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2009 Nissan Maxima

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
September 23, 2008

Buying tip

If you're thinking about adding the Sport Package to the 2009 Nissan Maxima and don't mind rear-wheel drive, you should definitely look to the Infiniti G35 sedan, which is priced only slightly higher and is a better-performing, albeit less comfortable, sport sedan that packs a version of Nissan's smooth and responsive V-6 engine. Plus, it comes with the superior service of the Infiniti dealership.

features & specs

4-Door Sedan V6 CVT 3.5 S
4-Door Sedan V6 CVT 3.5 SV
4-Door Sedan V6 CVT 3.5 SV w/Premium Pkg
19 city / 26 hwy
19 city / 26 hwy
19 city / 26 hwy

The stylish 2009 Nissan Maxima has the looks—and acceleration specs—of a sport sedan but lacks the high-performance driving feel to match.

In putting together this comprehensive review covering the 2009 Nissan Maxima, the experts at consulted with a wide range of reviews. And to make this review the most useful to shoppers,'s editors have included their own experience driving the Maxima on challenging mountain roads in southern California.

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.

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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.


2009 Nissan Maxima


The redesigned 2009 Nissan Maxima returns from styling obscurity with a race-ready exterior.

The four-door sedan market spans the entire design spectrum, from forgettable, dull styling to head-turning good looks. With the all-new 2009 Nissan Maxima, Nissan designers don't let the opportunity to create a head-turner pass them by.

For the Nissan 2009 lineup, Automobile says "the Maxima is completely restyled, and [they're] glad to say that the effort has been largely successful." Other reviews read by agree that the new exterior on the Nissan Maxima is "designed to exude sport over luxury," in the words of Autoblog, and "it does so with more than a hint of the Nissan GT-R in the front end." According to ConsumerGuide, "two trim levels are available" on the Nissan Maxima, the "3.5 S and 3.5 SV," though there are no external differences between the two. Both share what calls "L-shaped headlights and crouched-forward grille" sure to "generate strong reactions." Also on the exterior of the 2009 Nissan Maxima are fenders that "flare wide around the wheels" in a way that reminds Car and Driver reviewers "of Seventies-era IMSA racers."

High praise isn't reserved exclusively for the exterior styling of the Nissan 2009 Maxima; many reviewers love what Nissan has done with the interior as well. Road & Track reviewers report the exterior's "sporting influence also applies to the interior with what Nissan terms a 'super cockpit' approach." Autoblog loves the interior on the 2009 Nissan Maxima, claiming "Nissan nailed the cockpit" with an "adjustable steering wheel [that] offers the proper diameter" and a "NAV screen [that] is easy-to-read." ConsumerGuide also appreciates that the Nissan Maxima's "controls are clear and logically placed." However, taking the opposite side is Automobile, which feels that while "the Maxima might look convincingly like a rear-wheel-drive car from the outside," the "illusion dissipates when you're sitting behind the wheel," thanks to a windshield that "slopes far away from the driver, in the manner of a classic cab-forward, front-wheel-drive sedan."

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2009 Nissan Maxima


The 2009 Nissan Maxima is one manual transmission away from becoming a true enthusiast's sport sedan.

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 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 contain few positive impressions of the Nissan Maxima's transmission. 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." 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."

Review continues below

2009 Nissan Maxima

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Nissan Maxima, especially in SV trim, is beginning to feel more and more like a vehicle from the Infiniti lineup.

By design, the Nissan brand has always played second fiddle to the upscale Infiniti sister brand in comfort and perceived quality, but the 2009 Nissan Maxima seems determined to change that.

The sculpted interior of the 2009 Nissan Maxima is designed to seat five, but in practice, it seats only four average-sized adults. The front seats receive high marks in reviews read by, and ConsumerGuide calls them "very comfortable and supportive." reviewers also find that "the front seats have ample bolsters for ambling along a winding road...and their soft inserts provide good long-haul comfort." Autoblog's reviewer is impressed that his "six-foot two-inch frame found plenty of leg, shoulder, hip and headroom in the generous front seats," and they recommend that "if you can't get comfortable in the front seats of this car, make an appointment with a chiropractor." The rear seats on the Nissan 2009 Maxima are comfortable as well, if not quite as much as the front buckets. ConsumerGuide says the rear seats offer legroom that "is adequate for an average-sized tester, but headroom can get tight because of the sloped roofline," while "the narrow center position is not suitable for adults or even large children."

The smaller overall dimensions of the new 2009 Nissan Maxima are most noticeable when it comes to available cargo space, and other areas of the Nissan Maxima's daily practicality show some problems as well. notes that "full-size cars like the Avalon and Chrysler 300 have larger cabins and trunks—the Maxima's measures just 14.2 cubic feet—so if you frequent the golf course," you might want to look somewhere else. On the positive side, ConsumerGuide observes that the trunk on the Nissan Maxima is "wide-opening" and has "a moderately low liftover height," but the SV suffers from "a fixed seatback with a not-so-useful ski pass through." When it comes to interior storage on the Nissan Maxima, ConsumerGuide feels that the "storage spaces are decent and include a large, wide glovebox, deep center console, and small scattered cubbies."

