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2010 Nissan Maxima (Mike Ditz Photo 310-994-0307)
2010 Nissan Maxima (Mike Ditz Photo 310-994-0307)

What Car?

The Maxima and what else? Add to ...

Gentlemen:

I am a regular reader of your news and views. I have a problem. Like many readers, I suppose, I am dumbfounded that my personal wheels don't get the attention and respect I believe they deserve.

I am referring to my 2005 Nissan Maxima 3.5SL. The absolutely best all-around car I have ever owned. During my sales career I have owned or leased approx 35 vehicles and driven them all around North America. Mostly General Motors (all brands), Fords and Chryslers. One MG and a Volvo, too. Nothing is even close to the Max.

I am going to buy a 2010 next month for the following reasons:

Price: under $40,000 + taxes;

Performance: absolutely gorgeous;

Acceleration, speed, handling, braking and cornering - all excellent. The 3.5-litre engine is a delight and fuel economy is as good or better than others in its class.

Looks: In the eye of the beholder I agree, but no one can say anything shabby about the Maxima;

Beautiful: creature comforts equal to anything in its class.

This car is a delight to drive, holds four adults in comfort, has top-notch air, CD, radio, satellite radio …

I look for reasons to drive my car. I've done 188,000 km over four years and have replaced the brake pads twice. No other repairs.

I am chagrinned that I do not see this wonderful auto on your lists of bests of. What gives with you guys? Are there really other cars that a better? What are they?

Peter

Cato: Peter, my friend, we are fans of the Maxima - lots of horsepower, a sexy, voluptuous shape, and sporty road manners, all in a premium car. This one is just a heartbeat away from the auto maker's pure luxury brand, Infiniti and I think that's why it gets lost in the mix. But the thing is, Peter, I am not entirely convinced it's the best value in the segment.

Vaughan: Cato, the Buick LaCrosse. This where you mention the LaCrosse. It's a front-wheel-drive car, as is the Maxima.

Cato: You can also buy an all-wheel-drive LaCrosse, unlike the Maxima. You are right to say, though - and I'm amazed you get anything right at all - that I think the LaCrosse is one alternative to the Maxima, but not the only one.

The little corner of the market where the Maxima and Lacrosse hang out is stuffed with some pretty good cars - Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Volkswagen Passat, Lexus ES 350, Hyundai Genesis …

But for value and performance, the LaCrosse is hard to beat. It starts at less than $32,000, but someone willing to bargain hard at the dealer should be able to put together another $3,000 or more in factory and dealer discounts.

Vaughan: Yes, but the version intended to compete with the Maxima and Genesis lists for $40,000. Now let's fill out rest of this list. We have the Maxima, the LaCrosse and what? I'd say Hyundai, the Genesis.

Cato: Alright. The challenge there is that a lot of people see Hyundai as a "settle for" brand - as in, I'd like something better, but I'll settle for a Hyundai because it's all I can afford.

Vaughan: Cato, how can you say that? Hyundai's sales are up, what, 25 per cent this year. You are too wrapped up in the image part of the business. Look at the substance here. The Genesis, another rear-drive sedan, stands up pretty well.

Cato: So does the LaCrosse. It was designed to appeal to mid-level plant managers in China, where Buick is a lights-out success. Those managers here in North America tend to drive an SUV (sport-utility) like the Chevrolet Traverse or Toyota Highlander.

Vaughan: Does that mean you like the LaCrosse, or not?

Cato: The interior is very sharp, but the trunk is silly - considerably smaller than the trunk in the Chevy Malibu. The turning circle is pretty big, making tight parking-lot manoeuvres more trouble than they should be. Of the two V-6 engines, the one you want is the 3.6-litre - 280 horsepower.

Vaughan: Don't worry about the 3.0-litre V-6; it being phased out and replaced by four-cylinder - 182 hp - with direct fuel injection. It's more than enough engine.

Cato: I'll just throw in that Buick quality is good, so no one should needlessly worry about breakdowns.

Vaughan: Let's not forget about Peter's beloved Maxima. This car had a complete makeover for the 2009 model year. I am always reluctant to advocate for more horsepower than necessary - which is why the LaCrosse's four-cylinder interests me - but I'll admit the Maxima's 290-horsepower version of Nissan/Infiniti's VQ-series V-6 is a very good engine.

Cato: And it's tied to a CVT - a belt-driven automatic transmission - that helps fuel economy, which is good, because the Maxima slurps down premium fuel. This CVT has none of the rubber-band feeling of some other CVTs. It feels like a real gearbox.

Beyond that, the steering is sharp, ride motions are nicely managed and I should mention the cabin is impressive-looking.

Vaughan: Finally, the Genesis. Hyundai's first premium car is still being unfairly overlooked, I think.

Cato: That's not what the Hyundai people say. They talk endlessly about how the Genesis is doing exactly what they expected and more - sales are on target and the Genesis is casting a positive halo over the entire Hyundai brand.

Vaughan: Peter, before you take the final step and buy another Maxima, at least go out and try these other two. You might understand why we talk about cars other than your beloved Maxima.



2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS

2010 Nissan Maxima S (CVT)

2010 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

Wheelbase (mm)

2837

2,776

2,935

Length (mm)

5,001

4,841

4,975

Width (mm)

1,857

1,859

1,890

Height (mm)

1,496

1,468

1,475

Engine

3.6-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

3.8-litre V-6

Output (hp) (torque)

280 hp / 259 lb-ft

290 hp / 261 lb-ft

290 hp / 264 lb-ft

Drive system

FWD

FWD

RWD

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

CVT

Six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,844

1,621

1,729

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

12.2 city

7.3 highway

10.8 city

7.7 highway

11.4 city

7.2 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$40,795

$37,400

$38,999

SOURCE: CAR MANUFACTURERS

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