Rare Rides Icons, The Nissan Maxima Story (Part V)

The new third-generation (J30) Nissan Maxima went in a bold new direction from its predecessors. Larger, more luxurious, more technologically savvy, and better made than the first two, the third Maxima was the first to cater to the North American market. The Maxima’s sudden transformation was so complete that it diverged from its former sibling the Bluebird to become an entirely separate model. First up today, we consider 4DSC styling.

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Rare Rides Icons, The Nissan Maxima Story (Part IV)

After its short-lived first generation outing as a rear-drive car from 1981 to 1984, the PU11 Maxima of 1985 adopted the front-engine, front-wheel drive format the Maxima kept permanently. But that wasn’t the only precedent set by the PU11, as Nissan decided to move forward with V6 engine configurations and leave the inline-six in the past. 


The addition of the sporty SE trim with its monochromatic details, and fancy electronic options like a Sonar Suspension System were both indications of where Nissan was headed with the Maxima. It was a sportier and more interesting direction than its stiffest competition, the staid and conservative rear-drive Cressida. Sales showed what buyers preferred, as the Maxima outsold the Cressida many times over throughout the mid-Eighties. And at the end of the decade, Nissan gave customers more of what they wanted with the very first 4DSC, a four-door sports car.

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Rare Rides Icons, The Nissan Maxima Story (Part III)

After its first few years as an 810, 910, Datsun by Nissan, Maxima by Datsun, Datsun/Nissan, and similar, the Maxima settled into its permanent home under Nissan branding. The well-equipped compact sedan sold over 198,000 copies in the United States between 1982 and 1984 (‘82 is the earliest year sales data is available) before an all-new Maxima arrived in 1985. With its second generation, Nissan veered off to distinguish the Maxima from its most direct competition, Toyota’s Cressida. Picture it, October 1984.

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Rare Rides Icons, The Nissan Maxima Story (Part II)
Rare Rides Icons, The Nissan Maxima Story (Part I)

With the recent and not surprising news of the Nissan Maxima’s planned demise in 2023, it’s time for a Rare Rides retrospective on a nameplate that was once lauded as one of the best sporty sedans on the market. From its origins as a rear-drive Datsun to the eighth generation that’s a shadow of its former self, the Maxima persisted with its unique value proposition: That it was a step up from the standard Japanese family sedan. Our story begins in Japan, with the Bluebird range.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Second Generation Nissan Maxima, Approaching 4DSC

The PU11 Nissan Maxima was among the Japanese sedans to experience a complete identity shift in the mid-Eighties. Nissan was rebranding itself from a discount Datsun identity and took Maxima upmarket. Packed with technology and on its way to the 4DSC identity that defined the model, the Maxima deserves a place at the table with the V20 Camry and CA Accord. Let’s get technical.

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Opinion: Nissan Definitely No Longer Cares About the Maxima

Breathtaking, isn’t it? Just the right size, its lovely proportions carry off a premium look well. It was always a cut above the Camry and Accord with its superior drive and buttery smooth VG30 V6 as standard. Four-door Sports Car it was called, 4DSC stickers proudly on display. Nissan had a winner with that Maxima. But that Maxima was three decades ago, and after an experience with a 2020 Maxima, I’m here to tell you Nissan most definitely gives no more shits about its most expensive sedan.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: V6 Midsize Japanese Sedans of 1997

Last week we challenged you to pick a Buy from V6 versions of the 2007 Toyota Camry, Nissan Maxima, and Honda Accord. The overwhelming feeling in the comments was in favor of an Accord purchase (and I agree with you). Today though, we step back a decade to the 1997 model year.

Does the Accord still win your vote in the Nineties?

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Buy/Drive/Burn: V6 Midsize Japanese Sedans of 2007

In contrast to the Try Very Hard Japanese sedans of the Nineties, the early and mid-2000s period was a time for Japanese manufacturers to rest upon their laurels. It was a time to save some cash, and put in a bit less effort than in the tiring decade prior.

And lucky you, today you get to pick one to buy.

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon

Even as Toyota kept the Cressida a rear-wheel-drive first cousin to the sporty Supra (sales of that car continued here well into the 1990s), Nissan moved the formerly-Z-based Maxima to a front-wheel-drive platform for the 1985 model year. The new, roomier Maxima continued to be loaded with futuristic electronic gadgetry and a Z-Car engine, and sales of the wagon version continued all the way through the 1988 model year. Here’s a well-traveled ’86 Maxima wagon in a Denver-area car graveyard.

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Nissan Maxima Turns 40, Gets the Birthday Treatment [UPDATED]

Nissan’s Maxima turns 40 this year.

“This year” is a tricky statement, of course, since the year of production isn’t necessarily the same as the model year, but whether you mark it from the beginning of production in 1980 or the first model year in 1981, either way you slice it, the Maxima is hitting the big 4-0.

And Nissan is marking the milestone with a special edition package. Naturally.

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New Life for the Shrinking Nissan Maxima?

Nissan’s future will not see it become everything to everyone, and certainly not in all markets. The 2010s, and the market share-chasing, globe-straddling expansionism that characterized that decade’s car-buying orgy, are violently over.

Also soon to be over, apparently, is the Nissan Maxima’s gasoline-powered powertrain.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Three Family Sedans From 1989

Today’s trio of sedans was suggested by an old MotorWeek review of the new-for-’89 Maxima. Let’s pit that fresh-faced midsizer against the more established Taurus and the more luxurious Mazda 929.

Which is worth a Buy?

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Maxima Sedan
The Nissan Maxima of the 1980s remains one of my favorite Junkyard Finds, partly because it began the decade as a sporty rear-wheel-drive cousin to the Z-Car and ended it as a swanky front-wheel-drive pseudo-luxury machine… but mostly because these cars came stuffed full of the quirky futuristic technology that made Japanese cars so interesting during The Turbo Decade.Here’s a high-mile ’87 Maxima I spotted in an East Bay self-service yard last month.
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2019 Nissan Maxima First Drive - Tweaked Looks, Same Experience

As you may or may not know, invitations for press junkets often arrive quite some time in advance. So when Nissan sent the invite to drive the 2019 Maxima more than a month before the wraps came off the real thing in Los Angeles, I was excited.

See, I’ve always liked the idea of Maxima – a large, front-drive sedan endowed with a little bit of sportiness. Maybe it’s not the four-door sports car of yore, but surely it’s less sleepy than an Avalon, less generic than an Impala, and less in-your-face than a rear-drive Charger/300.

So, if the execution fell a bit short, and if the look grew a bit stale, well, maybe now is the perfect time for an update, I thought. After all, the smaller Altima is all-new. It seemed like the Maxima would be next in line for a full-zoot reboot, even though it launched a little less than four years ago.

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  • MRF 95 T-Bird The hideaway headlamps on these and other Ford vehicles of the era could have issues mostly vacuum related. Usually the vacuum hoses that ran to the actuators would deteriorate. The “coffee can” reservoir which was mounted in the front header was rarely an issue because it was protected from the elements. The other coffee can reservoir used for the HVAC controls and actuators and mounted under the passenger side wheel well had a tendency to rot away. I once replaced one on my 70 Mustang when I noticed that the vents were acting janky. Later model Fords like Fox bodies used a durable plastic globe shaped one. The radio on these 69-70 full-size Fords mounted on the left side of the aircraft style instrument cluster within the drivers touch probably disappointed many young people. “Mom will you change the station?” “Andy Williams is so square”.
  • MichaelBug For me, two issues in particular:1. It can be difficult for me to maintain my lane on a rainy night. Here in southeastern PA, PennDOT's lane markings aren't very reflective. They can be almost impossible to make out when wet.2. Backing out of a parking space in a lot with heavy pedestrian traffic. Oftentimes people will walk right into my blind spot even if I am creeping back with my 4-way flashers blinking. (No backup camera in my '11 Toyota Camry.)Michael B 🙂
  • Tagbert When you publish series like this, could you include links to the previous articles in the series so that we can follow through? Thank you. Edit: now I see a link embedded in the first paragraph that goes to the previous story. It wasn’t clear at first where that link went but now I understand.
  • DungBeetle62 When you're in one of these, you life in a state of constant low-level nervous about 90% of the time. But that other 10% kinda makes up for it.
  • Garrett Instead of foisting this problem on the car companies and the people who buy cars, make those who possess liquor licenses and those who purchase alcohol take on the economic cost of this problem.