Saturday, March 22, 2008

7th Generation Nissan Maxima Makes Its Debut

This week Nissan debut the next generation Maxima. For those of you who know me, know also that I am a car guy and love Nissans – the Maxima in particular.

At first glance the new Max is stunning. It seems to fall in line with the European sport saloon styling while staying true to Nissan’s design and heritage.

It’s good to see that Nissan has also reintroduced the “Four Door Sports Car” (4DSC) label as well. The car seems to be following its natural evolution. You can tell it’s a Maxima. Now offered in S and SV trim levels (doing away with the former SL and SE trims), the sportier SV has taken the reigns as the top model.

The car retained a unique grille design that Nissan defines as being in scope with the GTR styling. Maybe. But to some, the front end looks more like a Scion tC than a GTR. I think it looks like neither. The headlights definitely resemble those of the GTR, but that is where the similarities end. The 2009 Maxima is it’s own car. It’s lines and curves are natural. The side has a beautiful flow to it with its “L” shaped ridge. The back end is conservatively styled with minimal badging.
Nissan also seems to be intent on defining auto-design innovation with accents like it’s newest attempt in a dual view sunroof and unconventional wheel and grille design. The interior is well equipped, and heavy in amenities and gadgets, including a 9-gig music storage drive, upgraded navigation and it’s traditional Bose audio system.

Let’s get down to sportiness. The car now offers a 290hp 3.5L V6 power plant with 261 lbs/ft of torque. This is a pleasant surprise since Nissan downgraded Maxima’s horsepower from 265 to 255 in its mid-generation revision in 2007. The car also features a revised Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with a “Ds” mode and manual mode. As an added feature, and much to my excitement, the Maxima will now have sport paddles shifter at the wheel.

Maxima will retain its front-wheel drive platform. Looking at the sport sedan market, this may seem like a disappointment to many who had hoped for an AWD or RWD car. My guess is that Nissan will not do this lest in infringe on Infiniti G35 territory and upgrade to a much more competitive market. By keeping the FWD platform Nissan can boast that the 2009 Maxima will be the highest performing front-wheel drive sports sedan in the world – a remark made at its debut at the New York Auto Show this week. This is strategically a good move for Nissan. Further, with its CVT, Nissan seems to have alleviated many complaints that the car’s power produced a lot of torque steer before. I can attest to this. A romp on the gas pedal in my 2006 Maxima will be like trying to hold the reigns of spooked horse and carriage. Fun at first, but not when it inhibits the car’s ability to perform.

My only criticisms of the car are minor. The unique front end is pleasing, but slightly lacking. It seems to me that the bottom of the bumper in unfinished. The car would look way more full with a front splitter or lip spoiler. I will be anxious to see any body kit options for this by Stillen. The car, as with all Nissans it seems, still sits to high. Likely to improve ride quality, it still looks awkward and detracts from a sporty stance that many BMWs and Audis have. I have never loved any gap between wheel and fender and lowering the car slightly would give it a better overall look.

As a primarily performance-minded enthusiast, I do wish Nissan would keep the 6-speed manual tranny option, and even added a big brake kit option to the SV model. But I understand the marketplace and see why these things are not available.

With 19-inch 10 spoke wheels, the car is finished off with a gorgeous look. It hits dealerships this summer and you can bet I will be there to test drive it. With the revival of the 4DSC, I can now only be excited to read it’s hopeful numbers in Motor Trend, Car and Driver and Road & Track in the coming months.

Click here to read the full press release by Nissan about the 2009 Maxima

Click here to see more pics

11 comments:

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