By on March 20, 2018

In our last Buy/Drive/Burn entry, we traveled to the heady year of 1995 to peruse a trio of alternative luxury cars. One American and two Swedes vied for a place in the fantasy garage. The comments seemed to indicate a desire for more Japanese cars in the running, and commenter JohnTaurus suggested a trio we might discuss.

The year is 1995 (again). The cars are three unsuccessful Japanese luxury sedans that time forgot. Are you feeling… Vigorous?

In advance, a word: In sticking to JohnTaurus’ suggestion, we have to bend the “all same model year” rule. While the Infiniti and the Mazda were available in 1995, the Vigor departed after 1994. So we will assume the Vigor was purchased new in 1995, as a leftover.

Acura Vigor

Of course I was referring to Acura’s Vigor — one of the more oddball offerings from the cobbled-together early days of the brand. Though a Vigor had been around in the Japanese market since 1981, Honda didn’t see fit to make it available as an Acura until the 1992 model year. In its home market, the Vigor was a luxury Accord trim (as seen above), offered only in four-door hardtop style.

The Acura was available in either LS or premium GS trim and used a 2.5-liter inline-five engine (the only Honda to use the engine in North America). Stiff (or rather, softer and more comfortable) competition from the Lexus ES300 caused Honda to revise the Vigor for 1994, softening the suspension and improving NVH levels. Unimpressed buyers stayed away, and 1994 would be the last year for the Vigor. Its replacement came in 1996 with the more successful TL.

Mazda Millenia S

The Millenia was to be a brand new direction for the Mazda brand. Part of the ill-fated Amati luxury division the company planned to introduce in the North American market, fate intervened via the Japanese asset bubble collapse before the brand was actually launched. The Millenia was ready by 1993, but was not launched in the U.S. until 1995. Because the sedan was supposed to wear a different badge on the grille, the Millenia had more luxury detailing than other Mazda models. Paint quality, materials, and panel gaps were all set to luxury-level standards.

The S trim was top of the line, featuring leather, keyless entry, a moonroof, heated seats, and a 2.3-liter Miller Cycle V6 engine. Without a luxury badge, its main competitor was the Nissan Maxima. Cost cutting began with a facelift in 1997, and another for 2000. The model would be discontinued after the 2002 model year.

Infiniti J30t

An Infiniti rounds out our trio as the only rear-drive vehicle on offer today. Debuting in 1993 as a replacement for the unpopular (and small) M30 coupe, the sedan occupied the slot in the lineup between the compact Primera-based G20, and the full-size V8 Q45. Under hood was the tried-and-true VG30 engine — the very same one shared by Nissan’s 300ZX. A total of 210 horsepower travel to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic. The luxury interior of wood and premium finishes was conceived with the assistance of car interior designer Poltrona Frau of Italy. Real wood trim, digital climate control, leather, and bronze tinted glass are standard. The sound is Bose, and the front seats are powered.

Particular to the t trim was a rear spoiler, lace alloys (mmm…), and MacPherson strut front suspension. The sloped rear styling, which today might be called “four-door coupe” made the J30 stand out among sedans, and was also one of the reasons it was unsuccessful. Though it was a midsize externally, interior dimensions were compact — the J30 had less space inside than a Nissan Sentra. The J30 was dropped for 1997, replaced in the Infiniti lineup by the front-drive and Maxima-based I30.

Which of these unsuccessful Japanese sedans burns, and which goes home with you?

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133 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: It’s 1995 Again, and You’re Buying a Sporty Luxury Sedan...”


  • avatar
    doublechili

    I’d take the most expensive one and then trade up for an Audi S6! But seriously, I don’t have to get past the photos. The Infiniti and Mazda are rather ugly IMO, and the Acura’s angular lines are pretty attractive. So it’s the Acura for me.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I even tell you so much – bring back this body. Put modern “avionics” into it and I am in!

      So here is new QOFD category – which car of the passed you would buy new today considering that body is unchanged but it may have modern engine and electronics

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    I’d buy again the ’95 BMW 525i I used to own. Such a balanced machine and a great highway cruiser. You could do 140 km/h and it felt like 90. I miss that car!

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      See rules for play…LOL. Can’t inject another car (although I’d go with the BMW, too!).

