Many are the mid-size sedan offerings, and most are sold in large numbers. Naturally, whenever a product is produced in great quantities, its very popularity will cause a subset of its audience to seek an alternative. Something a bit sportier, or more luxurious, or more stylish. The Volkswagen CC, the Nissan Maxima, and the Mazda 6 all hail from mainstream automakers, yet all three address this desire for something more in a mid-size car.
Volkswagen's CC - the letters stand for Comfort Coupe - is the newest of the three. This low-slung four-door is essentially a rebodied Passat. VW has wrapped its mid-size sedan mechanicals in a sheetmetal form that is obviously inspired by the Mercedes-Benz CLS (itself a rebodied E-class).
The Nissan Maxima has been a premium mid-size offering forever - or so it seems - but the 2009 version has been restyled inside and out to put more psychic distance between it and Nissan's volume-selling Altima, which uses the same platform.
The 6 is Mazda's volume-selling mid-sizer, except that it's never sold in quantities anywhere near those of its big-name competitors, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. That alone makes it a bit of an alternative choice, and we've long felt that the Mazda provides a greater degree of driver involvement than the typical mid-size sedan. For 2009, the 6 is brand-new, with a particularly shapely new design. West Coast editor Jason Cammisa came back from his initial drive raving about the new version, so we thought a top-spec 6 could hold its own in this company.
Styling is the first element you encounter, and although appearance is ultimately subjective, a few comments can be made. The Mazda's look is a major departure from that of its mundane predecessor, but the design is still perhaps not as dramatic as the other two cars here. The new Maxima is a vast improvement over the previous model and looks nothing like the Altima. The VW is a faithful copy of the CLS, from its banana-shaped profile to its slitlike side windows, but if you're going to copy, the highly successful CLS is a good template.
In all three of these cars, the emphasis on style means a rakish roofline that threatens to seriously clip rear-seat headroom. True enough, medium-height and taller adults risk a painful thwack if they forget to duck their heads getting into the back of any of these cars.