You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

1992 Infiniti Q45t vs. 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Comparison

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 1/19/2015 Julia LaPalme, Rory Jurnecka

Today, as in 1989 when the Infiniti Q45 was launched, it is a fairly stunning car. Especially resplendent in its Black Obsidian paint, the 1992 Q45t parked in front of me shows just a bit over 3000 miles on the odometer -- and it looks it. This particular car has lived a sheltered life stored in a garage beneath Infiniti's (and parent company Nissan's) North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, or in the Lane Motor Museum in nearby Nashville when it's not being lent to nostalgic automotive journalists.

Research

Museum-worthy? You betcha. In the days when the Japanese ruled the automotive mainstream, Lexus set out to build a very good replica of a Mercedes-Benz with its first LS 400, while Infiniti took a different, more distinctive path with the car that would come to own the name "Q-ship." Look at the grille-less front end with the ornate, cowboy belt-buckle-sized badge. Check out the oval-shaped chrome door handles in contrast to the BBS-style wheels and sleek trunk-mounted lip spoiler. The Q45 looked like modern art and seemed to predict what luxury cars would look like five years in the future.

1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas The Q45's tech was equally futuristic. Our "t" model featured four-wheel steering, and the top-line "a" model boasted hydraulically actuated active suspension some nine years before Mercedes introduced Active Body Control. That was Formula 1-level tech in its day, yours with the tick of an option box and an extra $4000. The Q45's engine is an oversquare, 32-valve, 4.5-liter all-aluminum V-8 with 278 horsepower and 292 lb-ft of torque, allowing it a 7.3-second sprint to 60 mph. Redline was heady for the segment at 6900 rpm, and variable valve timing rounded out a thoroughly modern package. Takashi Oka, Nissan product chief and Q45 overseer, simply said of the car, "The goal was to build the best sedan in the world."

Both sedans hail from 1992, but their Take on Luxury is years apart.

If the Q45 was cutting-edge, the Jaguar that inspired its basic proportions and driving dynamics seems distinctly Old World. Chosen to provide contrast and context is Ron Lutz's 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas, a car that could rightfully be described as the opposite of a museum queen. That's not a crack at the car's condition, but merely reflective of the 175,000 miles showing on its odometer. In fact, the Jaguar looks fantastic given that it's remained in regular use since it was a brand-new car -- the paint still looks great, and the interior, while showing some wear, is holding up admirably. Lutz bought the car used in 1997 and has been enjoying it ever since. Sharp-eyed readers might notice the Daimler badging. That was a Lutz addition during a period of refurbishment. Vanden Plas models, as Lutz's car is, represented the top-level trim in the U.S. That means additional niceties such as the scalloped finish on the chrome grille, and burlwood tea trays for rear passengers. But in England, the very same top trim level was branded as a Daimler (Lutz even found "Daimler" crayon scribblings in various hidden areas of the car), as was standard practice on Jaguar saloons for decades.

1992 jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Internally known as the XJ40 and launched globally in 1986, this new XJ was designed to mark something of a break from the Series III XJ that still drew a very direct line to the initial Series I cars of 1968. Out went the old 4.2-liter XK6 straight-six engine (a design that dated to 1949), and in went the all-new 3.6-liter mill known as the AJ6. Still a straight-six in configuration, the AJ6 featured four valves per cylinder, a DOHC cylinder head, and an aluminum block. Designed for efficiency as well as power, the new engine was a step in the right direction. An expansion to 4.0 liters for the 1990 model year brought some additional oomph, with a final output of 223 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque.

The Jaguar carries the aroma and the appearance of sophistication, even 30 years forward.

Of course, the styling changes are the most noticeable difference between the Series III and AJ40 models, the latter substituting the earlier car's smooth, curving lines, twin headlight buckets, and broad grille for a sharply creased design that was more contemporary, if perhaps not quite as pretty. Sitting beside the Q45, the Jaguar looks diminutive -- almost a 4/5ths scale car compared to the comparatively hulking Infiniti. The Jag isn't huge inside either -- the front cabin loses hip room to a wide center console (and its distinctive J-gate shifter) and headroom to the sunroof. That said, my 5'11" frame was able to get comfortable behind the large-diameter steering wheel with a little fiddling.

