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    Two Luxurious Sporty Sedans

    By Philip Ruth–

    In their rush from sedans to crossover SUVs, buyers run the risk of ignoring cars that could more than meet their vehicular needs while being more fun to drive.

    Cases in point are this week’s mid-sizers, which occupy the segment’s luxury-performance upper end. They’re familiar models with histories that predate the current numbers-and-letters alphabet soup of automotive badges; the Buick Regal and Nissan Maxima put upscale intentions right there in their names.

    Specifications of the Regal and Maxima are closely aligned, but there are some important differences, including two big ones for the Regal: the tested Regal GS had all-wheel drive and a hatchback rear door, called the Sportback. Neither is available on the Maxima.

    The hatchback is a terrific idea, as it opens up the passenger and cargo space like a crossover SUV would. All-wheel drive also bridges the sedan gap.

    The Maxima does fine without either feature, and according to manufacturer figures, the tested Maxima 3.5 SL carries around a significantly fewer 600 pounds than the Regal. Adding crossover utility piles on the mass, no matter what the platform.

    The weight difference between them is like loading up the Maxima with four of your 150-pound friends, and so the Nissan can’t help but feel nimbler. Both test cars had V6 engines, and the Regal had just 10 more horses than the 300-horsepower Maxima, so the Buick had a bit less zip.

    But the Buick had more of something else—more sensations, and more feel behind the wheel. It’s built in the German city of Rüsselsheim, and it’s known as the Opel Insignia in European markets. Although it’s not a given that a German car will have more communication with its driver than those of competing countries, it’s a trope that’s proven true here.

    And so the Buick ends up feeling like a relaxed touring car that has something to say, while the Nissan is ready with immediate responses and an overall vibe of muscle and strength.

    This extends to the interiors, where both test cars were black and business-like. The Regal GS’s aggressively-bolstered sport seats seem over-enthused for the way that the car drives, but they’re comfortable all the same.

    The Nissan’s front seats are less racy but still quite supportive. Though the tested Maxima SL’s leather was nice and all, the sportier Maxima SR’s Alcantara furnishings are the hot ticket here.

    One area the Nissan can claim a decisive win is with safety equipment availability. It’s a given that active safety features should be standard on every car, and especially those at the $40K price point. Nissan incorporates items like automatic braking with pedestrian detection and rear braking as standard in all Maximas, under its “Safety Shield 360” umbrella. Meanwhile, similar tech is a $1,690 option on even the top Regal GS.

    While the tested Regal GS and Maxima SL each have their own superlatives, they’re both more fun to drive than most crossovers of the same size, and that alone warrants them a look.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant ( www.gaycarguy.com ). Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com.