By on September 17, 2015

A couple of months ago, our own Mark Stevenson drove the eighth-generation Maxima. He was neither particularly enthusiastic nor needlessly cruel when discussing Nissan’s big sedan. I have yet to drive the Max myself so I have, as of yet, no opinion. However, I have driven all of the previous cars at one point or another between 1988 and 2013. I also have something to say about the Maxima’s true relevance to Nissan, and I’ll be saying that in my next “No Fixed Abode” column. As a warmup for that, then, I thought I’d reacquaint you, and myself, with the history of the Maxima. And since this is the Internet, we might as well rank them, right?

Seventh (And Last) Place: Gen 7 (2008-2014)

7g

It was the last of Maximas, it was the worst of Maximas. When I drove one up the California coast in 2013, I thought it was born to be a rental car. Like its sixth-gen predecessor, this was essentially an Altima Plus. The VQ35 remained a stout engine but it no longer raises eyebrows in a world where even the outgoing Impala could be had with a 306-horsepower V6. Neither sporty nor special, the Gen 7 car wasn’t even a good alternative to an Avalon or Azera.

Sixth Place: Gen 6 (2003-2008)

6g

This was, no doubt, the ugliest Maxima. Its signature feature, the ridiculous “Skyview” wrong-way sunroof that was different just for the sake of being useless, more or less defined Maxima’s awkward place in the Nissan lineup. Victimized by a common Nissan sedan styling theme that worked okay on the Altima but looked bland on the Sentra and bloated when up-sized to fit a 193.5-inch car, the first Maxima to be built and exclusively sold in North America was a tepid affair indeed. So why’s it ahead of its successor on this list? Simple: for the first half of the model run, it was possible to get a six-speed manual and some reasonably sporty suspension settings. If you did that, and if you dumped the SkyView in favor of an actual sunroof, then you had a decent car. But the name “Maxima” once meant something more than decent, so this model will remain unloved by history.

Fifth Place: Gen 4 (1994-1999)

4g

So. You’re Nissan in the early Nineties. You’ve made one of the best sports sedans in history, with the 1989 Maxima. You’re riding a wave of success measured in Additional Dealer Profit and your new 1990 300ZX is the most celebrated Japanese car in a decade. What do you do for an encore?

If you came up with the answer, “Focus on a three-sedan lineup, cut costs, remove excitement, and chase Toyota,” then congratulations! You probably actually worked for Nissan in 1992 or thereabouts. The Maxima that you wanted, the twist-axle ’94, was a cheaper, low-content version of the spectacular ’89. Its mission was to give the Infiniti G20 plenty of breathing space, and it almost succeeded at that mission.

Unfortunately, Nissan made the Seventies-GM mistake of thinking that they had no competition. They were wrong. The Camry of the era was sleeker, sportier, and sometimes faster than this Maxima, and it offered far better build quality at a lower price. The resulting sales decline would ensure that the Maxima would never again truly matter to American enthusiasts. Don’t get me wrong: a stick-shift ’95 SE is still a decent car. It’s just worse than a stick-shift ’89 SE.

Fourth Place: Gen 1 (1981-1983)

1g

Let me describe the Datsun 810 to you, just in case you’re too young to have seen one on the move: 2.4-liter straight-six. Independent rear suspension. Manual transmission. Rear-wheel drive. So far, we’re talking a Jag S-Type, circa 1965. Reliable. Spacious. Fuel-efficient, by the standards of the day. Are you interested? Of course you’re interested. That was the 810, a bigger, more luxurious take on the Datsun 510 that had become the standard-bearer for SCCA sedan racing.

The Maxima was the same car with more luxury, more features, and even voice warning through phonograph or solid-state units. Would you’ve rather had a Celebrity Eurosport? Of course not. Again, the contemporary Cressida was probably a better car, but the Datsun had plenty to recommend it. Most importantly, it was part of the Japanese push upmarket that just five short years later would result in the Infiniti Q45. If you want to know what the pace of automotive change was in those days, just consider that: five years from 120-horsepower, bread-box Maxima to the mighty Q.