One category in which the Nissan 2009 Maxima is beginning to run away from its competitors is interior quality. For the 2009 Nissan Maxima, reviews read by unanimously praise the interior materials and build quality, with Road & Track declaring "the materials are of a high quality and the fit and finish are generally good." reports that "dashboard quality rivals a Volkswagen Passat or Lexus ES, with gap-free panel fits around the glove compartment, center controls and steering wheel." Consumer Guide also finds favor with some of the interior materials, especially the "quality-looking red contrast stitching" that accents the seats.

The 2009 Nissan Maxima isn't the quietest vehicle on the road, but the sounds that enter the cabin aren't all of the bad variety. Autoblog is quick to point out that "the intake roar, to which Nissan paid special attention, is very apparent under nearly all throttle increases," but they add the engine note "is satisfying." ConsumerGuide agrees, reporting that "around 4500 rpm Maxima emits a throaty, sporty note," but they also mention that the Nissan Maxima suffers "from moderate wind noise and tire thrum."

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2009 Nissan Maxima


The 2009 Nissan Maxima is sure to be a favorite among those who require maximum crash-test scores.

The 2009 Nissan Maxima has tidied up its dimensions, and one of the more surprising results is that overall crash-test ratings have soared. Improved crash-test ratings, along with all the usual safety features offered as standard equipment, make the Nissan Maxima a responsible choice for those looking for a safe sedan.

Both the IIHS and the NHTSA, the crash-test authorities in the U.S., have shown quick turnarounds in testing the all-new 2009 Nissan Maxima. The Nissan Maxima excels in NHTSA tests, where it earns the highest possible rating of five stars in every impact category. That includes five-star ratings for front and side impacts, as well as a perfect five-star rollover protection rating. In IIHS tests, the Nissan 2009 Maxima performs equally well, earning the highest rating of "good" for the IIHS's frontal offset impact test. The IIHS test results show that "measures taken from the neck, chest, and both legs indicate low risk of injuries" during a frontal offset impact. Unfortunately, the IIHS has not yet conducted any side-impact tests with the 2009 Nissan Maxima.

In addition to a redesigned body structure that holds up well during crash tests, reviews read by show that the Nissan 2009 Maxima boasts quite a few standard safety features. Car and Driver reviewers write that "stability control, traction control, and tire-pressure monitoring are standard, as they are with most cars these days." In addition to those electronic aids, says "standard safety features include front and side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows and active head restraints." The only other noteworthy safety features on the 2009 Nissan Maxima are "antilock four-wheel disc brakes" that include a "brake assist" feature, according to ConsumerGuide.

One of the characteristics of the 2009 Nissan Maxima helping to improve overall safety is that the driver's seat affords good visibility. Reviewers at Autoblog find that "outward visibility was good" during their time with the Nissan Maxima, but "the exterior mirrors with their massive plastic housings could offer a wider field of view." Further increasing driver awareness and visibility is an optional "rearview camera" that ConsumerGuide says is available as part of the Premium Package.


2009 Nissan Maxima


The 2009 Nissan Maxima's packaged options make selection a snap but offer limited combination possibilities—and the price climbs steeply for a loaded car.

With a name like Maxima, it would be hard to get away with skimping on features. Fortunately, that's not a problem that Nissan Maxima consumers have to worry about, since the 2009 Nissan Maxima offers a wealth of standard and optional features.

The standard features list on the Nissan 2009 Maxima differs considerably between the S and SV trim levels, though explains "Nissan expects just 10 percent of customers to get the base Maxima 3.5 S." For those who choose the less-expensive version, says to expect standard features that "include dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, Nissan's Intelligent Key access system, a moonroof and an eight-speaker, six-CD stereo with auxiliary MP3 jack." On the upscale Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV, ConsumerGuide finds that the standard features list grows to include "leather upholstery" and a "Bose sound system," along with a convenient "driver-seat thigh extender." One of the features that reviews read by find fault with is that upgraded Bose sound system, which Autoblog calls a "disappointment" thanks to its "distant" and "muddy" sound quality.

The 2009 Nissan Maxima also offers a long list of optional features, but the vast majority of them come only in options packages. Road & Track reviewers bring word of two major option packages, "Sport and Premium," though they are also mutually exclusive. For those opting for the Sport package on the Nissan 2009 Maxima, says to expect "19-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and a rear spoiler," while the "Premium Package adds rear climate control, the dual-panel moonroof and upgraded leather." The two other options packages that are available exclusively on the Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV are the Technology package, which ConsumerGuide says includes a "navigation system, voice recognition, traffic information, [and] satellite radio," while a Cold package brings "heated front seats, heated power mirrors, [and] heated steering wheel." The only available stand-alone option on the Nissan Maxima is a wireless cell phone link, though it's included on the Sport package.

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