2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Nissan Canada

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2009 Nissan Maxima

Cary, North Carolina – After deciding that its flagship sedan was heading in the wrong design direction, Nissan has returned to the formula that once made the Maxima a favorite among sport sedan enthusiasts.

Noted for its aggressive styling, powerful V6 engines and superior front-wheel-drive handling, the Maxima took a decidedly different turn in 2004 with a radical change in styling based loosely on the successful redo of the Altima. Although power grew from 222 hp in 2003 to 265 in 2004, the Maxima grew in size too, becoming a bit longer, wider and heavier.

But more importantly, the Maxima became a larger, more luxurious version of the Altima. Driving enthusiasts found a better deal and driving experience in the smaller well-appointed V6-powered version of the Altima sedan.

2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge

With the 2009 Maxima, Nissan has decided to bring the ‘sport’ back into the Maxima sedan, giving the car a complete overhaul with new, aggressive styling, a driver’s interior and, yes, even more power.

Gone are the slab sides that characterized the previous generation, replaced with curvy body work that emphasizes a tight waistline and bulging front and rear fenders. Unless you look down the side of the car along a line running from the crease above the front fender to the rear, the pinched waistline may not be readily apparent. But from the driver’s point of view, the front fenders and large power bulge dominate the forward view, while muscular rear fenders fill the side mirrors. You’ll move the mirrors out where they belong.

2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge

The prominent fenders accommodate a track that has grown 35.5 mm (1.4 in.) in the front and 30.4 mm (1.2 in.) in the back and larger 18-inch standard and 19-inch optional aluminum alloy wheels fitted with aggressive P245/45R18 or P245/40R19 tires.

The front end treatment takes inspiration from the new GT-R, with a wide grille, large bumper opening and “catamaran-style” hood. Huge, wraparound, L-shaped headlights dominate the corners, giving the Maxima some much needed front-end presence.

But it is from the rear that the new Maxima styling makes its greatest impression, with a high trunk lid, broad shoulders and smooth transition from roof line to trunk and fender crease to taillight, each illuminated by 12 LEDs.

While the Maxima’s bodywork is all rippling muscles, the interior is soft and refined. Nissan calls it a “super cockpit interior”, implying that the Maxima’s sportiness continues inside. But it is less sporty than it is exceedingly comfortable, luxurious and technologically sophisticated.

From the driver’s standard leather eight-way power seat – a seat I’d love to have in my office with both lumbar support and a thigh support extender – everything a driver needs to touch is easily within reach. The standard leather is soft and the look is elegant with dark red stitching. The shifter is angled toward the driver. The steering wheel feels thick in the hand.

2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge

You can let this car shift itself, or you can use the stick if you’re the old-fashioned type; or when equipped, you can click through the gears with paddles placed behind the steering wheel. Did I mention the Maxima, like all Nissans, has a CVT (continuously variable transmission) and hence has no gears? You’d never know it. Nissan has mastered the art of the CVT. It mimics a traditional automatic better than a traditional automatic.

Standard features are luxury class. It could have easily been an Infiniti, but that brand is reserved for rear-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles. This is as good as it gets in a sub-luxury cruiser with even the base model getting a heated steering wheel, satin chrome finishes, mood lighting, overhead map lights and rear seat reading lights, dual zone climate control, power sun roof, speed sensitive wipers and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with illuminated steering wheel mounted controls, auxiliary audio input jack and Bluetooth hands-free phone.

Competitors would include the Lexus ES350, Toyota Avalon and perhaps fully-loaded versions of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Nissan hasn’t fixed pricing yet but told journalists the new Maxima will start at less than $40,000. How much less is still being determined. But we’ll find out when the vehicle goes on sale June 26.

Safety features are what you’d expect in this class of car including front, front seat-mounted, and head curtain air bags, active head restraints for front and rear outboard passengers, anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, traction control and vehicle dynamic (stability) control.

2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge

Of course, there are options. Step up to either the Sport Package or Premium Package and you get, among other things, premium leather, Xenon headlights, reverse tilt down mirrors (auto-dimming on the driver’s side), power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, two-driver memory system and satellite radio. The Sport package adds a firmer suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels and low profile tires, and a rear spoiler. The Premium Package ads a dual panel moonroof with power retractable sunshades, power rear window sunshade, auto up and down for all windows, Eucalyptus wood interior accent trims, climate-controlled driver’s seat, rear seat audio and climate controls, iPod plug-in, a colour seven-inch monitor and rear back-up camera.

Both packages can be further upgraded with a navigation system (which gives the Sport Package the monitor and back-up camera) and a 9.3 GB music box hard drive.

The VQ-Series V6 continues to supply the power for the Maxima, but horsepower has been increased to 290, while torque is also up to 261 lb-ft. Fuel economy has also been improved with an Energuide city rating of 10.8 L/100 km (vs. 11.1 in 2008) and 7.7 L/100 km (vs. 7.9 in ’08) on the highway.

During a relatively short test drive, we drove cars equipped with both standard and sport-tuned suspensions. Driving on the gentle roads and freeways around Raleigh, North Carolina, it was difficult to determine any real difference: both provided a comfortable and quiet ride and cushioned passengers from the usual bumps and cracks. The V6 provides plenty of power, but just how sporting the new Maxima is will have to await a more extensive test.

My overall impression is that the new Maxima is no longer a luxury car pretender but a true luxury sedan providing the comfort, technology and enjoyable driving experience one would expect to find in vehicles priced much higher. And by being a better luxury sedan it is also a better sport sedan.

Manufacturer’s web site
Nissan Canada

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