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?
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 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.
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]
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.
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