QotW: What’s your favorite Japanese luxury car?

On June 28, 1995 the governments of the US and Japan reached a historic trade agreement regarding the auto industry. The US was seeking to balance out the trade deficit, and Japan agreed to build more cars in the US and buy more US-made parts. The US was threatening to slap a 100 percent tariff on 13 models of Japanese luxury cars. Fortunately a compromise was reached just hours before the deadline, though it does make one wonder what the market would’ve looked like for a Lexus LS that suddenly cost not $50,000 but $100,000. It also brings us to this week’s question:

What’s your favorite Japanese luxury car?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your favorite Japanese race car?

Japanese cars that raced in America were a big topic, with Jeremy A. choosing Bob Sharp’s Enduro Datsun 280ZX IMSA racer and Rotsun picking the Electramotive 280ZX. Kevinx nominated Ironman Stewart’s Toyota Baja Truck, while Dutch 1960 lamented the missed opportunity to buy the Racing Beat IMSA GTU Mazda RX-7.

Other favorites included early pioneers like Nico Jongeneel‘s pick of the Yatabe Time Trial Toyota 2000GT and BiltzPig‘s choice of Honda RA272 (and Negishi no Keibajo‘s Tamiya version of that car). There were 80s machines like Banpei’s nomination of the Group 5 Skyline Silhouette and Angelo‘s suggestion of the Motul JTCC Civic. From the 90s we had MattP‘s Bathurst Nissan R32 GT-R and Lupus‘ JGTC Castrol Supra, while both BW and Ellis fell for Toyota’s banned Celica ST205 WRC car.

The winner this week was Jiji, whose love for the Toyota GT-One was conveyed in full force:

For me, it has always been Toyota’s TS020 GT-One. Growing up in the 00’s being an avid 5-7 year old Gran Turismo 4 player, the GT-One was always my idol car for the game. Not the cover car Ford GT or even the JGTC Castrol Supra (which would probably be my #3 pick behind the 787B). The GT-One just has these lines that I personally don’t believe any other race car of the period and ever since, not just Japanese, has. The way it just swoops forward in the front and curves elegantly in the rear end, iconic I’d say.

Not only iconic is it’s gorgeous design, but its heritage as well. I think it’s fair to say that it’s one of the most influential and inspiring Japanese race cars behind the 787B and above the R390 GT1. The push made by Tsuchiya, Suzuki, and Katayama to finish at Le Mans in 1999 is just heroic in my eyes. It’s a shame, with Toyota’s then streak of bad luck at Le Mans, but I’ve always viewed it as a very honorable finish nonetheless. I recall back to a photo of the three drivers standing with their hands up in celebration at the podium after the race. Goosebumps.

I think the GT-One is a monster that never got its chance to truly shine. One day I wish to see it in person, wherever it may be at the time. To me, as a 5-7 year old, Gran Turismo playing kid in a family of many many Toyota owners, it was, and still is, crazy to see a car of such aura and insanity bear the same name as the SUV my mom drives to work haha. I’m 20 now, and I’d like to think that car had a huge impact on how I viewed Toyota as a company and why I’m still so biased toward them to this day. Not to mention the awesome road car version! Beautiful, iconic, and a childhood hero for sure.

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18 Responses to QotW: What’s your favorite Japanese luxury car?

  1. Lupus says:

    If speaking of Japanese Luxury/VIP from definition, i will opt for UCF10 Celsior/Lexus LS 1st gen.
    It’s avalible woldwide, but retained speciffic japanese style. From technical and comfort point of view it was (and in many areas still is) top notch. And they still can be bought for resonable money here, in Middle Europe.

    But my no.1 car from dream car’s list would also do the job in beeing VIP sled – Nissan/Datsun Laurer C31. Lowering on airbags, custom leather seats & wooden tables. All that under deep black paint & we’r done. 😉

  2. crank_case says:

    Only ever a prototype, but the Eliica


  3. RX626 says:

    2nd Gen Mazda Sentia(929)
    This car was one of my grandfather’s prized possessions.
    At the time, my family’s company was doing well, and my family had always bought Mazdas, so it was inevitable that he would buy this car.

    This car was the pride of my family.
    After driving a Familia and a Capera, my grandfather finally got his hands on a top-of-the-line Mazda. It was a new car, in the higher trim level, with many dealer options.
    The quiet sound of the engine, the majestic body design of a luxury car, the soft and comfortable seats that recline electrically. My previous Mazdas were memorable, but the Sentia was the first luxury car I ever experienced, and the one I spent the most time with in my life.

    However, this car is no longer in my home.
    My grandfather’s business could not keep up with the changing times, and as he aged, it was closed down.
    And Sentia, too, had deteriorated over the years, to the point where it required a lot of money for repairs.
    It was no longer possible for our family to maintain this car. I was told that this car was taken back to the Mazda dealership where my grandfather bought this car and it was scrapped.
    After he quit his job, his current car is a cheap Kei car that he bought used.

    The Sentia was a life achievement for my grandfather, and the last new Mazda he ever bought.
    This car has never been highly regarded by auto enthusiasts or critics. But for me, it is one of the most precious memories of my childhood, and it is still the car I long for.

    If someday, somewhere, I come across a silver Sentia just like the one I had back then, I am sure I will have it. To bring back the memories.

  4. Banpei says:

    The Nissan Gloria 430/Y30 VIP Brougham Jack Nicklaus Edition!

