DriverSide Overview Nissan
2009 Nissan Maxima
’s larger sedan, the Maxima
, has fallen out of the limelight in recent years. Overshadowed by the release of the sexy Altima Coupe
, the Maxima was left to sulk in the shadows, a shell of what the Maxima name used to mean to its fanatics. Not anymore. Nissan is billing the all-new seventh generation sedan as a four-door sports car, with strong styling that relies on DNA from Nissan’s supercar, the GT-R
, and a tuned V-6 with plenty of power on tap. We think the Maxima is heading in the right direction, going smaller, wider and sexier.
What's to Like
The fantastic exterior styling that pulls the car out of the mundane and into neck-craning territory. A well-finished, comfortable interior underscores the reality of what this car was built for - hitting the highway. The newest version of Nissan’s VQ engine provides enough power to sling the heavyweight sedan through the tightest of corners. We also like the sport-tuned CVT.
What's Not to Like
While most of the dash and instrumentation is well laid out, the temperature controls are set a bit too close to the center console. The proximity to the shifter (either automatic or manual) makes for awkward attempts at adjusting the climate control. The backseat could use a little more headroom.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Though the transverse-mounted V-6 under the Maxima’s hood is nothing new (the same engine has landed somewhere on Ward’s 10 best engines list since 1995), the extra power makes for an entertaining drive. Horsepower is up to 290 this year, 35 more than the previous generation. The car’s ride and handling are markedly better this year thanks to the all-new “D Platform.” Increased rigidity lends itself to cornering and, while the sport and “manual” modes in the Maxima’s XTRONIC S-CVT transmission are a great attempt, we yearn for a manual transmission of the past. Still, for a business hauler with hooliganism in its veins, the Maxima is quite a smooth ride.
Engine and Drivetrain
Nissan has stuck with the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine that, in some form or other, powers most of their fleet. The engine produces 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque, which is the most the Maxima has ever seen. The powerplant is mated to a continuously variable transmission, complete with a paddle-shifting manual mode.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
It’s clear that Nissan wants the Maxima to have some fun on the tarmac, as evident by the standard front strut-tower brace and the trunk chassis brace, that latter of which is available in the 3.5 SV sport package for $2,300. A nifty hard drive navigation system is also available as part of the technology package, priced at $2,400.
Key Technology Evaluation
Nissan’s tech package includes a 9.3 gig hard drive navigation
system that does double duty as a music storage device and comes equipped with a rear view monitor, XM satellite radio and auxiliary audio inputs. A seven-inch touch screen monitor lends a hand in controlling all of the information on the dash. For an extra $300, Bluetooth hands free calling, complete with steering wheel mounted controls, is available.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Despite the extra horsepower under the hood, the Maxima’s fuel economy hasn’t suffered too much, thanks largely to the S-CVT transmission. The Maxima gets 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. While not fantastic, the numbers put it on par with other good-sized sedans like the V-6 Honda Accord
and the Toyota Camry
, both of which don’t offer the same sportiness as the Maxima.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The Maxima carries its good looks from the outside in, with a clean design and solid workmanship. The seats are comfortable no matter where you’re stationed inside of the vehicle, and for the most part, there’s plenty of room. With it’s sloped roofline, taller individuals may want to avoid the backseat, if possible.
The Maxima has abandoned the mundane styling of the previous generation for a more masculine look with a nose that borrows heavily from the GT-R. The effect is an about-face for the Maxima from drab to downright good-looking. The wider fenders and more aggressive stance of Nissan’s ‘Liquid Motion’ design theme make the car seem like a rear-wheel drive sedan rather than the front-wheel driver it is. We applaud the Nissan team for giving the car an almost two-inch shorter wheelbase and a much wider track.
Market Segment and Pricing
Priced at $29,290 in base trim, the Maxima has its sights set on the V-6 Honda Accord
at $25,960, the V-6 Toyota Camry
at $28,470 and the Acura TSX
at $28,960. A 3.5 SV at $31,990 gets you leather, fog lights and some other interior niceties. Sport and Premium packages can be added on top of the 3.5 SV to push the final total to $35,440.
What We Think
We’re glad to see the Maxima rescued from the halls of anonymity. The strong, memorable styling outside coupled to a well-constructed, comfortable interior inside make for a near-perfect business-class cruiser. Of course, the more robust V-6, sport-tuned suspension and rigid body structure remind us that this car is here to more than just roll from A to B.