      As for this list,
      Likely buy the Acura, drive the Infiniti and burn the Mazda. But I don’t have overly strong factors behind those choices, other than my wife really liked the style of the Infiniti for some reason.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I re-read the article, can you point to the part that gives a BMW as an option? I can’t seem to find it.

      The point of these options is to give the reader the chance to consider the pros and cons of cars s/he wouldn’t normally consider. Yes, there are better choices out there. That isn’t the point,

  • avatar
    HEOJ

    Buy the Acura, because why not.
    Drive the Millenia to check out the 2.3L
    Burn the Infiniti cuz a Sentra is too small!

    I’m kinda torn I had a base Millenia back in the and I liked the car other than the weak as all get out engine and always wondered what a difference the 2.3L would make but it also gave me the blues with a broke circuit board for the driver door window switches that was way too expensive and I also think its kind of ugly these days(loved the looks back when it was new). Indifferent about the Acura and big cars with small interiors urk me, I need my stretch out space!

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      I am torn. True the J30 is small, and it is ugly, but it has rear wheel drive, and shares the same engine with the 300ZX. Would it be easy to slap the turbo on there and get a 300hp RWD luxury sedan? Sure seems like it.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Drive: Millenia
    Buy: J30
    Burn (with regret): Vigor

    J30’s got very solid bones for the long haul, and a very deeply baked in luxury that the FWD options can’t touch. Mazda would be a satisfying drive I’m sure with a super smooth small displacement V6, but as I understand it long term ownership prospects with that V6 are not great, not sure of transmission longevity either, did these use the same trouble-prone unit as the 626s?

    Vigor is very interesting and very Japanese, but ultimately still suffers from Hondas poorer NVH and stiffer ride, and as I understand it the I5 is no powerhouse.

    Honestly though within this same era and general class, I would have gladly bought a ’94 Maxima SE with a 5spd.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      Ditto. I saw a J30 drive by me the other day, in near-mint condition. It looked really good still, and seems like it would be a long term satisfying car. One of Nissan’s solid 90’s efforts out of Japan.

      I had a Millenia and liked the car but it broke down a lot. If they were as reliable as a Lexus/Acura/Infiniti maybe it would take the cake, because with the Miller cycle 2.3 and the waterfall grille it was the one I liked most in 1995. So just drive it and leave.

      The Vigor is just too boring (no vigor). Life is too short. The Legend of that era was the real keeper.

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      I agree. In the J30, for those who wanted a little more power, I’m sure slapping a turbo from the 300ZX would be simple enough.

      The Mazda would be great for “drive” since it’s a novelty at best, to see how that Miller engine feels.

      Acura? Burn it with vigor!

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Easy one

    Buy the Acura
    Drive the J30
    Burn the Mazda

    I really like the Acura Vigor and would consider buying one today.

    I feel like the Lexus ES300 should have made the list over the Mazda.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah ha, but not my list!

      Also the ES300 is very mainstream and not oddball at all. It was designed with America in mind, which these three were not (Millenia gets a sort of).

      • 0 avatar
        paxman356

        “…designed with America in mind.”

        Hey, can we slap some leather and a couple Lexus badges on a Camry and call it good?

        • 0 avatar

          Americans love a ruched leather.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Now, I think I read in Mary Walton’s “Car” how the development of the Toyota “Windom” (ES300) and US-spec widebody Camry (XV10) was more or less concurrent so it’s perhaps not so much an ES300 necessarily being a hastily slapped together “Camry with leather” so much as the Camry being a simplified Windom. It’s all semantics at this point I suppose, but worth considering.

          A few cool/oddball things that I loved about my ’96 ES300:

          Dual projector headlights (high and low beam)
          Frameless windows
          Fluid driven radiator cooling fans for lower NVH

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ gtem – Haters gonna hate, but the XV10 and XV20 ES’s are terrific cars.

            youtube.com/watch?v=UvzCJTTUQWU

          • 0 avatar

            “Car” does not mention ES300.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            ““Car” does not mention ES300.” Are you sure? They perhaps don’t by name, but they discuss at length the common parts shared between the XV10 Camry the Ford engineers were taking apart and the Lexus that the Camry shared a platform with.

            A Google Books search confirms:
            Page 46- ”
            DN101 engineers went over to examine the splayed out Camry innards, which had been methodically labelled, weighed, and evaluated for cost. The boards told them several things.
            Camry engineers had gone to extraordinary pains in the design of every component. Moreover, some parts were identical to those in the Lexus, Toyota’s luxury car off the same platform. That kind of quality didn’t come cheap. Toyota had spent maybe $1000 per car more than the amount budgeted for Taurus.”

