Behind the Wheel

2020 Nissan Maxima Review: Good enough to fill the small void left by Buick, Chevrolet

Nissan refreshed the Maxima for the 2019 model year. For 2020, there's a few improvements and the model still retains its comfortable seats and spacious trunk.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In the words of Andre 3000 at the 1995 Source Awards, "the South got something to say." The mass market large car segment is nearing extinction, according to most of the headlines and statistics you'll read. Nissan, whose North American HQ is located squarely in the Southern U.S., has found itself in a strong position to pick up the slack left behind by General Motors.

The 2020 Nissan Maxima is relatively the same as the 2019 model, with a few differences. Nissan Safety Shield 360 is now standard on the car, adding automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking to every Maxima model.

2020 Nissan Maxima The Nissan Maxima still features the updated exterior that was given to the car for the 2019 model year. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan has also added the Integrated Dynamics Control Module to every grade of the car (previously in SR only), which includes intelligent trace control, active ride control, and intelligent engine brake, to the car.

The enhancements make the Maxima, which is powered by a capable but not exhilarating 300-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine, a formidable choice for buyers who want a competent daily driver with a little more rear seat and trunk space than what is in the midsize Nissan Altima.

Nissan has done interiors quite well for years now and the Maxima is not an exception to that rule. For its $40,000-ish price tag when fully equipped, buyers get smooth surfaces with sleek accents. Despite cries from reviewers for Nissan to up its game here, a quick look at the market reveals that these materials are at least as nice as what you'll find in the Toyota Avalon, if not nicer.

2020 Nissan Maxima The car has a large center stack that doesn't give the feeling of roominess that makes cars like the Genesis G90 and Audi A8 so desirable. Still, it feels roomier than the Lexus LS.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Large car buyers want comfort and the Maxima delivers. Its seats are spacious and feature Nissan's Zero Gravity technology, which keeps tiredness at bay for hours at a time. The back seats are equally comfortable carrying adult occupants and in top trims, the leather on the seats, steering wheel, and shifter are supple.

The car's sore spots are predictable and common in aging Nissan vehicles like the Maxima and Murano. The car's 8-inch infotainment touch screen features outdated graphics that get crowded when using the audio function and don't know enough clear detail when using the navigation system. The A-pillar isn't the easiest to see around. It could stand to be more athletic and isn't terribly fuel efficient.

2020 Nissan Maxima The Nissan Maxima has comfortable seats, good forward visibility, and an available panoramic sunroof - all for around $40,000 fully loaded. That's a good price for a good car.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Still, the Maxima delivers a lot of what buyers are looking for. Sure, it's not as well-equipped or engaging as large cars by BMW, Audi, Genesis, and Mercedes-Benz, but it's literally half the price.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Photo courtesy of Ferrari

The Ferrari Omologata comes from a strong family tree filled with performance and Italian beauty. It's a one-off model that takes its DNA from seven decades of Ferrari GT tradition. The model has been crafted by a European client.

It's taken two years to complete the model since the presentation of the initial sketches. It's a model that took its inspiration from a variety of sources: racing heritage, sci-fi, and modern architecture.

A Ferrari 812 Superfast is the underlying package of the car, but the designers kept just the windscreen and headlights from the body. They set forth to create a model with smooth volume and undulating reflections. The car's front end is tapered and faced by a flattened oval grille. At the back, the car takes a more muscular stance, has deeply set taillights, and is finished off with a prominent spoiler.

Ferrari Omologata

Photo courtesy of Ferrari

Dressed in a triple layer of Ferrari's Rosso Magma paint and a racing livery the car combines track day prowess with daily drivability.

Inside, the car sports electric blue seats finished in a combination of leather and Jeans Aunde fabric with four-point racing harnesses. The rest of the interior is finished in black.

Unlike modern vehicles, the Omologata does not have a screen in the center of the vehicle, giving the model. a historic tinge. Metal parts on the dashboard and steering wheel are finished with the crackled paint effect associated with the great GT racers of the 1950s and 1960s as well as with Ferrari's engine cam covers. A hammered paint effect so often used in cars such as the 250 LM and 250 GTO finds its way on details such as the inner door handles and on the Ferrari F1 bridge.