Third Place: Gen 2 (1984-1988)

2g

This was one of the cars in which I learned to drive — my father had a five-speed ’87 in black — so I’m sentimental about this generation. But you don’t need rose-tinted glasses to respect the first Nissan to carry the Maxima name exclusively. It could run with a 300ZX all day long, thanks to sharing the non-turbo Z’s 160-horsepower engine and a similar curb weight. It was available as a stick-shift or an automatic, had all the luxury features you could want in the mid-Eighties, and if you were an early-adopter techie there was even a variant with two-tone paint and a “sonar suspension”. It cost much less than a BMW 528e but could easily hang with it on a twisty road.

It wasn’t perfect. At the time, Nissan didn’t really understand damping or even suspension geometry. The Toyota Cressida against which it competed was one of the Eternal Toyotas, while the Maxima was simply average-Japanese-Eighties build quality. They liked to rust. But the biggest problem people have with these 1984-1988 cars is that they were basically Led Zeppelin III: brilliant in their own right but overshadowed for all eternity by what came next.

Second Place: Gen 5 (1999-2003)

5g

For the most part, this was just a facelifted fourth-gen car, continuing the Maxima’s decline into irrelevance while the competition steamed past it at full speed.

Except.

The last two years of the model featured the 255-horsepower Nissan VQ35DE and a six-speed transmission bolted to a limited-slip differential. Blam. The nice people at Car and Driver got one through the quarter-mile at 14.7 @ 97. That was exactly what a 2002 Mustang GT stick-shift could do. Now we’re talking.

The fish-mounted aesthetic wasn’t great, the interior was cheap-ish, and if you just got an automatic GXE there was really nothing to recommend a Maxima over a V6 Camry. But choose the right options, and you got a street mercenary, a mid-price sedan ready to take some scalps. And the enthusiasts of the era knew what you had. Respect was given. Had the Maxima story ended in 2003, we’d remember the car fondly. It didn’t.

First Place: Gen 3 (1989)

3g

All hail the 4DSC. The comparo-test killer. The back-road Baryshnikov. The car where the gauges magically switched from black-on-white to white-on-black at night. Smooth as a soap bar. Upscale like a Q45 inside and out. To see one was to want one. To drive one was to hate your current car. About as fast as the five-liter, entry-level IROC-Z of the era, the ’89 SE was light on its feet. Every control effort was matched. Every detail was sweated. I drove one in my youth and couldn’t believe that it was, truly, as good as they said it was. The Infiniti G20 and M30 of the time did not measure up.

For just a quartet of shining years, the Maxima was probably the best affordable sedan in the world. At least the best one sold here. It made no excuses, inside or out. It was so good that it continues to shine its light on five hapless generations after it. The “4DSC” moniker was resurrected by Nissan for the new one but that’s like them calling the Lumina coupe the Monte Carlo SS. There won’t be another one like this one.

Why not? Well, that’s a simple question with a depressingly simple answer. The 1989 Maxima SE sold to a particular kind of person. He was in his thirties, successful, interested in back-road dynamics, able to drive a stick-shift well, captivated by the Max’s sleek yet basic look. He wasn’t brand-obsessed. He would pay for quality. He didn’t buy more car than he really needed.

That buyer is long gone. Today’s 30-somethings with money to burn lease Bimmers instead of buying Nissans. I suppose the Lexus IS350 gets those buyers too but the IS is an automatic-only rocketship, not a finely-balanced dance partner. As the economy continues to crater, the buyers are getting older and older. All of a sudden the Avalon looks like a nice choice. And the Azera is nice. That Cadenza — oooh, very stylish. Who would buy a car that needed a skilled hand and a back road to truly shine? Who would buy it from the same place your maid service gets its Versa Notes?

They didn’t last. They rusted and wore out and nobody preserved them the way you’d preserve a Ferrari or even a Z-car. Today, the 1989 Maxima is mostly a creature of the imagination. But how it still shines, dear reader, in mine!

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67 Comments on “The First Seven Generations of Maxima, Ranked...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I think the gen 1 photo came from that cereal marshmallows crazy Ebay guy. I recognize his street now easily.

  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    Totally agree. Freshman year of college, my first trip home and a white with tan interior Gen 3 was sitting in my parents driveway. They took the plunge and bought what was probably a too-expensive car for them at the time, but wow – what a car. I still remember the feeling I had when they let me drive it. “Every detail was sweated.” EXACTLY! Assembled by people who cared. And the “4DSC” sticker in the back door window was cool, too.

  • avatar
    Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

    I test drove the Gen 6 SE in 2004. I knew my infatuation with sport sedans was over when I couldn’t wait to get back into my 98 Camry LE, a car that was quieter, more nimble, rode better, sounded better across the rev bands, and generally had the nicer interior.

