Every generation of Maxima has some fans — I’m partial to the bespoilered black ’87 five-speed my father drove for two years of my childhood — but the reputation of the nameplate is built almost entirely on the brilliant third-gen 1989 Max SE and the 1992 revision of that car that added a BMW-matching 190 horsepower to the already outstanding styling and chassis. After that, it was mostly downhill, with the porky, anonymous-looking sixth-generation ’04 probably representing the nameplate’s depressing nadir.
The current Maxima is anything but anonymous-looking, but it’s failed to make much of an impression and it currently sells at a rate approximately one-fifth that of the Altima that has largely eclipsed it in the marketplace. Many of those sales are to rental companies, and thus I was able to grab a nearly brand-new Maxima SV for a fast drive along the Northern California coast.
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Fred B. writes:
You recent article about racks prompted me to write. I am the proud owner of a 1996 Nissan Maxima. I’ve had it since about 30k miles. Over the course of its 209k mile life it has garnered additional accouterments along with its original generous kit. Specifically, the paint has gracelessly aged in the Texas sun to a rosy multi-hued patina that varies from nearly bare steel on some of the flat parts to the original red on the sheltered parts. The car hasn’t lived in Texas all of its life. Its formative years were spent in Indiana, where the salt festooned winter streets customized the underside. In fact, it used to make such a racket that I removed the heat shields from the exhaust system.
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Fifteen years ago, Nissan’s Maxima was one of a handful of genuinely sporting four-doors that wouldn’t saddle you with German car payments or reliability. After a decade of letting dozens of overpowered family haulers whittle away at the Maxima’s individualism, Nissan upped the game for 2009.
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While Ford and GM consider building their mid- and full-size cars on a single platform, Toyota and Nissan are already doing it. The Avalon has been based on the Camry platform since its inception and now Nissan is giving us an Altima-based Maxima. The key to pulling this trick off successfully is differentiating the resultant cars visually and dynamically, and preferably aiming them at different market segments. Did Nissan succeed at this mission, or did they just give us an Altimus Maximus?
TTAC commentator Aren Cambre writes:
I have a question about my 2002 Nissan Maxima. A while back, I had the battery disconnected for a few hours. After reconnecting, the car forgot how to maintain idle right after starting: if I don’t nudge the gas pedal for several seconds after starting, RPMs fall to 0. Internet research is conflicting. Some say it will heal on its own, others say dealer-only repair.
It’s been a few months now. How do I fix this? Is it really dealer only? If I don’t fix, will I hurt the car? (I don’t mind nudging the gas pedal–kind of like when I set the carburetor choke on my ’74 Nova.)
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When I reviewed the '07 Altima 3.5 SE, I concluded by posing the question, "Why in the world would anyone buy a Maxima?" Why indeed. The Pen-Altima far surpassed its big brother in power, handling and styling. Nissan had neglected the Maxima into a noisy Toyota Avalon with a cheap interior. Pity, because the nineties' version was a sort of lower-case-m-5: Japanese bento-box-styling with three tubes of wasabi squirted under the hood. Now Nissan's thrown the old Maxima blueprints out the window of a Nürburgring-blitzing GT-R. Four-door-sportscar? We'll see about that.
Today's intentional leak is brought to you by: Nissan. The 2009 Maxima is shown in the full flesh after we saw teaser photos a few days ago, and it looks pretty good. I find the headlights weird, but apparently this is to be some kind of new Nissan family headlight cluster; it's headed for the next gen 370Z sports car as well. Otherwise, the new Maxima is a decent-looking sedan that visually distinguishes itself from the Altima. Whether there is enough market space for the Altima, Maxima, and Infiniti G35 remains to be seen. Some point to Toyota's Avalon and say it shows Nissan can also sell a Japanese Buick. I think Nissan's intended sporty image is tough to reconcile with building a luxo-barge. It will be very interesting to watch how Mr. Ghosn's boys market the Maxima.
Pictures of the new Maxima at Pixamo (with the teaser shots, too)
The Nissan Maxima is the Madonna of mid-priced motors. It can perform wild and sensational stunts, come home, pop on the kettle and write heart-warming children's books. Not bad for a car whose roots stretch back to 1981, when it was a 120hp wagon called a Datsun 810. Those days, salesmen probably threw in a couple of lawn chairs and two tickets to Grease at the drive-in to move the metal. Now all they have to do is toss a potential customer the keys.
Or just let them study the car for a while. The Maxima's body looks the way the Cadillac CTS wishes it did, before its designer decided to run for Mayor of Polygon Town. It's a clean, fresh design that's deceptively attractive. At first glance, it's easy to mistake the Maxima for another Japanese blandmobile. But then, as you experience the car's perfect proportions and restrained detailing in various lights and settings, the design begins to work its magic. Before you know it, words like 'handsome' and 'Nissan' seem less like oxymorons, and more like an invitation to a VIP room.