It has been almost 20 years since Nissan’s “4DSC” designated Maxima was introduced to the U.S. market. A “Four-Door Sports Car” it wasn’t, but what it was, was a sedan with a sport-tuned suspension and 190-horsepower. To current drivers that may not seem too extraordinary, but back then it was enough to get the Maxima SE mentioned in the same breath as the big name German sport sedans. With the 2009 Maxima is banking on not only nostalgia but legitimate performance to put the Maxima in the same class as Benz and BMW.
It is a relief that the awkward-looking Maxima of 2004-2008 is gone. The styling design of the new Maxima is what Nissan calls “liquid motion.” With a severely upgraded and aggressive look from those of the previous generation, the new Maxima hopes to invoke thoughts of the GT-R and Infiniti G35.
Power of this new design is the old standard 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve VQ-series V-6 engine that powered the previous-generation Maxima and nearly everything else in the Nissan fleet. This revised engine is now rated at 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 35 horsepower and nine lb-ft of torque over the 2008 Maxima engine. It provides 19/26 mpg fuel economy; a 1-mpg increase from 2008 in highway performance.
The standard transmission is what Nissan calls the next-generation 3-mode Xtronic CVT. Reports are that if you launch hard from a stoplight, the car surges away from the traffic with a snarl, but that at cruising velocity, the CVT seamlessly climbs to a higher ratio, dropping the engine speed dramatically. In terms of handling, the Maxima comes with aluminum intensive MacPherson strut suspension up front and a separate spring and shock multi-link setup in the rear. There are various chassis reinforcements throughout the car (some cannabilized from the Infiniti M45), including a front strut tower brace and, for Sport/Premium package-equipped models, a rear seat panel that is said to improve torsional rigidity by 17 percent. 0-60 mph is achieved in a respectable 5.8 seconds.
Interior design has also been given a facelift in both trim levels, 3.5 S and 3.5 SV. The Designers positioned all of the major driver controls and information displays within easy reach and view of the driver. For example, the CVT shift lever is to the left of the vehicle center-line, and the three-spoke steering wheel features long paddle shifters and a large cutout for easy view of the bright “Daylight Illumination” gauges. Seats also are performance oriented, with eight-way adjustability (including lumbar support) standard for the driver and four-way adjustability for the passenger.
The Maxima offers options including leather-trimmed seats, metal or Eucalyptus wood dash paneling, and a wide range of electronic upgrades including a premium audio system, a rearview camera and monitor, navigation with XM NavTraffic real-time traffic information, voice recognition and a 9.3GB hard drive for storage and playback of digital audio files.
For those interested in buying the Maxima, Nissan has kept pricing of the new version close to that of the last; in the low 30 grand range. The new Maxima may not be a sports car, but it keeps getting closer.