2009 Nissan Maxima
The upside remains the very distinctive interior; take a look at the instrument panel and you’ll see why. The so-called Super Cockpit concept feels sporty and comfortable and clearly puts the Maxima’s interior in a class above the mid-size crowd, including the Camry, Accord, Altima, and Malibu. There are attractive-looking soft-touch materials throughout—except maybe the oddly textured, glossy dash top—and the front seats are easy to get in position for a wide range of drivers. We especially recommend the upgraded seats that come with the Sport Package. The same compliments can’t be said about the backseat, however; the back of the front seats are scooped out, which helps lower legroom, but most adults’ knees will still be above the scoop area, and the standard, huge power moonroof recess extends all the way to the backseat headroom, leaving a weird roofline that doesn’t allow enough headroom for six-footers.
There were a few other niggles inside; hands reaching for the paddle shifter for a downshift sometimes nudged the turn signal. And vehicles without the nav system get an odd-looking orange monochromatic screen that borders on unsightly. And Nissan supposedly spent lots of time working to give the Maxima an exhaust sound that sounds sportier from within the cabin, but with the CVT holding revs up near 6,500 rpm when blasting up to speed the smooth V-6 is droning too much like a raucous turboprop at takeoff.
But refinement and comfort are still a high point. The Maxima has a ride that’s almost as smooth and serene as the Avalon, while being more capable, yet it’s not quite as nervous as the TL in its Type-S iteration. We even started getting out of the car without knowing the engine was ever-so-quietly still idling (as we do on occasion with Nissans). But this is not news--the Maxima has had this sort of smoothness and top-of-the-class acceleration for about two decades.
Features aplenty give the Maxima a luxury-car feel inside, even if it doesn’t include the luxury-nameplate dealership experience. Available conveniences include a Bose premium audio system, hard-drive navigation system with 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, XM NavTraffic, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth interface, and iPod interface. A heated steering wheel and cooled front seats are now even on the options list.
They’re back calling it the 4-Door Sports Car, as they did in the Maxima’s ’90s heyday. But in these days of the $29,310 Pontiac G8 GT V-8, HEMI V-8 Dodge Chargers for about $31,000, and the company’s own 306-hp, rear-wheel-drive Infiniti G35 sport sedan starting only slightly higher, that’s a far harder claim to keep up with. —Bengt Halvorson