Good morning, Autopians! Can you believe it’s Thursday already? Why, it seems like yesterday it was only Wednesday. Anyway, today we’re taking a trip to Long Island, that spit of land jutting out from the East Coast like it’s giving Europe the finger, to take a look at a pair of luxury sedans. But first, let’s see which Rocky Mountain SUV you chose yesterday:
Attracted to shiny things, are we? Can’t say I’m surprised; that Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ really does seem like a great deal, overzealous Armor-All application notwithstanding. And as some commenters pointed out, it may actually be a V8, even without the badge; in ’96 Chrysler decided the V8 didn’t need no stinking badges. I was not aware of that. We’ve learned something, and knowledge is power – in this case horsepower.
Now, if you want to find a luxury car for cheap, where do you look? Wealthy neighborhoods. Rapidly changing fashions combined with near-overnight depreciation makes for a steady supply of fancy rides at rock-bottom prices. Combine that with a fairly contained geography, which means there isn’t all that far to drive, and you can find luxury cars with nice low miles, too. Such is the case with these two. One is a Japanese upstart, and the other is an old-school American land yacht, but both offer the near-requisite combination of rear-wheel-drive and V8 power. Let’s see which one does it better.
2001 Infiniti Q45t – $4,999
Engine/drivetrain: 4.1 liter dual overhead cam V8, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Smithtown, NY
Odometer reading: 130,000 miles
Runs/drives? Oh yeah
It wasn’t long ago that the concept of a Japanese luxury car sounded far-fetched. Yeah, your friend’s dad’s Accord was a nice car, and the air conditioning was a treat compared to the sticky brown vinyl in your mom’s Rabbit, but you couldn’t exactly call it luxurious. Not like your uncle’s Oldsmobile with the pillow-top seats that you sank into, or that fancy convertible they drove in Hart To Hart. How times have changed.
When Nissan and Toyota decided to take on the luxury sedan market, they didn’t mess around. Both Japanese giants released rear-wheel-drive V8-powered sedans under new nameplates, and aimed them squarely at the Germans. Toyota, as usual, played it safe with the Lexus LS400; they went for quality, and simply made the absolute best car possible. Nissan, always more daring, lavished the Infiniti Q45 with a whole host of techno-wizardry to complement the cushy seats and wood trim, including HID headlights and electronically adjustable shocks. A touchscreen navigation system was also available (heady stuff in 2001), but this car doesn’t appear to have it.
What it does have is a 4.1 liter quad-cam V8, sending 267 horsepower to the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic, the only transmission available. It’s outclassed today, but it was no slouch back then. This one has only 130,000 miles on it, and the seller says it runs great.
In terms of overall condition, it looks nice outside, but the leather surfaces inside are a little beat-up, especially the back. It makes me wonder if kids or dogs were riding back there. Generally, though, it’s in fine shape. These cars kind of fly under the radar, so don’t be surprised if friends and family reply with “you bought a what?” after you tell them about it. But that’s fine. Nobody considers a twenty-year-old luxury car as any sort of status symbol anyway. Just enjoy it because it’s a nice car.
2003 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series – $4,000
Engine/drivetrain: 4.6 liter overhead cam V8, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Commack, NY
Odometer reading: 106,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does
Want something a little less complex? Don’t quite trust “them foreign cars?” Need room for five good friends and a trunk full of whatever needs moving? We’ve got you covered. The Lincoln Town Car rides (or rather, floats) on Ford’s Panther chassis, which can be found under millions of police cars, taxis, and grandmothers’ going-to-church sedans. These things are still worshipped by owners who love them, more than a decade after the last one rolled off the assembly line.
As befits a classic-style American luxury car, the Town Car features a split bench seat that allows three-across seating, which necessitates a column shift for the four-speed automatic. I don’t know how often these things were actually driven with a passenger in the middle spot in the front; it doesn’t seem very luxurious to me. But the option is there. Unlike most lesser Panther cars, the Town Car rides on air suspension that isolates passengers from all that decaying-infrastructure unpleasantness. It’s all about comfort in these.
This particular Signature Series Town Car is in a nice two-tone silver, a welcome break from the black or pearlescent white you usually see them in. It’s still a pretty boring color, but you don’t want something like this in bright orange anyway (or do you? I don’t know). Unfortunately it also has a vinyl roof, but it could be worse. It could be one of those stupid fake convertible tops.
As befitting a full-size sedan, it has a great big trunk. Plenty of room for carrying luggage to and from the airport, or – let’s just make the joke – “former associates” from “the place” to “the other place.” You may want to get the trunk carpet steam-cleaned, or maybe replaced, just to be on the safe side.
Being on a budget doesn’t have to mean missing out on the finer things. You just need to shop around a bit. Cheap used luxury cars can sometimes be a nightmare, but one of these is Japanese, and the other is Paleolithic Era technology, so reliability shouldn’t be much of an issue. Which one will it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
How ironic that the internet finds the stuff I like and I didn’t search for ???? now that being I hope I can get my hands on q or m45. I own a lincoln towncar already and I always tell people that give compliments I would buy another 1 its a great car. I read a lot of comments and some people turned down the LTC because of airbags…it’s not a problem you can convert to springs or just replace them it’s an 20yo vehicle things wil be replaced anyway thanks Autopian for sharing
The answer is always Panther.
Today, we get to see peak Panther. The 4.6 is exceptionally durable, as is the 4R70W. With routine maintenance this car hasn’t even see half of its miles. To those concerned about the air suspension – it’s worth keeping it functional. Maintaining it isn’t all that difficult or expensive, and the ride can only be described as lush.
Lincoln all the way on this one.
Wow thats closer than I would have thought. But Lincoln all the way! Its two tone! It has a column shifter and a bench seat! It rides on a ladder frame chassis! This shouldn’t have existed in the 21st century and yet there it is.
