Maxima is back.
The 2009 Nissan Maxima marks a return to the longtime Nissan flagship sedan’s roots as a commanding four-door sports car – a vehicle that is unique in both appearance and driving feel, with renewed relevance for today’s active and ambitious sedan buyers.
“Do-overs” are sometimes allowed in sports but rarely in the automotive industry. Yet, midway through the development of the new-generation Maxima, a mulligan was granted. Rather than continue with an evolution of the previous “edgey” Maxima design, the creators of the 2009 Maxima stopped and rethought the entire direction. And I, among many, applaud their efforts.
Three key areas were singled out for change: Exterior design, which needed to be more aggressive, with more personality and attitude; a “super” cockpit, creating an interior that combines a driver orientation with high quality, roominess and user-friendly technology; and class-leading performance, enhancing what previous generation owners called “Maxima-ness.”
The exterior design theme for the new Maxima is described as “Liquid Motion” and is world’s apart from the outgoing vehicle. Maxima’s new look imparts a strong, premium presence.
Dimensionally the new Maxima measures the same width at the doors but wider at each fender, which not only helps project a sporty appearance but also allows a reduction in the visual gap between the fenders and wheels and tires, accented by choice of 18- or 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with low-profile performance tires.
Despite well-known advantages of rear drive in terms of sporty handling, it was ultimately decided that by switching Maxima from its previous platform to Nissan’s new “D platform,” the target Maxima performance could be delivered – without giving up the added FWD benefits of lower costs, lower weight and enhanced roominess versus a RWD platform.
Additional enhancements include the use of aluminum suspension links, revised suspension geometry, new technology shocks, revised steering and suspension geometries, a lower engine mounting and application of a new Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission, all of which contribute to minimal torque steer and improved handling prowess.
The new Maxima offers more horsepower and torque, providing quicker acceleration response and a satisfying, sporty sounding exhaust note. For 2009, Maxima again features a standard 3.5-liter VQ-series V-6 engine, enhanced and refined to take its driving performance to new levels. The new engine is now rated at 290 hp and 261 lb. ft. of torque.
All 2009 Maximas come equipped with a revised Xtronic CVT with manual mode, tuned specifically for Maxima’s sporty driving character. For drivers seeking the utmost in vehicle control, a new sport mode has been added, along with some very sizable paddle shifters, mounted on the steering column, allowing manual transmission shift changes for varying scenarios.
“The enhancements to the new Maxima’s already industry leading CVT, especially the addition of the new Ds mode, help us realize the full potential of the Xtronic technology, including the controller and adaptive logic,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. “It’s like having an ‘automatic’ manual mode – with lightning quick gear ratio changes going into turns and auto gear hold out of turns. You’ve got to feel it to believe it.”
Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg city and 26 highway – similar to that of the 2008 Maxima, despite the 2009 Maxima’s 35 additional horsepower. Pricing for our SV tester begins at $31,990 and after the addition of the sport and sport technology packages, final sticker pricing comes to just over 37 grand.
We were impressed with the acceleration and handling, but rarely used the large paddle shifters. Never really saw a need for them other than aesthetics. Also, the tires included on the sport package transmit a good deal of vibration through the steering column. I expected a smoother ride.
“Our goal was to keep Maxima relevant to sports sedan enthusiasts, maintaining excitement and segment leadership,” said Castignetti. “Breakthrough design can only be accomplished by breaking through the limits you place on yourself. The passion and vision demonstrated by the Maxima development team has energized the entire organization. In the long, proud history of Maxima, this is one to remember.”