            Page 95 “Toyota had stuck projector beams on the Lexus”

            Page 179, 186 comparing HVAC performance

            etc

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      This. Besides, I basically did buy a Vigor, twice, since I’ve had two TSXs.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Drive the Infiniti because it’s RWD. Buy the Acura because it’ll last. The Mazda is probably already doing a slow-burn know as rusting.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Buy the Acura, though not very many people did
    Drive the Infiniti, but don’t look at the outside because it’s hideous, especially in darker colors
    Burn the Mazda, because the Millenia never made sense

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Burn them all and get a 95 Maxima. Or wait a year and get the i30t (which added front tilting headrests, rear adjustable headrests and a VLSD on the manual version). Vs the Millenia, faster, cheaper, more reliable, available with stickshift. Vs the Vigor, faster, cheaper, more refined, probably roomier too (Vigor should have been RWD). Vs the J30, faster, cheaper, roomier, didn’t look like a $15K Altima.

    OK, the Maxima’s rear beam was a joke on bad pavement, and the shifter + clutch seemed to be sourced from a UPS truck. Torque steer was pretty integral to the driving experience as well. But beyond that, solid choice.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    My dad had a ’96 Millenia S with the miller cycle. The interior design was really unusual. The center stack was taken up by a double-DIN cassette radio and center vents…and that was it. No HVAC controls. Those were way up on the same plane as the IP, to the right of the steering wheel.

    The transmission like most cars of the era was pretty lazy. The car had decent power and torque, but you wouldn’t know it by flooring the throttle. Count off a second or two and THERE it is. Handling was pretty unexceptional. The steering wasn’t as completely lifeless and dull as a Lexus ES from the time, but it was still finger tip light and numb as hell. The original Legend was a genuinely fun to drive car. The Millenia was not.

    Side note, I have only ever ended one test drive early – a late ’90s Lexus ES. I drove it back to the dealer before finishing the usual loop because I was so bored I wanted to blow my own head off. What a miserable car that was.

  • avatar
    cartime

    Buy: Road and Track.
    Drive: Anything. Maybe even write about it afterwards.
    Burn: This feature.

    • 0 avatar

      Why are ya here?

      • 0 avatar
        cartime

        A question I’ve been asking myself more often as of late.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’m genuinely curious, what would you rather be seeing content wise?

          I’d much rather do a deep dive on these older cars and hear fun stories and long term ownership experiences in the comments than just about anything else I can think of as far as new car features, etc. This and rental car reviews which sadly are few and far inbetween are what I love about TTAC.

          On a tangentially related note, Corey I have 2 pieces written up that I had submitted to Mark S. last year (rental Terios review, beater Maxima review), who should I submit those to? I know others in the B&B have expressed interest in submitting ownership reviews (FreedMike with his Jetta), when can we expect to see some of those? I guarantee they’d all be hits.

          • 0 avatar

            I’d submit your pieces to [email protected] as well as [email protected] I can tell you though that pieces which aren’t 2018 or 2019 model year vehicles would end up being published as something besides reviews.

            All I can recommend is that you keep bothering those inboxes with your ideas and posts. Out of my hands entirely.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            I submitted a reader review to both of those addresses and received nothing in return. “Thanks, but it doesn’t fit our content currently” would have been just fine, but that is apparently beneath the website that has recently published two Yaris Ace of Base articles and a recycled Jalopnik QOTD.

            You guys aren’t the Atlantic or New York Review of Books.

          • 0 avatar
            Tim Healey

            Hi @gtem — Can you re-submit? I may have missed it. My apologies.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I was probably one of the few people who really, really liked the J30. One of my neighbors – back in the day when I lived in a scuzzier part of town – had a dark green one and I thought it was a beautiful car. Of course I had a ’97 Altima at the time, so maybe I am touched in the head.

    So:
    Buy the J30
    Drive the Acura
    Burn the Mazda

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Buy the Infiniti – from Jack Baruth during his short and miserable career as an Infiniti salesman (they seem to have a cult following)

    Drive the Mazda – live the difference, it’s a unique offering

    Burn the Acura – 5 cyl? Not for this ‘Murican

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Nope; I’m looking for a sporty luxury COUPE… and not finding them. Even the vaunted Toronado is gone forever.

