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2009 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Review

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SEE ALSO: Nissan Specs, Prices and Comparisons - Nissan Buyers Guide

2009 Nissan Maxima, What's Not To Like?

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

“The 4-Door Sports Car” says Nissan’s tag line for the new Maxima. They’ve used that line for the last four generations of this mid-size sedan, now in its seventh iteration since 1981. That may be a bit of a stretch semantically but the Maxima is sportier than many of its competitors.

Historically, the Smyrna, Tennessee-built Nissan Maxima has projected more style and panache than most of its rivals. There was even a version with extra cladding and trim in one of the earliest generations that made it look, if not necessarily perform, like a real sport sedan. Since then I’ve always looked for Maxima to be something a bit special.

And, look special this one does - from the stylish, squinty headlight assemblies and Z-Car-like grille to the broad-shouldered flank to the bobbed tail featuring large, sloping taillights and a modest wing. Large dual exhaust tips peek out from below the bumper and brash, 5-double-spoked alloy wheels complete the picture. The best view is from inside looking out over the swoopy hood. It’s not just a smooth dome like most. Rather, the Maxima’s hood angles down from each fender then up in the middle, reminiscent of an old Corvette. Built on the Altima platform this new-for-09 Maxima is a great improvement aesthetically from the last one.

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We found it to be just as stylish and progressive inside. The two-tone interior with faun leather seats and trim contrasts boldly with the flat black dash and instrument surrounds. Nice-looking wood trim accented those two colors projecting a luxurious image. Seats both front and rear accommodated everyone well being large enough so no one felt cramped and firm enough to feel almost European. Instruments and controls looked and felt good and we found nothing annoying or difficult to manage. That’s not often the case. I like the keyless start that allows us to just keep the fob in our pockets. Nissan calls this a “super cockpit” emphasizing driving ergonomics.

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Maxima is powered by Nissan’s ubiquitous DOHC 3.5-liter V6 making, in this case, a solid 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. The versatile 3.5, and the 3.7-liter variant, power a wide range of cars and light trucks for Nissan and other brands. We never felt like we needed more grunt. Nissan claims a zero to 60mph time of 6 seconds flat.

All that power gets to the front wheels by way of a reasonably sophisticated CVT (Continuously Vacuous Transmission, Nissan calls it – or Continuously Variable Transmission as it’s known to most of us), which as most of you know has no specific gears. Acceleration is managed electronically based on throttle position. The engine rises to and holds a specified rpm as speed increases steadily. A manual mode, actuated by steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or by the console-mounted shifter, makes an attempt at feeling like a six-speed and does an adequate job. It’s certainly not like having the real thing though.

EPA rates this car at 19-mpg in the city and 26 on the highway using premium fuel. You can use regular without harm but you’ll get fewer mpg.

Ride and handling are excellent in my view. Again, it feels a lot like a full-size sedan when we’re ensconced behind the wheel, but it feels like something special. Steering is quick and precise, suspension is well balanced and braking feels solid and secure regardless of how demanding our driving style becomes. Suspension design includes lots of light-weight aluminum and is independent front and rear, of course, with a strut system fore and a multilink system aft. Standard stabilizer bars front and rear keep everything feeling under control. Hard cornering results in no excessive lean, squeal or squirreliness. The V-rated, 45-series, 245-wide, 18-inch tires offer an aggressive look and perform as well as expected.

Maxima only comes in two trim levels – S and SV. The SV just adds leather and a premium Bose sound system but a number of packages and options will boost the price if you like. In standard form Maxima comes very well equipped though. Our SV shows a base price of $31,990. Our test car has the Premium Package which adds $3,450 to the price and includes a ling list of extras like the dual-panel power sunroof, HD Xenon headlights, power rear window shade, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth and a raft of other stuff. We also have the $1,850 Premium Technology Package which includes a hard-drive navigation system with 7-inch color touch screen, voice recognition, XM NAVTraffic and 6-CD changer. Floor mats add $180, the rear spoiler is $370 and with the destination charge of $695 adding up to $38,535. That’s considerably less than the German competition and the premium Asian brands but way more than the budget brands. Over all, I’d have to say it’s good of value for the money.

I became quite fond of the Maxima during the week that it graced our driveway. While considered a mid-sized sedan it felt more like a full-sized sedan with extra crisp handling and performance and was a real eye-catcher.

What’s not to like?

SEE ALSO: Nissan Specs, Prices and Comparisons - Nissan Buyers Guide

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved