90s Japanese Luxury Car Purchase Dilemma: Q45, LS 400, or RL?
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.
Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.
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