    As for the three listed: Burn ’em all!

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “and not finding them”

      The Germans have been doing luxury GT coupes (actual 2-door ones) for decades.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Would you believe me if I said I have never purchased a German “luxury GT coupe” and never will? Import costs have these things priced 50% higher than their former US equivalents (Mercedes is the GM of Germany, after all) and I’m not willing to pay more than it’s worth.

        Besides, I loved the Toronado… until GM destroyed them by going cheap on materials. Wiring harness too short for some sensors, causing frequent sensor replacement due to broken contact tabs, for instance. Another was a nylon timing gear that shredded itself while the car was just idling… NYLON of all materials! I loved the model but the last one I owned needed more repairs than necessary.

  • avatar
    ernest

    Nothing oddball about the Acura- they were really common out here when they were new. Neighbor put almost 300K trouble free miles on his before another neighbors minivan slipped out of park on a hill and put it out of it’s misery.

    So… buy the Acura. Drive the J30 (with a bag over my head). Holy crap those things were ugly! And burn the Mazda.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This one’s tough, I don’t like any of these choices very much:

    Buy: Vigor, because it looks alright and I always found the name silly.
    Drive: Infiniti J30, I’d swap with the Acura if the J30 had a real trunk.
    Burn: Mazda Millenia, Back then Mazdas “luxury standards” just meant it’d rust a wee bit less. A dull, mediocre car.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Buy: Vigor. I’ve always loved the looks of this car with it’s low cowl, straight-as-an-arrow beltline and tall glass. Clean, clean, clean. I miss my VW’s 5-cylinder warble and power delivery as well, so the engine isn’t a demerit for me. With the manual it is as quick as the other V6s.

    Drive: J30.

    Burn: Millenia.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy the J30. RWD, V6, and wood trim are all good boxes to check.

    Drive the Mazda. It has an interesting story behind it.

    Burn the Accord Brougham.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Buy: Acura because it will run far longer than the others and even hold some value. Remember that when they introduced the Vigor, Acura was actually regarded as an aspirational brand.
    Drive: Infiniti because I actually like its looks and with RWD and the luxury accoutrements it would be the best ‘driver’ under most conditions.
    Burn: Mazda. As others have said would probably have just rusted away anyhow. Was this one of Mazda’s models that had a solar panel in the sunroof attached to a thermostat that automatically ran the A/C when the interior reached a preset temperature? Believe that the 929 had this as an option that at the time I thought was seriously useful.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I think the moonroof-embedded solar elements were a 929 thing only, indeed a clever and nifty option. IIRC it didn’t run the AC compessor as that would have required the engine to run in order to drive the belt that ran the compressor. No way a small patch of solar panels could power an AC compressor anyways. Rather, the solar panels just powered some smaller fans that vented hot air out of the interior and drew in ambient temperature air. Which still is a very useful thing. I’d rather get into a 90F interior than a 140F one.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    For me, it comes down to styling.

    Buy the Mazda. Clean, reserved lines that still look good today.
    Drive the Acura.
    Burn the Infiniti. Like Tauruses from the same era, the styling hasn’t worn very well.

    (And frankly, screw all these – I want a 929.)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Vigor vs J30 is tough. The Honda I5 actually could put up serious miles, but a Nissan VG30 in the period before Nissan went bankrupt and was Renaultized… I’ll go Vigor for the buy, J35 for the drive, and Zoom Zoom Zoom for the burn.

    Six cylinders less than liters of three… every time…

  • avatar
    cirats

    Love this one because I faced very much this exact situation back in 1996 or 1997 and looked hard at both the Acura and the Infiniti. Ended up deciding on the Vigor because 6-speed manual (or maybe it was 5-sp) and went to an Acura dealer about 45 minutes away that had a couple lightly used ones to choose from.

    Where the story turns – and what the real answer to the question is even though it’s maybe cheating a bit – is that the dealer also happened to have a 6-speed 4-door 1992 Legend on the lot with about 50k miles. Who knew such a thing even existed? The difference between the Vigor and the Legend was palpable in terms of speed, smoothness, luxury and about everything else, and I drove home in in it for just around $16k. Put about 60k of basically trouble-free miles on it over about 7 years and sold it just to move on to something different. Was one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. I’d buy a new one tomorrow if they were still for sale.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That’s the hard thing about this series that trends towards pitting “oddballs” or sometimes slow sellers against each other. Within the context of the era there are often many other vehicles in the same class that offered better performance or value, once you throw in used options from a class higher than things really get interesting and limitless. We’ve heard E36, 2nd gen Legend, Maxima/I30, used 929 offered up in this discussion, all fantastic cars. My only experience with a 2nd gen Legend was helping my Viet friend’s trailer-mate sell one with leaking headgaskets on craigslist, I think it sold for $750 and I got to pocket a healthy seller’s fee.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Ha-hem, that would be the E34.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Yeah I just realized reading up higher that the poster said 525i and not 325i. Where was the 5 series priced then relative to these Japanese options? I would have thought you’d have to stick with the 3 to be at price parity. I figured Vigor would be on the low end, J30 on the high end, Millenia in the middle (before any discounts come into play for anyone).

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    You monster!

    I’ll fly to Japan with a large bundle of yen…

    -purchase the Leopard J.Ferie, which offers a 4.1L V8, barely use it, then ship it to the US in 25 years.

    -squeeze myself into the narrow-body 2-liter Honda Inspire to save some money on the road tax.

    -burning is disrespectful to the environment, so I will banish the Eunos 800 to the land of wind and ghosts (aka Russia).

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “so I will banish the Eunos 800 to the land of wind and ghosts (aka Russia).”

      LOL is that what the Japanese term it?

      Certainly sending over clean Shaken-doomed Japanese metal to Siberia is quite a sentence to dole out. But at least all of those cars will be used to the absolute fullest, with every last drop of life squeezed out of them and then some. Compared to those sad pictures from Japan and Hong Kong and Singapore with perfectly decent looking cars are left to rot due to high taxes and parking costs.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Ha, no, it’s a riff on the “Mr. Sparkle” Simpsons episode.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Haha oh man, I haven’t watched Simpsons in years but rewatching the Mr Sparkle commercial on youtube was priceless. Very true to form, I’m likewise a big fan of all of the American celebs doing ads in Japan in the 90s.

          https://youtu.be/XRLe826lyao

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, that was extra nuts. I’m thinking the “energy drink” is just liquid LSD or something.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Here you go, a well dressed Stallone walking through sunflowers would like to sell you a fine ham:

            https://youtu.be/HG9A9U3JS-A

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            ¡Ay carumba! I was waiting for someone with a tommy gun to jump up and murder his family.

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    Another easy one :) …
    Buy the Acura…

    Drive the Mazda…

    Burn the Infiniti.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Buy: Acura Vigor
    Drive: Infiniti J30
    Burn: Mazda Millennia

    The burn was easy. Family friends had a Mazda Millennia. I was never impressed with it.

    Buy or Drive was more difficult because the J30 and Vigor are so different. Okay, I’ve actually never ridden in a Vigor, but I’ve ridden in several Acuras of this vintage and they were all had very sporty ride characteristics. The Infiniti J30 on the other hand was a floaty boat with too much engine.

    Today I’m in a slow rolling kind of mood so the floaty Infiniti ride takes the win. I’ll keep the Vigor in my garage, in mint condition, and provide occasional forum photos to the Honda fanbois.

  • avatar
    SSJeep

    Buy and drive the Infiniti J30. The J30 was a beautifully designed car that could be had with RWD + manual transmission and was a blast to drive. It was also very opulent for its time.

    Burn both the Acura and Mazda. The Vigor’s 5 cylinder powertrain was lousy, and the Mazda Millenia looked old and boring the day it was driven off of the dealer lot.

  • avatar
    Thorshammer_gp

    Buy: The Acura, no question.
    Drive: Guess I’d go with the Mazda, though my heart says to put the Acura here too.
    Burn: My gawd, send that Infiniti back to the design hell it came from. Now I know where the pooping dog rear end originated.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Burn all of them, especially the Millenia. ’95 was the year you could get the DOHC 4.6L in the Continental!

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      IE floppy sloppy Taurus with a super strong motor? I’ll take the much more solidly constructed J30 thank you very much!

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah that Continental was not the best example of… anything really.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        You might think that, but RWD Infinitis of the 90s aged worse than the D based V8 Contis, air suspension aside.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’m not convinced in the slightest, at all.

