2007 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE Review


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2007 Nissan Maxima

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2007 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE

Ever since its debut in 1981, the Nissan Maxima has been different. Now well into its sixth generation, the Maxima has always been positioned a little upscale from the most popular Japanese and American mid-size sedans, and has often sourced its engine and some sporty character from Nissan's long series of "Z" sports cars. The current version exemplifies classic Maxima traits well, as it is powered only by a V6 - no lower-budget four, that's the duty of the Altima - and that V6 is the VQ35 shared, in a higher state of tune, with the 350Z.

The 2007 model year sees the most changes to the current Maxima since its introduction in mid-2003. As before, it's offered in sporty SE and more luxury-oriented SL grades. A mild refreshing of the exterior styling may be the most visible change - but it's nothing radical. Inside changes are highlighted by a redesigned center stack, new and more visible instrumentation, improvements to the seats, an ugraded audio system, and Nissan's keyless "Intelligent Key" with pushbutton door access and engine start and stop. The SE gets genuine aluminum interior trim. Unseen, but most important to the Maxima's ever more refined character, is the replacement of the previous five-speed automatic, or, optionally in the SE, six-speed manual transmission with Nissan's "Xtronic" electronically-controlled continuously-variable transmission (CVT), previously seen in the company's Murano crossover.

As Nissan's flagship sedan, today's Maxima appropriately features the company's newest technology, for comfort, convenience, and performance. The SE with which I've spent the past week exemplifies this very well, especially with the "Driver Preferred Package", which includes enough state-of-the-art upgrades to make the car a contender in the entry-luxury category. The Maxima has matured since its "4-Door Sports Car" days. Like a retired athlete, it has gained a bit of weight and girth, and its reflexes aren't quite as sharp as they once were. It's mellowed, but it's still considerably more capable than the average mid-size sedan.

APPEARANCE: I doubt that it's a direct result of the Nissan-Renault alliance, but nowhere in the Nissan lineup is there more French influence than is the Maxima's voluptuously-rounded styling. Someone in the design team was exposed to the classic Art Deco designs of Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik, and others. The Maxima's standard "Sky View" multi-panel roof is reminiscent of a similar arrangement on the 1934 Voisin Aerodyne. For 2007, the Maxima is brought into line with the latest Nissan look with a new, more subdued grille and redesigned headlights. These revisions necessitated further changes to the hood and front bumper, with the net result of a visual reduction in apparent mass. At the sides, restyled rocker panels lend a sportier look, and complement the well-defined wheel arches. The optional rear spoiler is larger than before.

COMFORT: As with the exterior, the Maxima's interior refresh is subtle, but it improves driver and passenger comfort and convenience. As in most current luxury cars, entry and ignition are controlled not with a mechanical key but with a remote transponder, called the "Intelligent Key" by Nissan, that can be kept in the driver's pocket. Touch pads on the doors (or buttons on the fob) control locking; starting and stopping are by a rotary switch on the steering column where a key would normally go. The luxury motif is further developed with the comprehensive "Driver Preferred Package" option group with which my test car was equipped. It's pricey, at over $3,700, but adds leather, heated front seats and heated power folding outside mirrors, a heated tilt and telescope-adjustable steering wheel, xenon HID headlights, a rear sonar parking system, Bluetooth phone compatibility, and an audio system upgrade to bring the Maxima into entry-luxury territory. The optional navigation system has a simple, intuitive interface. Even in standard trim, it distinguishes itself with genuine aluminum interior trim in the SE, a simplified control interface and new electroluminescent "Fine Vision Meter" gauges, and an auxiliary audio input. Interior styling is as distinctive as the exterior. The seats have been redesigned, and offer very good levels of comfort and space in both the front and the rear. Luggage capacity is good, aided by a 60/40 folding rear seat.

SAFETY: Nissan's ``Zone Body'' construction provides strong protection around the passenger compartment and front and rear crush zones. The Advanced Air Bag System includes dual-stage front airbags, seat belt sensors and a front-seat passenger classification sensor, front-seat dual-stage side airbags, and head curtain airbags. All seating positions have three-point safety belts, and active front head restraints also improve safety. Brakes are four-wheel disc with antilock, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, and traction control standard. The Vehicle Dynamic Control electronic stability system is available.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Although both Maxima models share a fully-independent suspension with struts in front and a multilink system in the rear, the SE is tuned a touch more firmly than the SL. It's too comfort-oriented to be a proper sports sedan, but that's not its mission in life. Call it sport-touring, with an emphasis on the touring - meaning that the Maxima SE is a car that can cover distance quickly and in comfort.

PERFORMANCE: There are no changes to the Maxima's 3.5-liter VQ35 alloy V6, a refined and powerful engine designed with advanced mechanical and electronic concepts and built with careful attention to detail for smooth, powerful, and efficient operation. If its specifications seem to indicate a little less power this year - 255 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm vs. 265 and 255 previously - that is likely the result of an industry-wide recalibration of power measurements. What is different is what is between that engine and the front wheels. The previous automatic or manual transmissions have been replaced by Nissan's "Xtronic" electronically-controlled CVT. It's a sportier version of that found in the Murano. No transmission shifts more smoothly than one that doesn't have discreet shifts at all, and so the CVT suits the Maxima's refined personality well. In "D", its wide gear ratio spread and intelligent operation provides good acceleration and it keeps the revs in the heart of the torque band, for fine driving character just about anywhere. Software-created "manual" shifting is possible, but it offers little gain in performance.

CONCLUSIONS: The Nissan Maxima continues as an upscale alternative to the common midsize sedan.

SPECIFICATIONS
2007 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE

Base Price			$ 28,050
Price As Tested 		$ 36,015
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam V6
				 with variable valve timing
Engine Size			3.5 liters / 214 cu. in.
Horsepower			255 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			252 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			CVT
Wheelbase / Length		111.2 in. / 194.4 in.
Curb Weight			3591 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.1
Fuel Capacity			20 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P245/45 VR18 Goodyear Eagle RS-A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, BA, TCS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent strut /
				 independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		21 / 28 / 22
0 to 60 mph				6.6  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Splash guards, front and rear			$ 140
Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) - includes
 full-size spare tire on alloy wheel		$ 600
Power glass sunroof 
 (replaces SkyView roof)			$ 900
5-piece floor and trunk mat set 		$ 170

Driver Preferred Package - includes:
  Bluetooth¨ hands-free phone system, 
  power folding side mirrors w/memory,
  driver's seat with memory and power lumbar,
  heated power tilt and telescope steering wheel
  with memory, auto entry/exit system,
  Xenon HID headlights, rear sonar system
Plus
Sensory Package - includes:
  Leather-appointed seats, 4-way front passenger
  seat, heated front seats and exterior mirrors
Plus
Premium Audio Package - includes:
  Bose¨ audio system with AM/FM/CD6 and
  8 speakers, MP3 playback capability,
  speed-sensitive volume control, Radio Data System
Package Total					$ 3,750
Navigation system				$ 1,800
Destination Charge				$   605

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