The feeling of true luxury in an automobile has nothing to do with whether or not there is a blue propeller or a three pointed star on the hood. While BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac and Lexus all make fine automobiles they also charge you hefty sums for the privilege of owning one of their prestigious cars. That is the way it has been for years and that is how it shall be forever so say their legal departments. But does it have to be that way?
Of course it doesn’t. What car makers like Mercedes, BMW and Audi don’t want you to know is that there are luxurious, fast, quiet and fun to drive examples of four wheeled opulence even at (horror!) mainstream automaker’s dealerships. These cars are sexily styled and have interiors with impeccable quality. Why, exactly, do their competitors at luxury brands cost at least $10,000 more again? Is that really how much we as a society invest into brand equity? That is well and truly shameful.
It is understandable when Hyundai had a bit of negativity to overcome when it launched its highly successful Genesis sedan. The horrific quality found in most Hyundai products during the early years proved that and it took a huge 10 year warranty to put people’s minds at ease. But what did Nissan ever do? Why aren’t you cross shopping the Maxima with your Infiniti G37? Or would a Maxima just make you look too “middle class?”
As follows are three of the best full size luxury sedans from mainstream automakers. Their lineups may include $14,000 subcompacts but that by no means should exclude them from being able to sell luxury cars. The true meaning of luxury is not locked in a logo or a brand. True luxury is having not what you need but everything you want. And all three of these cars fit that bill quite well, but with varying results as you shall see.
Ford Taurus SEL
The Taurus is the bargain of these three and also manages to be the most spacious with the largest trunk and positively expansive rear legroom. This isn’t a car it is an add-on Fiesta Room for your house. But contrary to the way most large American cars drive the Taurus somehow manages to shrink around you when you get behind the wheel. The steering is tight and precise, all the controls fall easily to hand and outward vision is magnificent.
The use of materials on the inside is first rate even if you just specify cloth upholstery (although the leather is very nice). For once in a Ford everything from the knobs to the trim to the turn signals all feels built to last. The exterior design may look a bit awkward from a few angles but you can’t have everything when a car offer true room for five and all of their golf bags (to some people this is important).
The six speed automatic is truly a gem and does its best to get the most out of the 3.5 liter V6 engine. But I know that in my heart of hearts if I bought the Taurus I would always regret not getting the 346 horsepower SHO model which has very little impact on fuel economy (19/25) and makes a noise which sounds like the rallying cry of angels. If you want the real all American luxury car experience go with the SHO.
Buick LaCrosse CXS
Make no bones about it. Buick is back. As a matter of fact it is probably the strongest of any of GM’s U.S. arms thanks to a slew of fine looking new product heading to its dealerships (which routinely rank at the top of surveys for customer service). While you can get a less expensive, lower powered V6 model LaCrosse the CXS shares the same six cylinder (in slightly de-tuned form) as the Cadillac CTS. This engine is a screamer and loves to rev.
But what really blew auto journalists and the public away was the style and grace of the interior. Designed by GM’s Shanghai design studio the center console is meant to be soothing and mimics the style of a clean waterfall. Maybe that is why all of the ambient lighting is a light aqua blue. And boy did Buick go crazy with the ambient lighting. It is seriously everywhere.
There is one problem with the Buick LaCrosse and its name is the 2011 Buick Regal. Slightly smaller than the LaCrosse, this sedan looks to really be the car that kick starts Buick sales into high gear. With everything that is great about the LaCrosse the Regal is unfortunately more. Better exterior styling, better interior styling, better powertrain choices. It must be rough at Buick having two world class cars for sale at one time. When was the last time that happened? And is there still anyone alive who would remember it?
Nissan Maxima SV
If there is one thing working for the Maxima it is the fact that Nissan never let their 4DSC (4 Door Sports Car) become a rental favorite. Since its inception the Maxima has always been “the cool Nissan sedan” and somehow it survived its last two incarnations which were obviously styled by a half-witted, limping Frenchman with a shark fetish. (Nissan is owned by French firm Renault if you were wondering where the Frenchman comment came from.)
The 2010 Maxima, however, is a stylistic revelation with svelte curves wrapped around a body that cries out, “come drive me!” The interior is plush, the leather supple and all of the controls work with silky smooth precision and near Vulcan logic. This is a wonderful place to just hop in, shut up and get on with the business of driving.
And if driving was a business in the Nissan Maxima SV business would be very good. Equipped with the slightly older 3.5 liter V6 engine (the newer 3.7 found in the Z and Infiniti models is known for being very rough at high rpms) the Maxima never wants for power and offers up one of the sweetest sounding V6 soundtracks on the road today. The Nissan Maxima is not only a luxury car but it is also a driver’s car. And isn’t that what we are all looking for?
While the Taurus and LaCrosse are fine automobiles (probably the best sedans in the history of either brand) they are just no match for the wicked charms of the sexy Maxima.
Ford Taurus SEL: (Starting at $29,220)
Engine: (3.5 liter 263 horsepower V6)
Economy: (18 city/28 highway)
Buick LaCrosse CXS: (Starting at $33,015)
Engine: (3.6 liter 280 horsepower V6)
Economy: (17 city/26 highway)
Nissan Maxima SV: (Starting at $33,180)
Engine: (3.5 liter 290 horsepower V6)
Economy: (19 city/26 highway)