          Worth noting that the J30 has the stupid-durable VG30DE, and the same basic 4spd Jatco transmission as seen on their truck lines (and borrowed by Mazda). Perhaps the Qs were more finicky, but these J30s are brick sh*thouses as far as I’m concerned.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Anecdotal, but every J or Q I’ve ever enountered was a total piece of trash soon to be abandoned by its owner. Mostly due to electrical issues that required unobtainables to fix and other general parts availability/cost issues.

            Alternatively, I used to work on many high mileage Continentals. Sure, they probably needed transmission work eventually, but any shop is able to rebuild an AX4N on the cheap. The 98+s had genuinely nice interiors too. Plus FWD burouts are ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Stop making me want a D186 Conti.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I can think of worse things to blow $2k on.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “I can think of worse things to blow $2k on.”

            A transmission for a D186 Conti. :p

            “every J or Q I’ve ever encountered was a total piece of trash soon to be abandoned by its owner.”

            This also applies to just about every Contintental plying the hood around here, dragging its ass around.

            I’d say it applies to all of the heavily depreciated luxury cars favored by the “ballers on a BHPH budget” demographic. All the point of parts availability is well taken, see my inability to find something as trivial as struts for a J30 below.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Found a clean one on CL asking $1100 with “will need tranny soon”. Maybe if I had something to trade…

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            U buy this now.

            https://newjersey.craigslist.org/cto/d/2000-lincoln-continental/6485052855.html

            That Autumn Red

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Too bad the transmission couldn’t even handle the 3 liters of Taurus, let alone a V8.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        This. If you put a Conti in the running of these 3, I’d rate it a “Drive” just to wring out that DOHC Mod motor on the highway, but that’s about it.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        The AX4N is very capable of handling the 3.0L. Mine has 239k on it, never rebuilt. The AX4N used on the 4.6L Conti, SHO, a few Vulcans and the Duratec was far better than the other versions. Its one reason I plan to keep my Taurus, it was very rare to be paired with the 3.0L in 1995.

        By the mid-00s, the torque converter would strip, but for some reason, earlier ones lasted far longer.

        The Conti trans is no worse than the Infiniti or Mazda automatics.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    This one is too easy

    Buy Vigor of Course. Look at those lines! It just beauty
    Burn damn Millenia. I hate Millennials and all the problems this car has
    Drive Infinity. RWD sedan with some power. Lets go

    where is Mitsu Diamante?

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Ooh the Mitsu would have been an interesting addition. My brother’s friend had a well worn ’94 Diamante in grad school. I think they’re handsome cars and fairly well put together, but don’t really stand out in any way either (well, offering a Wagon was really cool). It had a smattering of old car issues (minor electrical things, burning some oil) made somewhat worse by the transverse V6 orientation. I’ve ridden in a newer Aussie built Diamante, but by that point the cost cutting had taken hold. It just felt like a big fat heavy nondescript FWD sedan by then.

      • 0 avatar

        The early Sigma Diamante had that nice sharp, BMW-like styling (and wagon). By the last generation – what was that blob? Yuck.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Mitsu was quick from glory to sorry. Diamante, Galant, 3000gt, Eclipse, Evolution, even a pickup truck… Where are the goodies gone?

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Don’t forget the Montero SUVs! Montero gen 2 are world-class offroader/over-lander SUVs, gen Montero 3s were very innovative at the time (Dakar winning IRS tech) even if they did lose some of the old school durability of the gen 2, and even the cheaper Montero Sports were very respectable midsize SUVs in their own right, evolving from leaf-springs to have a 5-link+ coil rear setup and the larger Montero Limited’s 3.5L+5spd auto setup with either full-time or part time 4wd systems. A few earlier years of Montero Sports even got rear diff locks as options, same with the gen 2 Monty.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Well for us J30 buyers, here’s a chance for someone to put their money where their mouth is ($2500 worth):

    indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/d/1994-infiniti-j30-for-sale/6521648626.html

    She’s had some DIY paint touch up on both bumpers it seems and is rolling on some Pep-Boys special Primewell tires, but looks rot free and supposedly has full maintenance records from the single original owner!

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a Gold Edition!