1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas The cabin carries the aroma and the appearance of sophistication. Dated sophistication, perhaps, but sophistication all the same. The rich burlwood trim along the dash and console looks expensive even 20 years on, and the tan Connolly leather hasn't lost its texture or smell. The gauge cluster is all analog (Jag reverted from the half-digital travesty the XJ40 series debuted with), though the black plastic pods that jut from either side of the steering column with various controls clash 1990s Radio Shack against 1890s drawing room. Wool carpets are a Vanden Plas upgrade, as are the wood tea trays that drop down from the seatbacks for rear passengers to enjoy. The rear cabin isn't huge on space -- headroom is sufficient, but legroom is a bit tight. (There was no regular-production long-wheelbase XJ40.) Still, there's plenty of storage available, along with ashtrays in each door and a separate ventilation system and cigarette lighter in the rear of the center console. It's certainly not a bad place to spend time, especially if the front passengers are short.

The Infiniti’s cabin consciously eschews wood and chrome for a monochromatic look.

The Infiniti's cabin couldn't be more different from the Jaguar's. It consciously eschews wood and chrome for a monochromatic and spare look conceived with input from Italian furniture maker Poltrona Frau. It's more modern-feeling; the seats are more couch-like; and the ergonomics are more intuitive than the Jag's. There's more room for front occupants, too. Looking back two decades, its appearance registers as slightly bland, but a few touches stand out: The analog clock with a white face and gold accents aims for a bit of old-school elegance, and the optional Bose stereo features a hidden equalizer setup concealed behind a plastic door. Trick. The rear cabin has ashtrays like the Jag's (and a cigarette lighter for each occupant!), but no separate ventilation controls. The monoblack ambiance continues, and the rear seat legroom comes up about as short as the XJ's, despite the car's larger overall size.

1992 Infiniti Q45t© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 Infiniti Q45t The Infiniti fires right up and settles into a quiet idle. There's little indication at standstill that a V-8 sits right up front, just as there shouldn't be in a true luxury sedan. The steering is light around town and stays light at speed, where the Q-ship cruises without any effort. Stomp on the gas and the four-speed auto 'box is fairly quick to shift down, accompanied by a good deal of noise from the engine -- not particularly good- or bad-sounding noise, just noise. The car feels surprisingly strong power-wise; it's no hot rod, but it's not underpowered, either. Overall, the car feels fairly softly sprung and there's plenty of wallow and body roll, though it never seems to get the best of the chassis. The car feels quite modern and easy to drive.

Climbing into the XJ after the Infiniti feels a little like settling into a cocoon. The fit up front is tighter, but the car is also lower, and, dare I say, sportier. The engine fires with a muted growl from the straight-six. The shift lever slots into drive through the right side of its J-gate, and we're off. Immediately the ride of the Jaguar feels tauter than the Infiniti's, but still compliant. The car overall feels a little smaller, lighter, and more nimble. The ZF four-speed auto has a Sport mode, and I decide to stick with it after trying the sluggish Normal mode. In Sport the Jag shifts almost as well as a modern automatic, just not quite as smoothly. Steering in the Jag seems to have a bit more feel than the lifeless Infiniti rack, though the steering wheel is inferior with spokes exactly where you don't need them, at 7 and 5. Stab the gas and the Jaguar feels a touch slower than the Q45, but the exhaust note sounds more satisfying—sportier and more expensive.

So there we have it: two '90s super-saloons with decidedly different approaches. The best part about them is that an excellent example of either will cost you less than a major service on your vintage Rolls.

ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE

1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Ron Lutz, an engineer who assisted McLaren with its wind tunnel construction, bought his 1992 XJ6 in 1997 with 50,000 miles on the odometer. It has 175,000 now and he has enjoyed every mile.

WHY I LIKE IT

"Although the handling isn't quite as good as my son's Series III XJ6, the combination of the negative front and rear camber, level of power assist, and the large diameter steering wheel make it a fun car to drive."

WHY IT'S COLLECTIBLE

The XJ40 series brought Jaguar into the modern age with major styling and mechanical changes. It also took a step toward reducing the brand's reputation for poor reliability.