    Back in the early 1980s Nissan was getting over the top with the Gloria and Cedric and crammed more and more luxury in there. Especially the four door hardtop sedan was subjected to the superfluous luxury items. Buttons popped up everywhere allowing you to adjust about everything in and around the car: adjustable suspension, automatic gearbox, motorised telescopic corner marker, Nissan Drive Guide System, two zone airconditioning and a horizontal double-DIN stereo. Then on the Y30 most of these controls moved to the steering wheel, making the driver feel more in control.

    If that wasn’t luxurious enough, Nissan added the Jack Nicklaus edition on top of that. The ordinary Gloria already got really nice velours seats that were probably already more comfortable than your sofa at home, but the Jack Nicklaus edition replaced the velours for tartan fabric. The dashboard was laid in with walnut veneer. The door isn’t closed by yanking the armrest, but rather pulling a more dignified “cord” matching the tartan fabric that was also draped over the door cards.

    Why this car? These cars were bought by no ordinary persons, but rather by businessmen that were high up the ladder or manager types on C-level. High enough to spend a lot of cash on a car that would have been just as comfortable as at home. You may wonder why spend so much money on a car? These businessmen still had to drive the car themselves, so why not enjoy a car with all the luxury that money could buy? The next step above this would have been a Nissan President…or perhaps the Cima that arrived with the next Y31 generation.

  5. nlpnt says:

    I don’t have any firsthand experience but I’ve always admired the early “belt-buckle badge” Infiniti Q45. Sportier and more original than the Lexus LS400 which was in itself a beautifully engineered car but walked right up to the line between “Mercedes-influenced” and “Mercedes ripoff” stylewise.

  6. Nigel says:

    Toyota Crown UZS 131 with a full Junction Produce kit !!

  7. dankan says:

    The Y34 Nissan Gloria/Infiniti M. Not the best Japanese luxury car, but the correctness of line, and big, soft, fast, quiet attitude it projected in dark paint with a big motor under the hood have never ceased to be properly cool. It’s the kind of car you feel like you’d need to dress up for to play the appropriate part as the driver.

  8. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Toyota Century, Gen II with the V12. Not as exotic as others mentioned here but I want one waiting for me at the airport!

  9. Speedie says:

    Its the elephant in the Room: Toyota Century. What other luxury model can you name that remained virtually unchanged except for some technology updates for 29 years! Everyone from Yakuza to the Emperor of Japan were chauffeured in a Century. Yes you could get a nice Crown, Cedric, Gloria, or Debonair, but then everyone would know you really worked for someone else. No, the person who was in charge never settled for anything less than a Century.

  10. Ellis says:

    JC Eunos Cosmo. Historically relevant as it came about at totally the wrong time, just as the Japanese economy bubble finally burst. It’s also noteworthy as being the only production Mazda to come with a triple rotor engine. And with less than 4000 made with the 20B motor it’s quite the unicorn!

  11. Andrew Hartmann says:

    As Nigel said, the S130 chassis Toyota Crown!
    I own a GS130G wagon with a factory supercharged 2.0L inline-six (1GGZE) and it’s an awesome car. Manufactured sometime in 1989 (build month unknown on my chassis), it has so many features that aren’t on even top-tier Landcruisers these days.
    My favourite feature is the tiny sun visor that’s located above the rear view mirror. Every car should have this! It works so well to block out that extra bit of Australian sun in the arvos!

  12. エーイダン says:

    The 1973 Nissan Laurel. I love that it has the underpinnings of the Skyline…….but looks so…American….with it’s Malaise-era GM-esque styling it just looks slick…..and it is basically a Skyline in a Birkdale shirt with Adidas trainers. It’s the fun luxury car.

  13. f31roger says:

    I can give a whole list as I love 90s VIP cars. 90s VIP before the blister fenders and crazy body mods and Kaido racers are my favorite type of builds.

    Definitely a Mazda Sentia (HD)
    Mitsubishi Diamante
    UCF10-20 Celsior
    Honda Legend
    Honda Vigor

    Y31 Gloria/Cima/Ced

    My favorite pix I took in 2006: Diamante and Sentia

    And of course the bias in me. One of the few F31 Leopard Diana kits made and the only one outside of Japan. Full 5 piece kit with Fog lights.

    My Blue M30 aka the Diplomat

    18″ Leasing 4 – old school VIP wheel

  14. cesariojpn says:

    I’m gonna be the oddball here, but the Nissan Prince Royal.


    But this isn’t the Royal I liked…….I like it’s Hearse cousin, seen in use during Emperor Showa’s funeral in 1989.


    I dunno, it would be a weird conversion to a limo. Take out the casket handling apparatus, convert the back to a nice seating arrangement, and that would be one unique limousine.

  15. Mazdafarian says:

    For me it’s really got to be the LS400. I can’t speak to the luxury features, and its definitely No century or rolls Royce. I liked it because it’s subtle, not too ostentatious, and has plenty of power to Get down and boogy. There is a hoonagin burnyard video of a totally stock LS literally shredding its tires off. It’s also a very versatile car. You can drift it, you can lower it and throw on some curtains and window guards and go the VIP route, it’d probably make a great drag car, although I really wouldn’t know, or you can keep it stock and gap fools in Mexico. Or ya know, you can just drive it and pretend you’re a CEO from the early ‘90’s. The possibilities are endless. As you can see, I’m not much for luxury. Nice features are nice of course, and usually much appreciated, but if the styling and performance don’t match the driving pleasure, then what’s the point?

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