      Boo the wear on the seats. 211k so many.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        What’s encouraging is that it’s in a good neighborhood, and with those license plate covers I’m assuming it is indeed being sold by the original owner after the car did some time as their kid’s college car. There is a good chance it was kept in good mechanical shape, although in all likelihood is coming up on a t-belt change (actually not that difficult or pricey) and more likely than not is running on some worn out original struts. The struts is where things will get tricky and pricey. Rockauto doesn’t show ANY aftermarket replacement options.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    I’d buy the Acura I guess, theoretically it would be the most reliable of the three. Drive the Infiniti until it inevitably breaks in an expensive way and burn the Mazda.

    On a semi-related note, you should consider doing one of these on three oddball European imports: Merkur Scorpio, Sterling 825/827 and Alfa Romeo 164. I’m partial to the Merkur having owned two of them. Yes I know they weren’t all available concurrently, but we can indulge in a little fantasy and pretend the Merkur and Sterling were leftovers that languished on the lot, because they did…

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Ok this one is easy for me because I have owned one and test drove one when it was new, and a friend had the other so here goes,

    I would buy the Acura which I test drove, it was a nicer Accord and has some nice interior appointments for the day
    Drive the J30 – as I did for a few years, yes it was small inside but I was alone 90 % of the time, It looked good, and had a great interior, did not care it was RWD accept I needed snow tires for it, put 30k on it and it did not need any repairs.
    Burn the Mazda – friends had it and it had issues and no resale value so it has to meet the match, really a better looking car vs the Vigor but I assume the vigor would last longer in the snowy northeast.

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    Buy – Infiniti – although in the minority, I like the looks.
    Drive – Acura – not a bad car, but not inspiring enough to buy.
    Burn – Mazda – never driven one, but have heard so many stories of mechanical woe.

    Hey Corey, I am sure I am not alone in saying that you drove me to the classifieds once again to daydream about potential new toys. After looking at the poor selection of J30s, I also searched Q45s. What I found took my breath away, and I thought you might be as inspired as I was:

    autoconnectionhawaii.com/detail-2002-infiniti-q45-luxury_performance_sedan-used-17438272.html

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Tough one, if you don’t use hindsight.

    Buy the Vigor- Having owned two Legends from 88-89, I’d probably have bought the Vigor if I was capable of buying new in 1994 (I was a new driver in 1994!). I’d have bought a Legend new, following my logic, but maybe not, because the price was up by then.

    With hindsight- Well, it runs well still, but it’s rusty and I’m unhappy with the odd 5 cylinder and Honda loudness. Resale low due to low take rate. Shoulda waited for the TL.

    Burn the Infiniti- RWD and a V6 would have made for a better drive than the Acura. Besides the “Japanese Seville” rear end, it was a handsome if bland car when new, especially in dark green with the gold package (natch). But that rear end was ugly.

    With hindsight: Yep, that rear end did not age well but those cars can run for a long time if cared for.

    Drive the Millenia- Having been a Mazda owner, I’d probably have liked the Millenia and especially for it’s oddball charms. I remember from the auto show at the time that it wasn’t as well blended as the other two in fit and finish, and that it was rather small inside. Mazda could have never pulled off that Amati brand.

    With hindsight- Oh, the rust!

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    Tough call but

    Drive the Acura: I do want one of these irl…

    Burn the Mazda: Because the larger, oddball 929 was better looking.

    Buy the Infiniti: Basically wins over the Acura because I have a bit of an attachment to them. When I was a kid I got the Infiniti J30 promo VHS in the mail (thanks Road and Track) narrated by Johnathan Pryce and must’ve watched it 600 times just looking at that car. Still have the tape actually. Also, RWD.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’ve test driven two of these three.

    Buy the Acura. No, it doesn’t have the road presence of the second generation Legend. But its a definite step up from the contemporaneous Accord in size and power. Not luxurious, but sorta BMWish. Having owned an Audi 5-cylinder; I have nothing against them.

    Drive the Infiniti, even though it looks like a Hudson Hornet from the rear. Definitely not “sporty” (as compared to the Vigor) but luxurious and adequately powered for the time.

    Burn the Millenia. Basically an orphan car from a company still trying to figure out what it is and where its going after the unsatisfactory rotary experience. If I recall correctly, the Miller cycle engine had major reliability problems. The version to get was the one with the conventional motor. Mazda made a lot of its customers into Beta testers of its exotic engine designs. No thanks!

