- Supportive front seats
- Steers and handles responsively
- Very quiet, comfortable cabin
- Outside styling doesn’t stand out from the Altima
- V-6 doesn’t feel sporty with CVT automatic
- No standard stability control in a top-of-the-line model
The 2008 Nissan Maxima is a bit more aesthetically appealing than a top-of-the-line Altima or Accord, but it doesn’t perform any better.
The flagship sedan of the line, the 2008 Nissan Maxima, carries over with few changes after a major update for the 2007 model year. In that update, the Maxima received a new front end and grille, new headlights, a restyled rear end, and a freshened interior layout with a new design center stack.
The 2008 Nissan Maxima is powered by the 255-horsepower, 3.5-liter 24-valve V-6 engine, which ranks as one of the smoothest and most responsive engines its size. All Maxima models now have a "gearless" CVT automatic, with a manual gearbox no longer offered. The CVT works very well with the V-6, with plenty of power on command, and it has a manual mode with simulated gears, but the omission makes the Maxima feel like less of a sport sedan. Otherwise, the Maxima handles crisply and is quite entertaining to drive on a curvy road, while the ride is firm yet supple.
Inside is where the 2008 Nissan Maxima proves that it's a premium sedan, versus just a gussied-up Altima. The front seats are quite aggressively contoured to help hold you in place in corners, and the instrument panel and dash follow an aggressive styling theme. Trim and materials are a step up from the norm, and the interior is as hushed and refined as many luxury-brand sedans. There's a so-called Elite Package that commands dual heated sport bucket seats in back instead of the standard bench--along with a rear sunshade, upgraded sound system, heated steering wheel, xenon headlamps, and other goodies.
Nissan's panoramic SkyView glass sunroof is a standout feature of the 2008 Nissan Maxima. Though it doesn't open like a sunroof, it replaces a huge section of roof with open-to-the-sky glass, like a skylight.
There are two basic trim lines on the 2008 Nissan Maxima: the SE and the more luxury-oriented SL. The two models have different suspension calibrations, with the SL being more comfort-oriented. DVD-based navigation is available, as is Bluetooth wireless communication capability and an upgraded stereo with MP3 player.
For 2008, Nissan will offer a Platinum Edition Package on both trim levels. It features a memory function for the outside mirrors, the steering wheel, and the driver seat; lumbar support for the driver seat; xenon headlamps; auto-dimming rearview mirror; rear parking assist; a heated steering wheel; and Bluetooth connectivity. Both XM and Sirius Satellite Radio are also on the options list.
The 2008 Nissan Maxima has an unimpressive set of safety features and below-average crash-test results for its class of vehicles, which tend to do quite well. In the federal government's tests, the Maxima got four- and five-star results, but it got four stars in side impact, and in the more demanding IIHS tests, it only received "marginal" ratings for side-impact and rear tests. Front side airbags, side-curtain bags, active front headrests, and anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2008 Nissan Maxima, but stability control remains optional for '08.