RESTORING/MAINTAINING

The AJ6 engine was used for roughly 20 years, so parts availability is good and they have a reputation for durability, as does the ZF transmission. This is assuming that the car is regularly serviced, of course.

BEWARE

A stack of maintenance records is mandatory for any Jaguar purchase, and this one more so than usual. Pay special attention to the cooling system—overheating the aluminum engine will definitely blow the head gasket.

EXPECT TO PAY

Concours-ready, $8000; solid driver, $4500; tired runner, $2000

JOIN THE CLUB

Jaguar Clubs of North America, www.jcna.com

1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Specifications

Engine: 242.9-cu-in/3980cc DOHC I-6, port fuel injection
Power and Torque: SAE net 223 hp @ 4750 rpm, 278 lb-ft @ 3650 rpm
Drivetrain: 4-speed automatic RWD
Brakes front: vented disc, rear: vented disc
Suspension: front: control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; rear: control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Dimensions: L: 196.4 in, W: 70.9 in, H: 54.3 in
Weight: 3903 lb
Performance: 0-60 mph: 9.0 sec, quarter mile: 16.8 sec @ 86 mph, 60-0 mph: 127 ft ( Motor Trend, April 1990)
Price when new: $48,000

OUR TAKE

THEN:

"The doors thump shut with authority and fit with the precision of a Fabergé egg. The leather still smells like hide. The stitching actually joins one piece of fabric to another, and the wood grain matches because it grew that way." -- Jim Miller, Motor Trend, May 1989

NOW:

Controversial styling and a reputation for expensive service have kept XJ40 values low, but that means you can snap up a nice-driving, good-looking car for under $10,000.


ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE

1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Barry Winfield has written about cars and motorcycles for numerous publications on three continents, including Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver, and AutoWeek, and he now plies the byways of Maui, Hawaii, in his Q ship.

1992 Infiniti Q45t vs. 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Comparison

WHY I LIKE IT

“The huge engineering investment that went into what was a $50,000 flagship has enduring aspects: a smooth and torquey four-cam V-8; a quiet, comfortable ride; a plush leather interior; and an interesting heritage.”

WHY IT’S COLLECTIBLE

The Q45 showed that Japan could take on the luxury market without following a strictly German or American formula. With its optional adaptive suspension it was also a mini technological tour de force.

RESTORING/MAINTAINING

First-gen Q45s are generally reliable cars and mechanical parts aren’t too tough to source, but interior trim is in short supply, so finding an example with a well-preserved cabin is key.

BEWARE

Weak transmission coolers and fragile plastic timing chain guides are issues with the 1990-’93 model year cars; check to see that both are updated. Also carefully inspect the active suspension system, if so equipped, for leaks and functionality.

EXPECT TO PAY

Concours-ready, $6500; solid driver, $4000; tired runner, $1500

JOIN THE CLUB

Infiniti Owners Club, us.infinitiownersclub.com; Nissan Infiniti Car Owners Club, www.nicoclub.com

1992 Infiniti Q45t Specifications

Engine: 274.3-cu-in/4494cc DOHC V-8, port fuel injection
Power and Torque: SAE net 278 hp @ 6000 rpm, 292 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Drivetrain: 4-speed automatic RWD
Brakes: front vented disc, rear: solid disc
Suspension: front control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; rear: multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Dimensions: L: 199.8 in, W: 71.9 in, H: 56.3 in
Weight: 4082 lb
Performance: 0-60 mph 7.3 sec, quarter mile: 15.6 sec @ 90 mph, 60-0 mph 128 ft ( Motor Trend, March 1991)
Price when new: $43,000

OUR TAKE

THEN: “The almost Teutonic lack of opulence means the Q45 impresses with its performance, not with a blatant display of ‘luxury appointments.’ Nothing about this sedan grabs you by the scruff of the neck and screams for attention.” -- Jim Miller, Motor Trend, August 1989

NOW: The first-generation Q45 has a strong cult following among enthusiasts who appreciate its significance and technology. Today, it’s still perfectly capable as a daily driver, with Nissan reliability backing up its distinctive aesthetics.

1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 Infiniti Q45t vs 1992 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas
AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Motor Trend

Loading...

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon