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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
You'll land yourself in deep trouble with the law long before you run out of grip
Speaking of urge, Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6 provides plenty
Lack of a manual gearbox damps its appeal to the red-hot-corpuscle crowd
Car and Driver
The Nissan Maxima nameplate has a sports sedan history, although in recent years, the car has trailed its competitors in terms of the enthusiast driving experience. With the 2009 Nissan Maxima, Nissan has tried to restore some of the sporting character to the name, though reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that results are mixed.
The Nissan 2009 Maxima boasts a similarly sized engine to the outgoing model, but for this latest incarnation, Road & Track says "Nissan has pumped up the VQ-series 3.5-liter V-6" to make "290 bhp at 6400 rpm and 261 lb.-ft. of torque at 4400 rpm." Those numbers represent an increase of 35 horsepower and 9 pound-feet of torque, and the power boost is definitely evident during acceleration. ConsumerGuide feels "acceleration is strong from a stop, and Maxima has reserves of power at the ready for highway maneuvers." Autoblog also praises the "seamless acceleration" afforded by the V-6, while Car and Driver notes that the Nissan Maxima is "a peppy performer, sprinting to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds."
Although the strong engine is capable of posting very competitive acceleration numbers, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com contain few positive impressions of the Nissan Maxima's transmission. Cars.com says the Nissan 2009 Maxima comes with a "continuously variable automatic transmission, which is the only transmission available this year." Autoblog reviewers confess that, "as enthusiasts, [they] were totally unable to embrace the CVT." Although the CVT does offer "a new 'drive sport' ('Ds') mode for enthusiasts designed to increase acceleration feel and maintain engine speed during cornering," the Autoblog reviewers still feel "the response was frustrating." Automobile is somewhat more impressed with the CVT, but they still report that, "for all the CVT's cleverness," they can't help "wishing for the option of a manual gearbox."
Enthusiastic driving may not be the strong suit of a CVT, but the transmission—in theory, at least—helps improve fuel economy. Autoblog is impressed to find that, "even with the boost in power, Nissan is claiming fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city." The official EPA numbers bear out the claim, as they estimate that the 2009 Nissan Maxima will get 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Power and acceleration tell only part of the performance story; the other aspect of performance centers on a car's handling characteristics. In this regard, the 2009 Nissan Maxima doesn't disappoint. ConsumerGuide says the "ride is firm, but not overly so," and they call the Nissan Maxima "composed and comfortable in most situations." Cars.com reviewers love the "four-wheel independent suspension" and "Nissan's new Twin Orifice Power Steering system" that "allows one-finger steering at low speeds but firms things up to a satisfying, weighty feel on curvy roads." Road & Track also notices the "crisp turn-in abilities" of the 2009 Nissan Maxima and the fact that "body roll is well controlled." Stopping is a hallmark of the new Nissan 2009 Maxima as well, with Autoblog reporting "the brakes clamped down on the four ventilated rotors with pit-bull aggression" and "only after repeated sadistic abuse did they start to show signs of fade."
The 2009 Nissan Maxima is one manual transmission away from becoming a true enthusiast's sport sedan.