    I thought the SE didn’t even measure up to its contemporaries the Mazda6 or TSX for fun-to-drive. It just didn’t have the finesse the latter two had.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Agreed on the top choice. I’ve known a few folks run these for 15 plus years. They seemed to be built like tanks. A tossup between Gen 2 and Gen 5 though. Too close to call. Back in 2002, a friend at work had bought the same Gen 5 car in the pic with the same 6 speed/rear diff. Some little old lady had scratched the rear bumper and he no longer wanted it. He offered it to me for 15K with 6k miles on it. I should’ve bought it. I would probably still have it.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I bought my ’92 SE (the first year of the twin-cam) and held it for 17 years. It was unceasingly awesome.

      “The 1989 Maxima SE sold to a particular kind of person. He was in his thirties, successful, interested in back-road dynamics, able to drive a stick-shift well, captivated by the Max’s sleek yet basic look. He wasn’t brand-obsessed. He would pay for quality. He didn’t buy more car than he really needed.”

      That was me, in every particular but one: I actually traded in a stick-shift GTI and bought my Max with the slushbox. My GTI had lacked even power steering, and I was in the mood for driving ease and performance togehter. In SE trim, the Max checked every box. And when I finally sold it to a family friend in ’09, the interior was made from such great materials that it still was nearly pristine as new.

      That Max was ahead of its time in many ways: DOHC, variable valve timing, lumbar support, Bose stereo, viscous limited-slip. But above all, it was modern in look, feel and chassis rigidity. What a car.

      All the Japanese midsize sedans of that era were sensational, actually. Th contemporaneous Accord was narrower, smaller and only available with a 4, but exuded quality from every pore. The Camry SE, overlooked because it was available only as a dowdy 2-door, nearly tied the Max in a C/D comparison test. The Mazda 626 embodied the same pseudo-European roadability values as today’s Mazdas do. And then, they all sagged in quality in the next generation as the Japanese makers were slammed by the strengthening yen. It was a fleeting but true Golden Age for Japanese midsize carmaking.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Lumbar support? How is that ahead of its time? My 1986 Taurus LX had it. In fact, when I swapped black interior into my current 95, I was/am happy that I now have it. My interior came from a 1992 Taurus LX.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        That’s basically me now. The buyer still exists. I would have totally bought today’s equivalent of the 1989 Maxima SE but it’s simply not available. So I bought a Honda Accord Sport 6 speed, about the only new car which comes remotely close. I didn’t even look at the current Maxipad.

        • 0 avatar
          eventualhorizon

          I’m with you. I still have a 97 se 5 speed but am looking to replace it in the next year. I’ve toyed with keeping it but I’m not excited about breaking down on the highways around Atlanta.

          The Accord sport or the Mazda6 sport with the stick are really the only two I am seriously shopping. I think the Accord is a little bit better but won’t decide until I drive both of them. Damned electric steering either way.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      I knew some other guys with sales jobs that owned this generation Maxima with the automatic. It was a great car for people who put lots of miles on their car, wanted some sportiness, a touch of class & status, yet could hold 4 people/customers comfortably. Bonus points for decent fuel economy and above average reliability. If you spent a lot of your workday in a car the Maxima was a nice place to do it.

      The Gen 2 was a great car for a business road warrior.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        IIRC Dad logged 56,000 miles on his in 18 months.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          Many people probably don’t realize how few good choices there were in the 1980’s if you wanted a quality, sporty, moderately priced sedan. Maybe a Taurus SHO or Acura Legend. Today there are lots of options but twenty five years ago not so much.

          The good old days weren’t that great.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I had an ’89 Taurus SHO. It was many good things, but “quality” was not one of them. Most fragile, unreliable car I’ve ever owned.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    I remember being a teenager thinking the new for ’89 Maxima was absolutely fantastic. Twenty five years later I still search Kijiji with a Canada-wide switch from time to time for a low mileage 89-94 example, and I already own at 2nd gen CTS DI with no need for a second car. I like the car that much.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I think the gen 4 car deserves some more credit than it gets. Yes it was a step down in material quality (which was still very good my most modern standards) and suspension sophistication in the rear from gen 3, but it was the first one to receive the most excellent and durable chain driven VQ30, in a light and lean package. The updated 255hp gen5 variants gained weight and were further cheapened. Anecdotal evidence suggests they weren’t as reliable either. Was a gen 5 with a stick and VQ35 any faster, even with the LSD, than a lighter 190hp VQ30 gen 4? I’ve heard that the original VQ30 is also smoother and more willing to rev but I have no personal experience.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed–the VQ30 with the timing chain was incredibly smooth, liked to rev, and was durable.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Absolutely. The VQ30 had extremely smooth delivery, and was quiet and reliable. In the I30 it delivered usually 22-23 around town, or 19-20 with AC.

        The windows were so big in that car, I always remember how bright and airy it was in there. Last car I owned with a powered antenna.

        I found my pics where I photographed it after the fool in a Wrangler wrecked it. Sold it shortly after getting it fixed when I left for SK.

        https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

        • 0 avatar

          I had the same model, but in black. Bought it when it was nine years old because I needed a car to park on the street downtown. It was anonymous but ideal for my commute–bright and airy and decent gas mileage, like you said. It was also great on the highway and handled the steel plates and potholes of downtown.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Agreed. The VQ30 was the best VQ ever, lower power rating or not. The Gen4 Maxima is depressingly ugly to look at inside and out, but a very nice car to drive.

      I so badly wanted a used Gen3 as my first car. It was 1991 and I had no hope of affording one. My budget was $6000 and they were all well in five figures, even the ones with salesman mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      The Gen 5 is still the fastest Maxima to date. Owned a 6MT (non-LSD) ’02 and loved the pants off that car. It got me hooked on cars. My current 6MT 6th gen is noticeably slower, but with a better ride quality and, arguably, better handling in turns. It’s about 200 lbs heavier, with a small 10 HP bump not covering the difference, but they really did a number to the front suspension in an effort to make up for the additional weight, like using aluminum control arms. I think it worked. There’s considerably less torque steer and the IRS working in conjunction with the completely revised front suspension allows the wide 245 tires more lateral grip before understeer takes over.

      It’s not nimble and snappy like the light 4th gens, by any means, but it definitely pulls harder through corners than my ’02.

  • avatar
    bfisch81

    My Grandfather had an 89 Maxima that he bought off my Uncle. Grandpa drove that car until it more or less turned into rust with some metal inbetween. The interior of that car was amazing. Supportive and comfortable seats, climate control, Bose stereo, the aforementioned white to black at night gauges and it was just amazing to drive compared to everything else of its day. When Grandpa decided to get a new car my Uncle bought the Maxima back but sadly it was too rusted to survive without extensive body work.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My 90 SE remains in the top tier of all the cars I have owned. I got it after my step mom was done with it. Well used with somewhere around 80k miles. It was from New Hampshire so it had completely rusted out. It was really bad. But it did everything perfectly, even as it was dying. It was the perfect size for 4 young adults, it fit anywhere I needed it to, it embarrassed newer V8 Mustangs, and the styling couldn’t have been better.
    The only change I would make to this list is to swap the 6th and 7th because the styling of the 6th was completely unforgivable.

    I posted this recently, but it’s still for sale:
    http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/635220694/overview/

    Not a stick, but neither was mine. It is heartbreakingly tempting.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    My vote for the best looking was the Gen 4, it still holds up today. And the performance was definitely way ahead of the pack, I remember models getting 0-60 in the mid 6 second range, that was blazing fast for a midsize sedan in the early to mid 90’s.

    I definitely agree that the Gen 6 was the ugliest. I don’t know how that car got approved, just changing that grill would have been a night and day improvement.

    Nissan just decided to make the Maxima a full sized rental car. I actually used to be a big fan of Nissan and Infiniti, but they seem content to now be a subprime automaker.

  • avatar

    I remember the first time I saw a ’89 Maxima. We were in Harrisburg visiting friends and volunteering with a non-profit. There was a cream colored one sitting near my friends’ house. One the best looking sedans of the modern era. The fact that it had a sporting drivetrain and suspension as well is one of those times in automotive history when the planets align.

    Maybe Nissan’s fate is to, every now and then, make cars that are legendary to enthusiasts like the original 510, the Sentra SE-R and ’89 Maxima, and more or less invisible to the masses.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Oh, to have a desirable Nissan in the early 90s! Mine was a 1992 SE-R that did a fair impression of a (then) modern-day 2002. I also had the privilege of driving a Gen 3 Maxima for a few days and just absolutely loved that car. You could just about believe the “4DSC” hype around it.

