2002 Nissan Maxima SE
Click image to enlarge

by Jim Kerr

Photos by Laurance Yap

Like sports cars but really need room for the family? Enjoy rowing a shifter but find that any European sports sedan with a manual transmission is priced way out of range? Want luxury but wish to keep it low key?

Then you are in luck. The Nissan Maxima can provide all this and much more.

The Maxima has been Nissan’s flagship sports sedan for more than two
decades. None offers sportier performance than the 2002 Maxima SE. Let’s
start with its drivetrain. Two hundred and fifty-five horses out of a
3.5 litre DOHC V6 move the Maxima out with style. Variable valve timing
and equal length tuned exhaust with a variable capacity muffler are a
couple of features that create this power throughout the rpm range. This
engine design has been rated as one of Ward’s Auto World’s ’10 Best
Engines’ for seven consecutive years and it is easy to see why. It revs
quickly, runs so smooth you have to listen carefully to see if it is
running, pulls strongly at any rpm, and gets excellent fuel economy too.

2002 Nissan Maxima SE

2002 Nissan Maxima SE
Click image to enlarge

Maxima GXE and GLE models come only with automatic transmissions, but
the six speed manual gearbox equipped SE model is well worth the $1000 upgrade from a GXE model. This gearbox shifts as smooth as a hot
knife in butter and the light but progressive feel of the clutch makes
the car easy to drive in city stop and go traffic. I absolutely love the
feel of this manual gearbox. For those that don’t like to shift, an
optional automatic transmission adds a thousand dollars to the bottom
line.

Power is put to the ground through 225/50 VR17 tires. Although the
Maxima is a front wheel drive car, it has a balance and feel of a rear
wheel drive model. Step on the throttle a little hard in lower gears and
you may get a little squeal from one front tire before the limited slip
differential kicks in. There is no traction control system on the
six-speed equipped Maxima SE although all models with automatic
transmission receive this feature.

2002 Nissan Maxima

2002 Nissan Maxima
Click image to enlarge

A sports car must handle, and the Maxima does. The SE’s suspension has
received a few tweaks to make the sedan more responsive to driver
inputs. Push the car aggressively into a corner and you are rewarded
with balanced and predictable handling. Push it to the limits and the
car begins to understeer slightly. The SE’s ride is firmer than the
other Maxima models, but never objectionable. The Maxima SE is a
driver’s car, but one that the whole family can enjoy.

Step on the brakes hard and the four-wheel disc brakes quickly slow the
car down. Brake assist automatically helps apply full braking during
emergencies, and the ABS allows drivers to steer while braking.

On the outside, the SE can be recognised by its attractive six spoke
alloy wheels, black grille surround, and body-coloured rear spoiler. All
2002 Maxima’s receive a more aggressive front end styling with larger
air intake and four bulb high intensity discharge headlamps. Clear
lenses on new tail lights and dual chrome exhaust tips finish off the
rear. I find the Maxima styling clean, simple, and attractive. The SE’s
spoiler, low profile tires and body-coloured trim hint at that sports
car soul.

2002 Nissan Maxima SE
Click image to enlarge

Inside, prepare to be pampered. Besides the automatic transmission, the
‘Leather Package’ is the only other option on the Maxima SE. For $3000,
this option adds leather seats, driver’s memory seat, power sunroof,
6-disc in-dash CD changer, and a 200-watt Bose audio system. All of this
is on top of the regular features such as heated steering wheel and
seats, trip computer, automatic headlamps, keyless entry, and automatic
climate control. Of course, there is power everything! All controls were
easy to use and see, but I did find the automatic climate control fan
was noisy as it operated on higher speeds, causing me to use its manual
control often.

Fully loaded at $37,866 (including shipping) the Maxima SE is a car that
offers as much as cars costing twice as much. It is one of those rare
cars that offers luxury, exciting performance, a sporty feel, and lots
of passenger and cargo room all within a rational price range. The SE
six-speed model is one I would love to have in my collection.


Technical Data:

2002 Nissan Maxima SE
Base price $33,900
Type 4 door, 5 passenger mid-size sedan; transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 255 @ 5800 rpm
Torque 246 ft-lb @ 4400 rpm
Transmission six speed Manual (four speed electronic automatic)
Curb weight 1461 kg (3221 lb.)
Wheelbase 2750 mm (108.3 in.)
Length 4864 mm (191.5 in.)
Width 1786 mm (70.3 in.)
Height 1430 mm (56.3 in.)
Cargo Capacity 428 litres (15.1 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.2 l/100 km (25 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Special Features/Options: heated seats, memory power driver’s seat,
automatic climate control, HID headlamps, 6-disc in-dash CD changer

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