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2004 Nissan Maxima Photo
Reviewed by Bengt Halvorson
Deputy Editor, The Car Connection
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With engine power pushing higher and rear-wheel-drive cars on the comeback, it seems natural that Nissan would have considered such a transition for the new-generation of its so-called “four-door sports car.” But officials said that Maxima buyers are among the most loyal in the sedan segment, and preliminary research indicated that where the Maxima is most popular—in the Northeastern states—buyers still clearly prefer front-wheel drive.

Once that decision was made, it seemed natural to use Nissan’s new FF-M platform, which is the basis for the current Altima, the new Murano sport-utility wagon, and the upcoming Quest minivan.

And it so happens the two cars (Maxima and Altima) are quite nearly the same size. The wheelbase is an inch longer, overall length is two inches longer, and width and height have increased slightly. It amounts to a vehicle that’s only also slightly larger than last year’s Maxima.

Both inside and out, the new Maxima was designed almost entirely at the Nissan Technical Center, in Atsugi, Japan, though U.S. product planners had considerable input.

2004 Nissan Maxima

2004 Nissan Maxima

Enlarge Photo
Though not significantly different in size than the Altima, the new Maxima conveys more of an aggressive, upscale image, thanks to a more distinct, coupe-like shape, more arched roof, and large, styled wheels. Also, the interior is more driver-oriented and definitely a significant step upscale in both materials and design.

Ditch the image?

Image aside, the Maxima also has a different sort of appeal due to the level of unique luxury equipment it offers, which you won’t find on the competitors’ option lists.

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