    Years later, my FIL wound up with a Gen 6 as a rental. What. A. Disappointment. Our best friend’s Gen 5 came across as a much more engaging vehicle to drive, and certainly much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

    BTW…love the concept of this article! There should be more like this that takes a look at an entire run of a certain model name.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Personally, I prefer the Gen 1 to all the rest. RWD, and an inline 6. A Japanese 5-series, just like the 510 was a Japanese 2002. The rest are front wheel drive and V6, and thus half ruined right out of the gate. Sadly, in this climate they rusted to oblivion in very short order. Good friend of mine in High School had a diesel with stick – that was a pretty 80’s piece of kit. Otherwise, Gen 3, then all the rest in order.

    Another friend bought a ’93 new right out of college, and kept it in nearly pristine condition until last year, when he traded it for a Pathfinder (3rd kid arrived). He hates the Pathfinder.

    All the rest of them are crap rental cars, IMHO.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    Dear mother had an 85. A much younger version of me regularly thrashed the thing within an inch of its life but it would not break. Very nice sounds and outward visibility that puts anything of current vintage to shame.

    Back up cameras my ass.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Correct me if Im wrong, but didnt the 4DSC have automatic seatbelts?

    Seems like a cheap detail in a higher-end sedan. Ive never driven one so Im clueless about their dynamic fwd family sedan capabilities, I just know theyre rare and they rust.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      That was due to government mandates for “passive restraints”, a stop gap until dual airbags were fitted in the next gen.

      What I dont understand is why the mid-1990s Ford Escort kept using passive belts after dual airbags became standard. Seems kinda stupid. I mean, when Tempo was equipped with the optional airbag, the motorized belts were replaced with normal manual ones.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        The Escort was Mazda Protege based, they didnt use airbags until 1994 when they were forced to step up by new safety laws.

        (For all the hate domestica get they at least let you have airbags)

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Yes, motorized belts all the way through to 1993. Right, Nissan cheapness, which is what kept me out of them and went with Acura Legend instead.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Interesting article, Jack. I’ll definitely agree that the Gen 3 was the best one, although I’d say Gen 6 was the absolute worst.

    So where would you rank the new Gen 8 in this list?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      He hasn’t driven the 8 he said! That’s why it’s missing. :)

      I want to know what the take rate was on the rear Executive Package for gen 6.
      http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/4/548/3089/38869044047_large.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I didn’t even know that existed for the Gen 6, but did know that it was available for the Gen 7. The Gen 6 was probably when the Maxima stopped being treated as an executive or even upscale car, so I’d guess it was pretty low.

        EDIT: The one on the Gen 7 had audio and temperature controls in the armrest, but didn’t have the long, front-rear console that would take up the middle seat as in the Gen 6. I don’t know if that’s technically an executive package.

        http://1-photos4.ebizautos.com/used-2010-nissan-maxima-4drsedanv6cvt35sv-11885-13960733-21-400.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          I like the rear console idea, and I dont hate the skyview roof, only felt it shouldve been wider. I do not like the gen 6 at all, but I kinda like those options

      • 0 avatar
        Eiriksmal

        Extremely slim. I have the rarest-of-rare 6MT 6th gen (’05) with the Elite Package (the 4 heated buckets) + Navigation. I’ve never seen another 6 gen with the rear buckets and also never seen another stick. It’s quite lamentable. Why buy one with a rear bench when the most comfortable rear seats of any car I’ve sat in (beats the pants off my grandparents equally-fully loaded ’05 Avalon with the reclining rear bench hybrid) can be had?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I never found a Nissan I liked, and only drove a rental Altima in 2010, a 2.5S, for a business trip to Detroit & back to the Cincinnati-area.

    My back hurt for half a week.

    That car, although I averaged 35 mpg, by comaprison in comfort, made my 2004 Impala feel like a Cadillac!

    No sale, Nissan, EVER.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I know, I just drove my friends newer Altima. I do not like it. The driving position feels awkward, the materials look and feel cheap, and its not in the least bit fun to drive. Its not as uncomfortable as a Versafuck, but nearly so.

      Its like a dishwasher, bland, boring and only there to do its job in the least entertaining way possible.

  • avatar
    turf3

    I liked the 5th generation styling the best of all of them. I thought it was one of the last cars that wasn’t overstyled, but just neatly done. When we looked at this car they had the successors on the lot and I thought they were hideous (little did I know what was coming in the remaining years of the 2000s and into the 2010s, the new dark age of automotive styling).

