May 25, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 09:22
Nissans used to be the 20-footers of the new car market. Always among the best-looking cars and SUVs, always equipped with exceptional engines and transmissions, always ahead of their time where styling was concerned, they were handicapped by stiff, skimpy plastics and bargain-bin fabrics that seemed to have been transported from the 1980s to the present day. But the premium Infiniti influence has trickled down, and today’s Nissans feel as good as they look.
Take the 2009 Maxima, the marque’s flagship sedan. Its sleek lines hint at high quality and the interior delivers. Even the trunk is meticulously finished with luxurious materials.A midsize sedan that used to compete with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and a few American models, the Maxima never was up to the challenge posed by the Japanese premium brands and European models. It is now. With exceptional driving dynamics, a 290-horsepower V-6 engine, continuously variable transmission and a long list of standard features, it’s several cuts above its predecessors.
But the quantum improvements don’t come cheap. The Maxima SV we drove carried a base sticker price of $32,860. The base Maxima S starts at $30,160. That’s thousands more than a base Accord or Chevrolet Malibu, but comparable to what these cars cost when loaded with enough options to match the Maxima’s standard-equipment list.
The Maxima therefore is considered an entry-level luxury sedan, closer to the low end of the luxury segment than the center of the midsize world.
The equipment list includes leather upholstery, with a thigh-supporting extender for the driver; every safety feature we could think of except a blind-spot warning system; steering wheel audio controls; cruise control; power front seats; and in-dash 6-CD changer. Our Maxima came with the Premium Package, a $3,450 option that added dual sunroofs, XM radio, rear-view monitor and other features.
The Maxima comes up short in one important respect: rear-seat room. Nissan’s Altima sedan, a decisive step below the Maxima in performance, riding comfort and overall quality, is nevertheless roomier. For our 6-foot passenger, rear head room was insufficient and knee room adequate only when the front seat was moved forward a couple inches. Cars with taller rooflines may not look as good, but if you’re planning to transport more than one adult at a time with regularity, the Maxima may be the wrong choice.
The Maxima’s engine requires premium fuel, which typically increases the price of filling up by at least 10 cents a gallon. We logged 24.6 mpg in mainly highway driving.
The 2009 Maxima is a new model. Past Maximas have had average to above-average reliability in Consumer Reports magazine surveys.
Our Maxima was noticeably smoother, quieter and more stylish than the Altima we drove recently, but its tight rear quarters and high price may move this formerly mainstream sedan into the niche category, filling the narrow gap between heavily optioned midsize sedans and the crowded luxury segment.
Base price: $32,860
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 290 horsepower, 261 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Continuously variable
Weight: 3,579 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18x8 inch alloy
Tires: P245/45R18 V all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 14.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium
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