Nissan Maxima (1998)
The Maxima is a very nice car. It's quiet, smooth and handles great. The one we drove had a stick shift and it shifted like a dream. We did notice that every stick-shift vehicle we get has a clutch that's either out of adjustment or already worn out after about 3,000 miles. I guess even the members of the automotive press corps don't know how to drive a stick.
For another $1,000 you can get the automatic, which should have more than enough power as automatics go, given that it's a three-liter V6 engine. This engine has been around a long time and is well proven.
We were unanimous on this one--it was driven by Tommy, Raymie and Dougie. It's a nice car. A lot of cars aren't "user friendly"--you know, the placement of the gauges and buttons just doesn't make any sense. But ergonomically, the Maxima "just feels right."
View cars.com model report on this vehicle.