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    Can I get the Millenia with the Amati V12?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    As you stick your head in your toilet at 10 on a Sunday morning and hate your tequila hangover, you wonder how it all went terribly wrong. Acura grew beaks and became “Honda dependable with a smidge of luxury”. So drive. Mazda just quit making attempts at upscale. Burn, America hates losers. The Infiniti has that exquisite butt. They’ve stayed true to rear wheel drive. And having Z engines So buy. As you stumble into your bedroom after projectile vomiting the last of the tequila from your system, you notice she has a “Property of El Locos MC” tat on her exquisite butt. Burn your life.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I loathed my boss, and he was proud of his droopy-a*sed ugly Infiniti J30, thought he had himself a luxury car, but it was a trundler when I was in it. He fancied himself a sporty driver too. Burn.

    Took a long test drive of a Vigor, since Honda had chosen the exact stroke (86.4 mm) of Audi engines (yes that size is magic!), yet claimed another 50 hp. The thing wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding if its hair was on fire, and no manual. Handled like a barge in stormy seas. Huge disappointment. Burn.

    Mazda Millenia, offspring of Mazda’s decision to not have a luxury brand. Who cared, so few were sold and it had a weird engine to boot. Burn.

    Three useless cars. I ended up with a ’94 Audi 90 Sport quattro, pre A4, leased on a cold winter’s day on the assumption it’d be better than my ’88. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong. This was the first Audi out of five in a row that had obvious understeer, all the time. And a ride like a Conestoga wagon. Burn twice.

    None of these choices were much good to begin with.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Buy: Vigor. Manual, of course. My buddy owned a ’92 so I’ve driven one a few times. It was still a good car at 200k miles with a mint interior (such nice cloth seating!) when he replaced it with a TSX a few years ago. But it had a rolling idle that we couldn’t figure out and he was busy enough with a new wife/family/job that it was logical to get something newer. It was parked on a farm and is now rotting away. I hope it gets rescued and put to use by some kid before it’s completely shot, if it isn’t already.

    Drive: Infiniti. I could have fun with that.

    Burn: Millenia. I’ve heard these are nice cars, though I have the impression the engines aren’t terribly reliable. Regardless, automatic plus FWD means this one gets torched.

    • 0 avatar
      Instant_Karma

      That’s the Idle Air Control Valve. Coolant is taken from the block and run to a valve on the intake manifold that controls cold idle speed. It gets gunked up eventually and can be cleaned for an easy, free fix. I’ve done it on both of the Honda/Acuras I owned from that era.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        It’s possible, but we did clean the one on there and we also tried the one off the parts car – which ran perfectly fine – without success.

        I recall another potential cause was a coolant temperature sensor, but we didn’t get anywhere with that either. We also couldn’t find any vacuum leaks.

        IIRC, it would cycle between idle and 2000 rpm every few seconds.

        Anyway, he bought that thing in maybe 2002 to replace his beater ’87 Legend that got rear-ended. He was just looking at getting a used Civic or Integra but they were overpriced. He got a mint (aside from the typical rear fender rust) Vigor with a stack of Acura maintenance receipts (even the brake fluid was replaced regularly) for less than an Integra or Civic of comparable age and mileage, and it was a far more refined vehicle.

  • avatar

    In 1995 I wanted to buy Audi A4. I would burn all Japanese cars because they all were extremely boring. Yes, I would rather buy Passat, Ford Mondeo or even Opel Vectra but burn everything made by Japan Inc.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Okay so the Japanese trio that are made up of one with a longitudinally mounted I5 and double wishbone suspension at all 4 corners, a RWD one with an engine out of a sports car, and one with a unique supercharged engine are all boring. But somehow three of the most staid and boring FWD European options of that era are somehow not? Good one!

  • avatar

    And do not forget Scorpio with 3.0L V6 – it was my favorite, excellent car!

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Thanks for taking my suggestion, Corey. As I mentioned, this is a hard one for me. In the mid 90s, I fell In Love with the Millennia and J30.

    I briefly owned a J30, it had transmission issues, as do a lot of them I see on craigslist. I drove a Vigor manual once and loved it, even though it had 328k on it! I find the Mazda extremely interesting, makes me wish Amati would have made it to see the light of day, because if this was their entry model, the flagship would be off the scale.

    Reliability forces my choices:

    Buy the Acura, get a GS with a manual.

    Drive the J30. You can steer it by the throttle in the rain, lol. Very easy to get sideways in, very controlable.

    Burn the Mazda. One had to go, and this is the least reliable.


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