    Besides, it would run like a striped-a$$ ape.

    Ended up with a 2003 Camry instead, which is a little bigger and more comfortable, but not as high performance. Also the “premium fuel only” was a little off-putting. I am not sure we made the best decision, although the Camry was a good decision (still have it, still runs & drives like a new car at ~110,000 miles).

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    First car was an ’85 Maxima, brown with brown leather (journo-spec, as the Brown Car Appreciation Society called it).

    GREAT car, as all first cars tend to be. Little problems here and there, especially when my dad and I tried to replace the fuel gauge sending unit and the worklight we used fell and broke, thankfully not igniting..but that thing was a load of fun.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    My favorite would be the late 70s 810 coupe, but the fourth gen is my favorite car to bear the Maxima name.

    My fiance at the time had a 92 Max at the same time I had my 92 Tempo LX V-6. The Maxi became so unreliable that we switched cars so she could make it to school and I could see about the Max. When the tech came in, he said it was in pretty poor mechanical condition. We sold it and I bought her a 94 Escort.

    My cousin (neighbor’s daughter) was killed in May of this year when her 6th gen Max left the road at 100 mph. Two other passengers were seriously injured. I hated that car from the day they brought it home, now I almost cry when I see a silver gen 6 Maxima. She wouldve been 17 five days later.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The 8th gen is not out of the woods yet, although it is an upgrade from the Gen7’s very low point in terms of interior quality. The Nissan dealer where I looked at the Gen8 also had a Murano Platinum right next to it. The Murano’s interior is genuinely upscale and looked like a lot more thought and effort had gone into it. The CUV is king.

    I really don’t mind driving the Gen7 that much, and appropriate expectations is why. I don’t expect it to be sporty, just to be an Altima with some punch and much less tinniness. And at that, it succeeds. If you can get one for the right price it’s not a horrible buy in a vanilla midsize car.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Im not a Nissan guy myself. A friend has a late 90s Altima that as of 2013, has required $7k in work to keep it going. Theyve owned it from new.

    Another friend had an S14 Silvia, mostly stock. The engine spun a bearing and needed replacing, amongst other repairs.

    Lastly, when I sold one of my older cars the buyer had an Infiniti J30 with an awful tick to it.

    Looking at carsurvey these 3rd gen Maxis sound like old Buicks, comfy but eat window regulators, water pumps, but at least a Buick wont rust as bad.

    Just average cars really, Im sure the 4DSC drives well, or at least they did 20 years ago.

  • avatar
    JMII

    As an 80s kid the Gen 2 is always the way I remember the Maxima. Boxy but quick. I’d put the Gen 6 at the bottom of the list, it just so plain looking and suffers from the same cruse as my ’03 Z – six spoke wheels with a 5 lug bolt pattern… WHY oh why Nissan? At least the Gen 7 makes you look at it, which is not necessary a good thing but compared to Maximas it stands out.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I wanted a gen 5 so bad till I drove one. Talk about garbage. Stale is the best word and the solid beam rear axle made the ride and handling remind me of my 95 achieva, banging nd clanging over bumps and a punishing ride. The gen 6 maxima I then drove had such a cheap plastic interior it was quality of a Pontiac grand am. No thanks.

    The maxima has always reenforced the reason I hate Nissans. They look great on paper then you drive them and they all have their faults that make you say fuck no! Plus their reliability has been garbage since Renault took them over.

  • avatar

    I wanted to buy a Gen 7 but after driving one I couldn’t pull the trigger. It had lots of power but just felt floaty and cheap like a Buick LeSabre. Ended up buying a 2013 Fusion. It doesn’t have the VQ35, but what it lacks in motor it makes up for in ride and handling that is closer to the 3rd gen Maxima or my old I30.

  • avatar
    hotdog453

    My first car was actually a 1989 Nissan Maxima, in 2002. I disliked it at the time, but I wasn’t really “into cars” back then. But it was a fantastic car to learn to drive stick in: Torque everywhere, drove well, long, truck like shifter.

    If I could go back in time, I’d appreciate it more.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Maxima completely ‘jumped the shark’ since the introduction of the 6th gen. To me, the real successor to the 5th gen is the 2003 G35. I wonder where it would fall in Jack’s ranking if it actually was the 6th gen Max. Number 2?