The mid-engine car has a 6.5-liter V12 engine, harvested from the 812 Superfast. In that car is generates 789 horsepower and 530 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Ferrari isn't divulging the price of the Omologata.

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The Mazda MX-5 RF is one of the better-rounded sports coupes you can buy.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Mazda loves to remind us that it makes the best-selling two-seater sports car in history. The company mentions this in just about every press release it issues on the Miata. It's even certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

With more than a million units sold over the past thirty years, the Miata — or MX-5 in the rest of the world — has been a reliable pick for folks looking for an authentic sports car experience at an affordable price. Lotus founder Colin Chapman said his theory on race car design was to "simplify, then add lightness". Mazda's engineers have remained more-or-less faithful to that idea over the years when it comes to the MX-5.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The fierce design and unique drivability of the MX-5 help make it a desirable commodity.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Small cars don't need a ton of power, and they're a joy to drive. The 2020 MX-5 sports a 181-horsepower, 151 lb-ft four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed manual (or a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, but what you really want is the manual). My test unit this week — a luxury-focused MX-5 Grand Touring — came with a limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, front- and rear-stabilizer bars, and, of course, rear-wheel drive. It's not necessary to understand what all that stuff does to enjoy the car, though it's an impressive list of tech.

There's a running joke in car journalism that when someone asks which car they should buy, the answer is always "Miata" regardless of whether the buyer is a 70-year old retiree or a housewife with three kids. I don't know if that's strictly true, but the MX-5 will put a smile (and a sunburn) on your face regardless of who you are.

My fully-loaded manual transmission Grand Touring RF test unit priced out at a a whopping $35,345, but included a wide array of luxe features like automatic windshield wipers and high beams, leather everything inside the (tiny) cockpit, and a nine-speaker Bose stereo system that included speakers built-in to the headrests so you can hear your tunes even with the top down.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The hard top of the MX-5 RF gives the convertible a sleek look.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support is new for 2020, though there's no good place to put your phone. Or a cup of coffee. Or a handbag or really anything else except for two humans. It's really tight in there. The cupholders are two bits of plastic that go behind your elbow on the center armrest, requiring a stretching maneuver that wouldn't be out of place in a yoga studio to retrieve your beverage. There's also a diminutive "glove box" behind the cupholders that's good for holding a tube of sunscreen, your car registration, and very little else.

The trunk isn't spacious but it'll swallow a rollaboard suitcase easily enough, and the RF's hardtop doesn't affect the trunk at all which is a big plus.

The ride is firm but pleasant, with a far smoother and more refined ride than the similarly sized Toyota 86. This is the car for people who think comfort is a feature, and are willing to trade a bit of time in the slalom or on the skid pad to not have their spine ruined.

The six-speed manual transmission is a delight, reminding me why it's fun to have a stick shift. Not many folks will use their MX-5 as a commuter car, so there are almost no downsides to the manual tranny. Gear changes are quick and easy, and the clutch is incredibly forgiving. Third gear is particularly wonderful, as is the rev-happy naturally aspirated Skyactiv-G engine that scores an EPA-estimated 26/34/29 city/highway/combined.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The interior of the MX-5 is well-designed, but cramped.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The exhaust isn't noisy, but it make a nice burble, particularly with the top down. And I do have to call out that top. The RF — or Retractable Fastback — is the MX-5 to buy. Not only is it stupidly good looking, but you get the best of both worlds: When the top is down, you get 93 million miles of blue sky. But when you put it back up, you're in a sports coupe that's almost quiet and refined.

The roof can open and close in just 13 seconds, though you do need to be stopped for it to operate. It looks especially good in Mazda's Polymetal Gray paint scheme.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF The Mazda MX-5 RF has the same design attributes as the MX-5, just with a hard top.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

I love convertibles. I love the MX-5. I love the RF. I love 93 million miles of blue sky. And if you go take one for a test drive, I promise you'll love it too.

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