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When an auto manufacturer cares enough to give you 45 seconds after you've switched off the ignition to close the windows you've stupidly forgotten to power up, you know the designers were thinking of us average Joes.
This attention to detail in Nissan's Maxima, the flagship model that tops its two-tier lineup of compacts and midsize sedans, is seen throughout its engineering and design. Small touches mean a lot when you spend hours daily in your vehicle, and Nissan provides many, such as a power outlet on the dash for your cell phone, an on/off fog light switch on the headlight lever, an auto-reverse function for the power sunroof in case you left your surfboard sticking through it, and a light that happily blinks when the traction control is doing its work and limiting wheelspin. After all, you may have PAID for a traction control system but have you actually seen it?
As for styling, Nissan's 2001 model is still very European. It is basically the same as its brand-new 2000 fifth-generation version with very minor changes. Designed with the kind of elegant sculpting back and front one admires in the top luxury cars from Germany, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, the new sedan is understated externally but high-performance within. Moving away from too many Japanese carmakers' preferences for bland, homogenous architecture, or adding too many design elements, Nissan's Maxima creates a subtle but dramatic impact that distinguishes it from every other car in the company's lineup.
As European cars have begun to discard the jellybean look for more exciting, edgy styling, Nissan has caught the mood and moved right in. Nothing extraneous mars the fluid bodyline and smooth, sweeping roofline. Even the side-view mirror design is restrained, joined neatly to the A-pillar. My favorite part of the car is the back end where gracefully designed taillights are sculpted to sit between the quarter-panel and bumper.