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Infiniti is the main reason the Maxima was held back in later generations. As you say, it would be interesting to see where Jack would rank the midsize Infinitis from the last 20 years in this list.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Max never really caught my eye. For some reason I always thought it a thug creme pie.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I loved the gen 4. The 3.0 was just a sweetheart and the interior was a model of simplicity and quality.

  • avatar
    stubydoo

    My current drive is one of the last of the generation 5 – with the 3.5L and 6MT. Right before they thoroughly abandoned the idea of making a car for drivers who drive. I don’t really understand who the more recent Maximas (all with CVTs, at least per my local dealer) are being made for.

    My passengers do always complain when I drive over a bump – though that’s the price I pay for the excellent road-holding on corners.

    I’ll probably be moving to a different vehicle soon after 5 years of ownership (though it’s partly because the specimen I have is showing its age a bit).

  • avatar
    johnny_5.0

    My friends father had a gen 3 that I still remember fondly. White with black leather. We used to take that thing out all the time. It was quick for its time and drove/rode extremely well. The fact that I can remember it so vividly means it left an impression on me. I thought it was a ’94 though. Did ’94 for gen 4 above mean a ’95 MY sold in ’94 or is my memory failing me?

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Oh. Fucking. Yes. I had to appear in court on my 17th birthday for a ticket I got in an ’89. The trooper stated “I accelerated to 100mph and the defendant continued to pull away” If I had known she was there I probably could have out run her.

  • avatar
    irieite

    I loved the way the 2nd generation looked, but the 3rd generation was definitely the best. Agree that they sweated the details unlike ever before or ever since on that one. The last year (or two?) had the hotter 190 horsepower engine which made it especially sweet.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    The “With Dad” TV ad is great. It’s nice to see you Americans can do subtle sometimes.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    My father briefly had a cream-colored third-gen Brougham with brown leather in the late nineties. I can’t recall the model year. It was simply, by far, the best car I had ever driven in every way that I could comprehend, given my limited driving experience. I didn’t drive it a lot that summer, but I have a few good memories of borrowing it for my first date plus a few more with what ended up being my first significant girlfriend. I had my Panasonic discman hooked up to that Bose system with a cassette adapter. The rear speakers didn’t work but it was good enough for me at the time with just the fronts. The car will always have a connection to Placebo’s Without You I’m Nothing and Blink 182’s Dude Ranch. A friend indeed.

    A few weeks later, it started making a strange noise and he blamed me for driving it too hard or something. I remember standing there, looking at him like a perplexed dog would, and not saying anything because I didn’t even know how to respond to such an accusation, before walking away. It turned out to be an accessory bearing or something like that.

    Because of that car, I wanted a Maxima all the way up until 2003. Preferably a manual fifth gen SE, since they were the fastest and I assumed they must be even better than the one I had experienced. My buddies couldn’t understand why I desired some FWD Japanese sedan. I don’t recall ever thinking much about the sixth gen or any that followed.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    One night my best friend rode in one, and the driver (who’d had his license for less than a year at that point, iirc) tried to take a corner at well over 100mph, messed up, and flipped the sucker right over into the trees. They were both wearing seatbelts, and survived without a scratch, albeit with a healthy new respect for the 4DSC.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    Ah the Maxima. Being a JDMophile well before ‘JDM’ existed, the Maxima had to do since Skylines (non-GT-Rs) weren’t sold here in the US.
    My dad fell for the ‘510’ trick and bought the PL510 instead of the 810 Bluebird/1G Maxima I suspected he intended.
    My favorite part of the 2G was that it came in a wagon.
    A high school friend always drove his dad’s (pre-DOHC) SE, and that thing was amazing. In college, another friend had a GXE with half-broken VFD dash and completely broken Sonar Suspension (not so amazing).
    Couple years later I babysat a 95 SE, and the VQ was the only redeeming part of the car. After that, I pretty much lost interest in actually owning one. Oh well.

  • avatar

    I feel the Gen 4 should be higher but I’m a little biased as I drove one quite a bit my Brother and Later my father owned. Fun to drive comfortable really quick and reliable as all get out. Gen 4’s are like cockroaches here in CT and NY. They are getting rusty now but there are thousands of them most with well over 200k being daily driven.

    I also think gen 6 and gen 7 should be swapped gen 6 really is worse then 7 in every way I can think of.

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