I’ve had so many Panthers I should live in a tree.
And this Townie will make #4. ‘ looking forward to pulling that shifter down and booting down the boulevard smack dab in the middle of the slow lane.
This one is a pretty simple call for me:
The Q Ship is a vastly superior and much more sophisticated design.
However, that is -not- a good thing when you are shopping at a sub $5K price range.
When the Nissan breaks something and it will because it’s 20 years old, are you going to be able to get all the parts for the Nissan? Maybe/probably not, and it’s complex enough that you’re not just going to Harbor Freight, buying some wrenches, diving under the hood and going out on a date in it later that day.
The Panther? Not nearly as nice but it’s going to get you there every time. At this price range that’s the most important thing.
The air suspension sells it for me. The ride and handling on these Lincolns with bags is wonderful. Plus you can set the ride height by changing the level sensor position at each corner. Anyone who complains about complexity and reliability is talking about European systems. These are dead nuts simple, cheap to fix and quite reliable. Plus the rest of the car is a Panther. Done deal.
Lincoln vs. Lexus would be a tough choice, but Panther platform against a Nissan? Yes, I know I’m being overly dismissive of the Infiniti and its technological prowess for the time, but I’ve been burned by a Nissan product or two of that era.
The choice is easy. If that Lincoln was near me and I wrecked my current daily I’d have to give it some serious thought. There’s a lot of people out there whose wallets could benefit greatly if they simply found a local Panther platform car in good shape at a reasonable price rather than getting deep in hock to drive something cooler.
It was close, but I leaned Q on this one. The vinyl roof and air suspension were what pushed me away from the infinity of cheap parts for the Ford.
I’ve taken many a ride to and from the airport in a similar Town Car and they were all fine. However I’m going Nissan here. Something a little more unique, no vinyl roof, probably a little more enjoyable to drive.
I am going to put this one in my SS top ten. Great compare and contrast. They both serve an arguably similar purpose and are superficially of the same description. Big rear wheel drive V8 sedans from an era when such things were getting pretty rare. The panther platform Lincoln has the aura of longevity and indestructibility already covered in the comments.
The Infiniti was a ground breaking car for the Japanese, had some cool features for the day, and featured that really funky ad campaign where they would feature pictures of a rock in a desert or whatever instead of the car, trying to invoke some near mystical image of a product that was very unique and special.
They are also both luxury makes that have suffered a bit in reputation and status over the past few decades.
For a daily or regular driver the Lincoln is the obvious choice, but I have a daily, so I will take the Infiniti for all the intangibles and uniqueness.
I agree with MustangMatt. The Lincoln is a deal. Got a ride in a black one to the airport one time. I mentioned to the driver about what good shape it was in. Quiet, smooth, interior not bad..Thank goodness he kept it clean! I ask “how many miles on this thing?”. Almost 300k he says. I’m like..Wow! He did say he had the transmission replaced but I was impressed by how well it had held up. To be fair this was I California.
This isn’t even a contest.
Lincoln, hands down.
Look, it’s got the 4.6L V8, in it’s plain jane 2V glory, that makes enough power to move this barge, and do it with surprising efficiency and smoothness. It’s also reliable. How reliable? Toyota fanbois can’t talk shit about it levels of reliable. The damned things just don’t break when taken care of. They have a lighting control module that may fail eventually, and if it has the rear air suspension, it’ll eventually do what all airbag suspensions do and wear the bags out, and that’s IT.
Too slow for you? A 4.6 4v, 4.6 Terminator, 5.0 Coyote, and all of the rest of the Ford modular V8 family are bolt-in swaps, or the original 2V mill doesn’t mind a bit of boost. Bam, now it’s not slow, but it’s still reliable.
You need to venture off the beaten path? Go on Youtube and look at the stock Crown Vic (this car’s platform-mate) conquering MOAB like a damned Jeep. Look at all the lifted off-road builds of these out there. Why is this happening? Because the Panther platform these are built on is full-frame and every bit as rugged as a pickup, they even have 1/2-ton pickup towing capacity for crying out loud. There’s a gentleman in my town that tows a tandem-axle flatbed trailer with his lawn care equipment with one. Yup, all those dummies riding around in jacked up 3/4-ton diesels to tow a couple of lawnmowers? They could be riding in luxury and saving a ton on fuel instead.
Then there’s the trunk space. You open the trunk on this and you’ll find two amazing things:
1. A full-sized spare.
2. As much cargo room as many modern crossovers.
What? You don’t want a big luxury sleeper? You don’t want the correct answer to “which truck should I buy?” You don’t want a crossover SUV alternative with the sweet sounds of a V8 and the same gas mileage as a buzzy 4-banger brick-on-wheels?
What about a lowrider? What about a super-comfortable commuter? How about a comfortable mobile office? These cars are so roomy, so well built, and so comfortable that you can adapt them for nearly anything.
The Infiniti is cool and all, but the Lincoln has WAY more going for it.
As much as I love and appreciate the Panther, I had to go with the Q, based on previous experience with an inherited I-30t. This was my father-in-law’s car, purchased new, as his retirement car. I got it after he passed, and it had roughly 120k on the clock – put on another 60k with minor maintenance. For what those early augts Infinitis lacked in styling, they made up for in other ways. EVERYTHING still worked on that car until the day I traded it in – even the cassette deck. I always appreciated how solid the thing felt overall – the way that the doors closed, how the door handles felt, how the shifter moved into gear, the leather, etc. I’d assume that it would be similar/better on the flagship.
The Q’s speedometer appears to be showing 35mph while in Park, so that’s a bit worrisome.
That’s the rolling start. It was a precursor to today’s launch control.