- Stylish interior
- Responsive handling and great steering
- Quiet, absorbent ride
- Excellent (optional) sport seats
- V-6 doesn't feel sporty with CVT automatic
- Tight backseat headroom
The stylish 2009 Nissan Maxima has the looks—and acceleration specs—of a sport sedan but lacks the high-performance driving feel to match.
Nissan's flagship sedan, the Maxima, has been completely redesigned for 2009. Built on a new platform shared with the Altima mid-size sedan, the front-wheel-drive 2009 Nissan Maxima takes a sportier and more luxurious direction than the Altima. Compared to last year's version, the new Maxima is a few inches shorter in overall length yet slightly wider.
The 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that propels the 2009 Nissan Maxima is extremely smooth, and it allows relaxed acceleration in normal driving with the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Fuel economy is good with the setup, at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway. The CVT also includes a manual sport mode and available steering-wheel paddle shifters to access a series of simulated gear ratios for high-performance driving; however, no manual transmission is offered on the Nissan Maxima, and the CVT doesn't allow the level of control in high-performance driving that conventional transmissions do.
The 2009 Nissan Maxima has one of the sportiest suspension calibrations for a front-wheel-drive sedan, and for 2009, the suspension gets a new geometry aimed at eliminating torque steer—the tendency for high-powered front-drivers to pull to the side on hard acceleration. Overall, the Maxima has a firm yet supple ride, allowing good handling response without sacrificing comfort. Stabilizer bars are included front and back, and in spirited driving, a new Twin Orifice Steering System also helps provide good feedback from the road, while remaining light around tight corners.
Overall, the Maxima's interior appointments have the look and feel of a vehicle with a luxury-brand badge, including a mix of matte-metallic and soft-touch surfaces along with two different grades of leather. The Super Cockpit instrument panel design in the 2009 Nissan Maxima especially stands out, and it looks like the offering in several vehicles from Infiniti, Nissan's upmarket brand. Front occupants get great seats—especially with the Sport Package—but backseat occupants will likely find headroom tight.
Two different models of the 2009 Nissan Maxima are offered—S and SV—with the SV modestly expanding the standard equipment list to include leather upholstery, fog lamps, and a Bose premium audio system, among other items. Both models have a standard-equipment list that would be fitting for a luxury car, including a power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, keyless entry, an Intelligent Key entry and starting system, a six-disc changer, and steering-wheel audio controls.
The list of available options in the 2009 Nissan Maxima doesn't disappoint either, as it includes such comforts as a heated steering wheel and cooled front seats. Other technology options include a Bose premium audio system, a hard-drive navigation system with 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, XM NavTraffic, XM Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth and iPod interfaces. Just keep in mind that most options are only available in the more expensive SV.
Especially of note in the 2009 Nissan Maxima is a Sport Package, which brings firmer suspension tuning, larger 19-inch wheels, paddle shifters, upgraded front seats, and a host of other upgrades. We recommend the package for enthusiasts, despite its $2,300 price, because its superior seats and crisper handling response do not significantly affect the ride.
The 2009 Nissan Maxima has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government or the IIHS, but its body structure is similar to that of the Altima, which has fared very well in crash tests. Electronic stability control is now standard, as are front side airbags, side curtain bags, active front headrests, and anti-lock brakes.