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1999 NISSAN MAXIMA SE

By Tom Hagin

Nissan Full Line factory footage (16:43) 28.8, 56k, or 200k
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,499
Price As Tested                                    $ 28,036
Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 182 cid/2988 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               205 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.3"/69.7"/189.4"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3038 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                           215/55R16 All-Season
Brakes (F/R)                                     Disc /disc
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            22/27/26
0-60 MPH                                        7.5 Seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                       16.0 seconds 89.5 mph
Top speed                                           120 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

The Nissan Maxima is one of the company's bright spots and has been roughly the same car since its 1994 redesign. It competes in the loosely described midsized car segment, a market that represent nearly four million sales annually.

And while Maxima's direct competition are all either all-new or have been mostly redone, Maxima soldiers on without change for 1999. Our test car for the week came in sporty SE trim.

OUTSIDE - Maxima is overdue for a redesign, but it's been so successful, selling 100,000-plus vehicles annually for the last few years, there hasn't been a real need for a new version thus far. The low, sloping hood and smooth sides blend nicely into integrated, body-color bumpers and side cladding. The shape is slippery, too, with a low 0.32 coefficient of drag. It also spawned a corporate clone, the Infiniti I30, which is essentially a dressed-up version of the Maxima. A rear deck lid spoiler, five-spoke alloy wheels and high-performance all-season tires come standard on the SE versions.

INSIDE - Maxima is large enough inside to legally carry five passengers, though four adults will be more comfortable. When Nissan redesigned the car in 1994, it also included a re-think of the rear suspension system. This brought extra room into the back seat, since the system took up less space underneath the car. Leg and headroom are ample, and the trunk opens to hold 14.5 cubic feet of cargo. The rear seat doesn't fold down, but there is a pass-through for long items. Little has changed interior-wise for '99, except for a different stereo faceplate for models equipped with the Bose audio system, and Maximas ordered with wood-tone trim (standard on GLE; optional on GXE and SE) have a darker finish on the faux wood. Standard features on all Maxima models include air conditioning, cruise control plus power windows, door locks and outside mirrors. Our test car came with extras that included a Leather Package and an SE security and Convenience Package.

ON THE ROAD - Maxima is powered by a smooth-running 3.0 liter V6 engine. It uses dual overhead camshafts and 24 valves to produce 190 horsepower and 205 pound-feet of torque. The majority of material used for this engine is aluminum alloy, while variable valve timing and multi-point fuel injection feed it fuel. The power feels stronger than its horsepower and torque numbers suggest, since acceleration and passing power are both quite strong. Power comes on smoothly and quietly, yet the car can still deliver up to 27 mpg on the highway. And Maxima is one of the few sedans in its segment to offer a five-speed manual transmission mated to a V6 engine. Our test car came with this gearbox, (standard on GXE and SE) which turned it into a genuine sports sedan. A very nice four-speed automatic transmission is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Built on unit body construction, Maxima uses MacPherson strut-type front suspension and a multi-link beam rear axle. Both ends use coil springs, tube shocks and anti-roll bars, while the SE model is fitted with wider, grippier tires than the GXE and GLE models. Of note is the design of the rear suspension, which reduces camber change in tight corners and enables designers to use soft bushings, springs and shocks for a smooth ride. Handling is above average compared to others in its class, while a traction control system, offered optionally on SE and GLE models with automatic transmissions, reduces wheelspin on slippery surfaces. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, while an anti-lock braking system is optional.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags and side-impact beams are standard, while traction control and ABS are optional.

OPTIONS - SE Security and Convenience package: (sunroof, power driver's seat, HomeLink transmitter, power trunk release, illuminated vanity mirrors, remote keyless entry, security system, variable speed intermittent wipers) $1,690; Leather Package: Leather seating, power passenger seat, automatic temperature control, uplevel door trim, passenger-side seatback pocket) $1,349; Bose-brand stereo system: $899; Floor mats: $79; Destination charge: $520.