2007 Nissan MaximaEnlarge Photo
Nissan’s Maxima wasn’t the first fast four-door, but it did help popularize the “four-door sports car” concept back in the mid-late ’80s. At that time, large sedans were typically doughy, ill-handling family-type cars of the Caprice/Taurus type with overstuffed seats and underpowered engines. The Maxima’s powerful overhead cam V-6, excellent suspension, driver-focused interior layout, and (perhaps most important of all) available manual transmission presented an automotive oasis to buyers who had to have the extra pair of doors for family or work reasons, but didn’t want the middle-aged spread that tended to come with them.
Fast-forward to the present and the Maxima now has lots of company. Sporty sedans with powerful engines, taut suspensions, and great brakes are now the rule, not the exception. There are at least half a dozen excellent cars of this type to choose from, including standouts like the VW Passat and Audi A4 and the Mazda6 and Subaru Legacy GT.
To keep the Maxima near the front of
the ever-growing pack is the challenge; whether the changes Nissan’s made for
2007 help or hinder that is a call you’ll have to make.
Good news today
Backseat riders can feel part of the
2007 Nissan Maxima
2007 Nissan MaximaEnlarge PhotoThe standard SE model ($28,050) comes with 18-inch rims and performance tires, four-wheel disc brakes (with Brake Assist, traction control and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, for extra confidence during high-speed/emergency-type stops). Stability control is available optionally.
A neat Maxima feature is the available Skyview fixed-in-place oversize glass roof section. It’s not a sunroof (and doesn’t open) so you won’t feel the breeze in your hair — but it makes up for that by letting in a lot of light, which really brightens up the interior and makes it feel more opened up (sort of like skylights do in your house).
Or choose the softer-sprung SL — which gets less aggressive tires mounted on 17-inch rims, wood trim (in place of the SE’s sport-themed metallic/brushed aluminum pieces) and xenon headlights.
For another $1800 (on either trim level) you can order an in-dash GPS unit with one of the best visual layouts currently available. Unlike most GPS displays, which look like electronic versions of standard road maps, this one projects your route in a way that lets you “see” the road ahead as if you were flying in an airplane a couple hundred feet up. Instead of looking down (and in one dimension) at squiggly lines, you look ahead toward your destination, with your forward horizon updating as you drive. This way of looking at things clicks in your head more readily than the standard GPS “map” format by helping orient you visually. You see where you are, what’s around you, and where you’re headed. All GPS units should be designed this way.
Also new for ’07 is a much cleaner front-end treatment that’s a big
improvement over the toothy thing used last year.
2007 Nissan Maxima
Manual gone, CVT arrives
2007 Nissan MaximaEnlarge Photo
It’s not going to help matters that the ’07 Maxima’s on-paper power output has been dropped by 10 horsepower, to 255 (from last year's 265). The change in rating is due to new rules for measuring and reporting actual horsepower. The ’07 Maxima’s 3.5 liter V-6 is the same engine as last year’s 3.5 liter V-6. But even though actual output hasn’t changed, it’s harder to brag about 255 hp than 265 hp, especially now that engines with around 250 hp are only middle of the pack. The Hyundai Sonata has a 234-hp V-6. And the Toyota Camry’s 268-hp 3.5 liter V-6 outguns the Maxima by nearly 15 horsepower.
Nissan says the Maxima’s CVT — which is based on the unit that first appeared in the Murano SUV/crossover — has been adjusted to perform more aggressively. But though the CVT has many virtues (it’s smoother, for one thing, and offers a potential fuel economy benefit for another) enthusiast drivers may miss things like screechy burnouts and being able to bang off tire-barking 1-2 upshifts. These are impossible with the CVT. It does have a “manual” mode that lets you keep the revs up for aggressive driving (especially hard/high-speed cornering, at which the Maxima still excels) but it isn’t the same as having real gears to row. Stand on the gas and the Maxima surges forward with authority — but some of the rawboned violence that ought to accompany the process is missing.
Maybe Nissan sees the Maxima as evolving into a luxury cruiser with some sporty qualities here and there. If so, the new CVT fits.
It’s an open question, though, whether Maxima traditionalists will approve.
2007 Nissan Maxima SE CVT
Base price: $28,050; $32,600 as tested
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Engine: 3.5 liter V-6, 255 hp/252 lb-ft
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 194.1 x 71.7 x 58.3 in
Wheelbase: 111.2 in
Curb weight: 3590 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 21/28 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes and traction control
Major standard features: Dual-zone climate control; air conditioning; 18-inch wheels; leather and simulated alloy interior trim; 240-watt, eight-speaker stereo with MP3 capability and single disc CD player
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles
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