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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

The 1995 Nissan Maxima has been on the market for nearly a year now and has received accolades from automotive journalists as well as car buyers. The fourth-generation Maxima has been almost totally redesigned and re-engineered. Its development was inspired by Nissan's desire to produce "a versatile new car with a design that delivers beyond expectations". The new Maxima is a "clean sheet" car that was started from scratch and designed primarily for the American market. Although the Maxima is produced in Japan a lot of American input was obtained from Nissan's design, and research and development facilities in California and Michigan. It has almost the same basic overall dimensions as its predecessor, but the wheelbase is about two inches longer, the interior is larger, and the chassis is stronger. While the new engine develops the same power as the earlier model, it is stronger, lighter, more technically advanced and has better fuel economy than the 1994 model. Interestingly the Maxima, not the image-leader 300ZX sports car, is the first Nissan product to use the all-new 3-liter, 24-valve, dual-overhead cam, V6 engine. The four-door sedan is available in three versions that were developed to suit consumer tastes from family sedan (GXE) to affordable luxury car (GXE) to sports sedan (SE).

We tested the near-luxury Maxima GLE a few months ago and found it to be a very quiet, competent and comfortable machine. This week's test car is the sports-oriented SE. Paraphrasing Mark Twain , the rumors of the death of Nissan's "four-door sports car" (4DSC) have been greatly exaggerated as the latest version (SE) provides better performance and handling qualities

APPEARANCE: The smooth aerodynamic design of the Maxima SE results in a low coefficient of drag (Cd) of .31. It is contemporary and discernably Nissan and with its smooth, graceful and well- rounded styling bears a family resemblance to its cousin, the compact Altima sedan. The SE is distinguished from other versions by fog lights and a gray-accented grille in front, body-colored flush door handles and rub strip, and blacked out trim on the sides, as well as a small spoiler atop the trunk. In addition it displays Goodyear Eagle GA touring tires mounted on shiny alloy wheels.

COMFORT: Prominent indications of the SE's intent can be seen from the driver's seat: classic black on white analog gauges, as well as leather-covering on the shift knob and steering wheel. A velour upholstery is standard, and leather trim seats are optional. The front bucket seats are supportive and comfortable, while the ones in back are comfortable, and feature a combination arm rest/pass through to the trunk. A powered glass sunroof, Bose six-speaker CD audio system, cold weather package, security package with theft-deterrent system, remote keyless entry, and an upgraded climate control system provide options for all requirements. Standard items include air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, locks and outside mirrors, rear window defogger, cup-holders, and tilt steering wheel.

SAFETY: The Maxima SE is fitted with dual front airbags, three-point safety belts, and adjustable front shoulder height on each B pillar. Other safety items include four-wheel ventilated anti-lock disc brakes, side-guard door beams, front and rear crumple zones, and 5-mph front and rear bumpers.

ROADABILITY: The SE differs most from other Maxima models where it meets the road. It starts with the basic Maxima suspension system which includes independent suspension in front and a new, patented "Multi-link Beam" axle at the rear. The new rear suspension improves handling and reduces body lean and dip. While the SE is specially tuned with firmer springs and shocks, and Goodyear Eagle GA P215/60R touring tires its handling is crisp and ride comfort is excellent. When on the road the combination of a new suspension, plus a stiffer platform, added insulation and weather stripping and close-fitting tolerances make for a very quiet ride at all speeds.

PERFORMANCE: All Maximas use a new, lighter, more compact, and efficient aluminum-alloy V6 3.0 liter engine. For maximum power and quietness it is built to very close tolerances which, with its multi-valve construction and sequential multiport fuel injection, give it better fuel economy and reduced emissions. Under hard acceleration it emits a throaty exhaust note. A slick-shifting 5-speed manual transmission delivers good low-end torque and great mid-range power to the front wheels.

CONCLUSIONS: The 1995 Nissan Maxima is a unique mid-sized four-door sedan that can offer something for everyone. Depending on options it can be a luxury car or a very competent sports car.


           Base Price              $  21,599 
           Price As Tested         $  25,385    
           Engine Type             V-6, dohc - 24v, smpfi*
           Engine Size             3.0 liter/183 cid        
           Horsepower              190 @ 5600
           Torque (ft/lbs)         205 @ 4000
           Wheelbase/Length        109"/206"
           Transmission            Five-speed manual w/od 
           Curb Weight             3010
           Pounds per Horsepower   16
           Fuel Capacity           18
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded premium (91 oct)              
           Tires                   Goodyear Eagle GA P215/60R15  
           Brakes                  antilock optional - vented discs
           Drive Train             Front engine/front drive
           * sepfi - sequential electronic port fuel injection
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed         22/27/25.1
           0 to 60 mph                     6.8 sec  
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                   15.4 sec    
           Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)       .31