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New Car/Review


Maxima SE0

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig

Nissan Full Line Video footage (8:30)

MODEL:                       2000 Maxima SE0
ENGINE:                      3.0-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:           222 hp @ 6400 rpm/217 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:                Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:                21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, 23.1 mpg test
WHEELBASE:                   108.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT:     190.5 x 70.3 x 56.5 in.
CURB WEIGHT:                 3199 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY:               18.5 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:            15.1 cu. ft.
TIRES:                       P215/55HR16
INSTRUMENTS:                 Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:                   Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power seats, heated seats,
                             power sunroof, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with in-dash
                             cassette player and in-dash CD player, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, dual front air bags,
                             side air bags.
STICKER PRICE:               $24,000 (est.)

When Nissan announced that it was coming out with a new Maxima - and you can tell from the television ads - it appeared that it was just another redesign of a popular sedan with little substance and a lot of hype.

Well, I was mistaken, and I hope others were as well.

The new Nissan Maxima is an outstanding automobile with few flaws that stands ready to compete with the likes of the Camry and Accord as "full-size" Japanese sedans.

The first thing you notice with the 2000 Maxima is its rather large "Chrysler 300M" grille. It gives the Maxima an identity that the competing vehicles don't have. So many Japanese sedans, as well as all the sedans in that class, are look-alikes that it's difficult telling them apart. You won't have that problem with the Maxima.

Behind that grille is a 3.0-liter V-6 engine that's rated at 222 horsepower. It is swift and it is powerful. We found ourselves chirping the tires several times on acceleration. We had more than enough power to do anything we wanted to do and get into all kinds of trouble. We also had enough power to get out of trouble as well. And yet, we had excellent economy. This is a derivative of the engine that was used in the old Z-car. It's a good strong design and it's a quiet engine. V-6 engines tend to be relatively quiet anyway, but this was state-of-the-art

The engine transmitted its power to the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. This was the only feature I didn't like that much about the car. It's a good gearbox, don't get me wrong. But a car that is campaigning to be a mainstream family car should have had an automatic gearbox in the tester. A four-speed automatic is available, and I wish I had an opportunity to drive it.

This manual is relatively smooth. It's so smooth that on at least two occasions I reached a stop sign and forgot I was driving a manual and stalled the car. I then had to start all over again. For a stick shift, it's pretty good, but I still think the more sensible choice for this car would have been the automatic.

Maxima has seating for five, with individual buckets up front and a bench in the rear. The buckets were cloth-covered and offered decent side support. The trunk, with a capacity of 15.1 cubic feet, had the ability to grow in size by folding down the backs of the rear seat. We put two golf bags in the trunk with room for a third if it was necessary. A larger trunk might have meant compromising front and rear legroom. You can always learn how to pack better, but you can't shorten your legs.

Instrumentation was fairly standard with black numbers on a white background. My wife said she thought they were cheap looking, with white paper pasted on the black instrument panel. At night, the "black" parts proved to be clear and light shone through, so you had light on a black background.

In addition, we had all the accessories. The sound system was good and pulled in all the distant stations I enjoy. In addition we had an HVAC system that was easy to control. It was digital and kept the Maxima comfortably cool in some pretty hot weather.

I was somewhat disappointed that I wasn't able to take the Maxima out on a flat dirt road and do the sideswipe maneuver you see in the commercials. I was able to take on my daily commute, however, and over some interesting winding roads. Quite frankly I enjoyed that section of the test more than I would have enjoyed driving around on dirt.

Maxima is a quality full-sized sedan that is poised to give the leaders from Toyota and Honda a run for their money.