belt/water pump changes. Mine currently has 210K miles on it and I can honestly say it’s never had a serious problem. Original transmission still shifts like new, still a smooth and quiet ride. It’s starting to get minor electrical glitches that are annoying but not serious (i.e., missing segments in the LED display on the sound system head unit, and the tach needle sometimes sticks for the first 5-10 minutes of a drive) but for a 13-14 year old car with over 200K miles it’s solid as a rock.

    IMO the only drawback to it, in comparison to its Japanese Luxobarge peers, is a relatively small trunk.

    If you can forget about technological advances like bluetooth integration, this car represents a peak of excellence that has yet to be equaled. As others have pointed out, it’s overengineered and overbuilt and represents the pinnacle of the long-gone Fat Toyota era. I often do the mental exercise “what would I replace it with today if it were wrecked” and I always conclude that I hope that never happens because I’d then have to find another one.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    My father had a leased Mazda Millenia in the 1990s. Just scratch it off your list now. Compared to the real Japanese Luxobarges it’s small inside, unrefined, and unreliable. ’nuff said.

    I had a co-worker with an Acura Legend back when they were new. I still remember what an awesome car it was. Wanted one bad until the LS400 came out. Definitely worth looking at if you can find one still in good enough condition — I almost never see them on the road any more.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember having to ride in 1st series Legend as a taxi in my town
      in about 1997. The car was immaculate and properly functional in
      every way. The only thing that belied it’s 422,000 kms was jumping speedo needle.
      While a Honda believer already, that particular moment was the epiphany for me.
      I remember when I first started using taxis to any degree circa 1980, the average unit
      was a 1973-ish clapped out Ford Custom, often an ex-RCMP cruiser, where the 100,000
      mile mark vitually ensured quaking, quivering bodies and suspensions and the the driver
      holding the wheel 90 degrees turned, with the spoke vertical, wobbling down the road,
      not to mention the brake judder and everything else.

  • avatar

    LS400 by a large margin then way down the list, the RL and Q.

    The LS truly is amazing in any vintage, but I’d personally try for the latest LS400 you can find and afford (’99/2000), for the variable valve timing engines. Gas mileage on those cars is quite good (I’ve been told low 20s in town/near 30 on the highway is realistic). The older cars are a bit thirsty (17 city/24 highway is my experience). From ’93 onwards, the LS has improved headlights (H4s and a tolerable light pattern), better brakes, reliable A/C (R-134 system). The air ride setup, when equipped and working correctly, really adds to the Barcalounger effect. Oh, and the LS is incredibly anonymous when haulin’ butt down the road. Like JB above says, budget for a timing belt/water pump change, also budget for a full set of snow tires or keep the winter beater.

    RL’s aren’t terribly quirky, nor that interesting to drive, but should avoid the tinworm there in Colorado.

    Qs… fun, fun cars if you can find one, but I certainly wouldn’t want to keep one running.

  • avatar

    The Legend was surprisingly decent to drive for a FWD car, with pretty well weighted steering and decent handling. I much prefer it to the current RL, which has confused “heavy” with “feel” and otherwise sucks in pretty much every way.

    The first generation RL was the Hyundai Azera of its day. Just a knock off of the real thing. The 210hp 3.5L engine and the 4-speed didn’t make for a quick combo, but they are near bulletproof, while the later (unrelated I believe) Acura 3.5L and 5-speed combo are obviously known for grenading.

    The only Infiniti Q I like is the very last one before the hideous frog car that replaced it. The 2001 Q45 is still a great looking car, with its squared off, sharp lines. It looks better than any LS ever made, including the current one.

    For the people thinking about buying a first gen SC – don’t. Not unless you want to do a Supra conversion. If you want to have fun in a Lexus, buy an IS300.

  • avatar

    Not going to rank them, as that’s useless. My suggestions list, drive ’em all and pick your favorite:

    Legend Coupe (Type II engine) – Available with the 6 speed, unique in this group. Great looking.

    LS400 – Most likely to be found in good shape. My theory is, Toyota did such a good job copying the M-B ‘E’ class that owners forgot they were just Toys.

    Infiniti J30 – Forget the Q45. This was an interesting (odd) looking luxury car that could smoke the rear tires. As another commentator said, get an early model for the great interior.

    929, Millenia, Diamante: No, no, and no.

    If you’re looking for something truly different, there are several Galant VR-4’s for sale on CL in Denver right now…Homologated rally cars, gotta love em.

