Buy/Drive/Burn: Three Family Sedans From 1989

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn three family sedans from 1989

Today’s trio of sedans was suggested by an old MotorWeek review of the new-for-’89 Maxima. Let’s pit that fresh-faced midsizer against the more established Taurus and the more luxurious Mazda 929.

Which is worth a Buy?

Ford Taurus

We start today with our oldest competitor. Brand new for the 1986 model year, the Taurus was a revelation in the family sedan class. Front-drove and aerodynamic shapes replaced the rear-drive, boxy LTD. Taurus was offered as a sedan and wagon (just like the Mercury Sable), and immediately won favor with American customers in both those formats. Since we’re focused on family use today, we’ll opt for a nicely equipped LX, one step below the SHO. The uplevel 3.8-liter Essex V6 provides 120 horsepower, which are routed through a four-speed AXOD automatic. Taurus was reworked for its second generation in 1992, continuing its earlier successes.

Mazda 929

Mazda first offered the 929 to North America in 1987. In most other countries it was called the Luce, and was new for ’86. Known as the HC series, the 929 was the first time Mazda made a V6 engine, and the first time the company offered its large sedan in North America. Though a hardtop version was available in other places, North America received only the pillared sedan. The vast majority of 929s offered domestically used the 150 horsepower 3.0-liter V6, though it’s reported a few made it across the sea with a 2.2-liter inline-four. The only transmission was a four-speed auto. The most Japanese car on offer here, the 929 is also the only way to obtain rear-drive. 929 continued in this format through 1991, when it was replaced by the much more modern (but equally slow selling) Sentia. That version was badged 929 in the U.S. and 929 Serenia for Canadian sophisticates.

Nissan Maxima

The Nissan Maxima entered its third generation for 1989; what’s commonly known as “the good one.” Larger, more sporty, and now qualifying as a midsize car, the Maxima was sold solely as a sedan in its new guise. For the first time Nissan marketed its new Maxima as a 4DSC, the four-door sports car. Available in two simple trims, customers chose between the more luxurious GXE or the more sporty SE. The only engine was a good one: The VG30E V6, a 3.0-liter mill borrowed directly from the 300 ZX. Carried over from the prior Maxima was the optional Super Sonic Suspension, which was an active suspension that scanned the road ahead. We’ll opt for the GXE today, which pairs the V6 to a four-speed automatic. The third generation Maxima was replaced in 1995 by a new model which looked just like the 1994 Altima. Sad!

Three family car competitors vie for everyday driver duty in 1989. Which one goes home with you?

[Images: Ford, Mazda, Nissan]

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3 of 64 comments
  • Terry Terry on May 28, 2020

    The 1st gen 929 with the 3.0 SOHC V6 was available with 5-speed manual transmission. As a Mazda dealer tech/shop foreman I replaced a few clutches in the 929. The manual trans changed the whole character of the car.— it was actually fun to drive. The 929S DOHC was only available with an auto trans. The auto transmissions were very weak with many failures-same as the Mazda MPV minivan with which it shared many components. The 2nd gen 929 was by comparison a cramped, under-tired mess. I should have bought a 5- speed 929 when I had the chance.

    • MiataReallyIsTheAnswer MiataReallyIsTheAnswer on Jun 02, 2020

      When I had my pewter over burgundy velour 929, I actually saw a stick shift 929 for sale. I already had a Miata by then as well, and had fallen in love with Mazda sticks. I would have bought the 5-spd 929 but there was one massive problem: it was LIGHT BLUE METALLIC, yechh.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on May 29, 2020

    Buy the Taurus, it's cheap. Drive the Maxima, it's a hoot. Burn the Mazda, you won't be able to resell it anyway (even though it's arguably the best of the three...and rear wheel drive in this generation.)

  • Corey Lewis It was long overdue for a replacement or something, but additionally the Compass and Renegade are both so similar there doesn't seem to be a need for such overlap.
  • CoastieLenn Stellantis gonna stellant. Isn't the Compass similarly sized? How is there a hole in the lineup? Seems to me that they had one two many entrants in the compact crossover segment- being the Cherokee and the Compass. The Renegade takes the sub-compact segment, the Grand Cherokee takes the midsize segment (even though it doesn't have third row seating), and the Wagoneer takes the full sized segment. I really want a nice Cherokee Trailhawk V6, but I can never see myself actually buying one because of the litany of documented issues with basically everything in the Dodge/Jeep/Ram inventory. Their current electrical gremlin trajectory rivals that of VW/Audi, but nearly as expensive to repair.
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  • Arthur Dailey What give with this site? I know that I posted a comment. The site says that there are 12 comments. But when I click on the 'see more' button it resets to say that there are 11 comments and I can't see mine. I am not that egotistical as to believe that my comments are important. But that makes me wonder if others are also having their comments 'erased'.