    • 0 avatar

      Having seen how Mitsubishi products disintegrate like sugar cubes in hot water in the first 20 minutes of a LeMons race— by far the most fragile marque in the 24 Hours of LeMons— I won’t be getting any sort of Mitsubishi… unless it’s a Debonair.

  • avatar

    If you live in Colorado you really should have a Subaru. They’re easy to work on and between the early 90s and mid 2000s they were all very modular so many parts carry over across models. Plenty of independent garages as well in the Denver area are familiar with them, too.

    Granted it’s not exactly a luxury car, but it would be handy with snow tires for the odd blizzard.

  • avatar

    I hadn’t seen an early Q45 until one followed me out of the neighborhood this morning. Still a lovely car. Lots of presence. The LS400s of the same vintage are seemingly everywhere, and while that is probably a testament to their durability, I’d take a Q. Just because.

    That said, I’d prefer a 2003-04 M45. Can you say Japanese luxury muscle car?

  • avatar

    The Q45 is the ticket. ENT specialist friend of mine has tried just about everything over the years and still has about 8 cars left around his mansion. Won’t even sell to his friends, can’t bear to let things go. Now drives an A8L.

    The car that cost the least to run and went the best was the old Q45. Several hundred thousand miles, no problem except consumables.

    The Acura RL has poor front suspension, not quality-wise, but very limited travel, fine on good roads, not so good on poor ones. An underdeveloped car, IMO.

    Personally, and this is just my feeling after reading CAR magazine’s tear apart of an LS400 two decades ago, Lexus didn’t even paint the springs in the seats and they were rusting at a year old, so I felt a bit meh about that. That’s the French approach. As CAR said then, where people didn’t look, the LS400 was cheaply or not finished at all.

    Not the vibe I get here on TTAC about ’90’s Toyotas being so wonderful. YMMV. In those days, I was struggling to keep Audis running. Nice cars, shame about the actual quality.

  • avatar

    Why not just buy a new 2011/2012 car? It would be a lot nicer than any of these old beaters. It would probably last a lot longer too.

  • avatar

    You need a Mark VIII! Why aren’t you listening to me?

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Sajeev, Murilee,

      I would make the case that the V8 Lincoln LS falls squarely into the 90 Japanese luxury segment and should be considered.

      The Lincoln LS V8 handles and drives better than the majority (maybe all) of the 90’s Japanese luxury iron.

      Replacement parts are low cost. I have two friends that had very little problems (just Coil On Plug replacements) through-out the life of the vehicle. The exhaust tone is sweet when being put through it’s paces.

      These cars pop up on Ebay every few months from Florida with very low mileage. Usually from a retired Ford employee.

      Promise to drive a V8 low mileage LS once before popping for the (yawn) 90’s Japanese luxury car.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        The V8 Version of the LS is nice. But due to a number of stupid design elements, it doesn’t feel nearly as spacious as the vehicles Murilee mentioned.

        This reminds me of another vehicle I have always liked, but never loved. The last generation Lincoln Continental. I bought several of them over the last few years for less than $1500 at the sales. One I think I bought for only around $600 to $700 back in 2007. Ran fine with 139k. Just needed a minor interior clean-up (smoker’s car).

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t mind a Grand Marquis with the Mark VIII engine and a manual transmission. Oh, and a supercharger. And a .45 in the glovebox.

  • avatar

    The Q45 is the sweetest of the lot, but Nissan doesn’t have the quality of the LS or RL. You want a daily driver out of these three, get the Honda and get a more sporty feeling ride. A daily driver should be fun. So get the Honda.

  • avatar
    John R

    Perhaps you cruise the Japanese Classic Car show and make an offer for that Debonair.

  • avatar

    NOOOOO! You’ve gone all soft on us! j/k. :-)

    Being that I’m in my mid to late 40’s, I understand, can’t stand the heat etc…

    That said, I have a soft spot for the 86-89 Integras, have wanted one since they were new. Give me a 3 or 5 door variant and they did come in a sedan too but I’m only interested in the hatchback. I’ve always loved the hatchback variants best and it was essentially a gussied up Civic in essence with a faster motor and upgrades to the basically good suspension/chassis to make it an improved Civic for the Acura line.

    My late father test drove one and decided he didn’t like the blue paint (essentially the same blue as used on the original Accord back in ’76) in a blue on blue color scheme or the red with black interior, give me the version with the sunroof and the 5spd manual kthanksbai…

    But that was then, sadly most have been scrapped or if still on the road, are now most likely clapped out by now.

    The only other thing is that older Hondas, and Acuras were the lack of anti theft features and especially the older Honda Civics like the split tailgate versions like yours are prone to being stolen for parts due to their still being plentiful in many areas of the country and their easy entrance and popularity stops me from buying one for that reason alone.

    Someone owned a dark blue 4 door Civic sedan of about that vintage and someone broke in and stole its steering wheel once outside my apartment building here in Seattle’s Capitol Hill about 4 years back and had to deal with it once discovered.

    Good luck in your decision!

  • avatar

    I rear-ended a Q45 (late 1st gen, 1994 if I remember right) while driving the vanpool from work (2010 Grand Caravan). I think the Q is a little fragile — this was the classic little-old-lady driving the Q and the ride was pretty cherry, so no rust, finish was very nice — but the Grand Caravan didn’t have any damage (our vanpool company couldn’t believe it, and took the van overnight to check it over) while the Q’s trunk got jammed shut.

    Other than that I’d go with the Q. It’s funny as when they were new I would have ranked it dead last amongst the premium Japanese brands, strictly on the basis of its resemblance to a big bubble B-body but now … gotta respect the anonymous styling with an underrated DOHC V8. Guy down the street had one too; I asked him what kind of mileage he got, and he started laughing before sheepishly admitting to the mid-teens.

    One of my friends at work is very much into the SC400s — he now owns three along with a slew of tools designed for the 1UZ-FE V8. I like ’em too, but from a distance: sort of how I always wanted a FD RX-7 but not the headaches.

  • avatar

    The one that’s on my list is the LS400. It’s the softest, but that’s a much easier fix than less reliable, and nothing fixes FWD. Cars this old, I assume I’m going to need dampers anyway, so bars and dampers… it’s a brand new world. No need to go overboard, there’s plenty of room to liven it up without making it harsh. And then there’s the interiors. Ask Mr. Karesh, but I think it’s the nicest.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I like the Q45 myself (and not the Q41), but the LS400 is easier to find in good shape. The Legend, GS, and J30 (the last especially) don’t really have that big-boat lebensraum. The RIGHT choice is the Toyota Century, but sadly that is likely infeasible.

  • avatar

    1991 LS400, only 32,000 kilometers, and brown like proper Swiss chocolate.

  • avatar

    The Q is a sweet ride on the cheap. Fast, handles surprisingly well (get Tokico Blue shocks to really improve the cornering for very reasonable money) and is very comfy. Downsides? Not fun to fix, the timing chains NEED to be addressed, the trannies are fragile at high miles, the driveshafts wear out and need new rubber bushings, and you should avoid the active suspension/four wheel steering models at all costs if you want to stay out of bankruptcy. It also sucks fuel at a rather alarming rate; mid teens in the city is good, YMMV, I got between 8.5 and 12 mpg in downtown Montreal with mine, but a decent 28-30mpg on the highway (Imperial units). An 85 litre tank made for a long cruising range but a minor heart attack at every fillup. It felt more sprightly and fun than a comparable BMW or Merc of that era, if not as well screwed together. My point of comparison was a 92 420SE W140 which felt like the proverbial rolling bank vault.

    I drove an early LS; my impression was extremely boring and slow for a V8, but surprisingly tight considering how well used and abused that example was. The Q is the fun choice by far, but it isn’t the best built.

    1990-93 is the best Q motor wise. That was the VH45 series which was seriously overbuilt, aside from the chain tensioners. They had sodium filled valves, polished conrods and crank, much stronger internals, and a higher output than the later cheaper-to-build 4.1L. It was a cost-no-object sort of engine that was replaced by a bean-counter friendly V8 in the later models.

    I miss the fun of the Q, but I don’t miss the fuel bill or the many repairs I had to do to it (or that nagging driveline vibration that wasn’t getting any better..).

  • avatar

    Hey hey hey! Zillion postings. I am a new member commenting on CC, and my wife and I have had nothing but Lexus 8s for the last 17 years. Does that make us car snobs?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • FreedMike: @285: The true cost of ownership on ANY $55-60,000 vehicle is going to be high. I mean, most F150s go for...
  • slavuta: WTF with America Trump makes Pravda network Left …. ah, they took it as Soviet model. That’s...
  • slavuta: NAPALM
  • 285exp: Mike, An EV broke for the first time into the top 20 car models sold in 2021, at #17, the Tesla Model Y. That...
  • MoDo: Things are junk. We would get them as trade-ins with 65,000km and they’d feel like they had 250,000 on...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber