Maxima makes the grade, for now
IntroductionNissan Maxima – Review: The Maxima delivers on style but isn't destined to be a classic and the build quality could keep it in summer school. Inside, the Nissan Maxima is comfortable, quiet and stylish but the use of cheap plastic abounds and keeps the real aluminum trim from excelling to its potential. It also delivers on power and torque through a CVT transmission but the torque steer from the front wheel drive and the less than adequate handling detract and lower the overall grade curve. Though the Nissan Maxima strives to be its best it falls short and lands somewhere between honor roll and valedictorian.
The Nissan Maxima is offered in two trim lines, the SE and SL. Both are V6 models offering up the same torque and horsepower ratings but with different trim specifications. Standard on the SE are 18-inch aluminum wheels, V-rated tires, traction control, a power driver seat and real brushed aluminum interior trim. Choose the SL and you get 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, a Bose stereo system with six cd changer, a digital compass, heated, power leather seats and side mirrors and wood tone interior trim.
The big change for 2007 includes a refreshing of the exterior with an updated grill, hood and headlights in addition to new front and rear bumpers and side sills. Additional additions include a rear spoiler, 17 and 18-inch 7-spoke wheels and quad tailpipe tips. Inside the changes include a redesigned center stack, larger shoulder bolsters for the seats and a redesigned sliding center armrest for greater comfort. The interior of the SE also gets real aluminum trim accents and optional perforated leather seats. All of the changes are subtle but help to keep the Maxima fresh and updated.
The engine is the best part of the 2007 Nissan Maxima. The 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers 255 horsepower and 252 lb. –ft. of torque through the front wheels, resulting in moderate torque steer. Quick lane changes are easy as is passing, and the V6 revs up to redline with little complaining. The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) transmission, new for this year, is one of the few CVTs we have driven that doesn't seem to zap the power from the car. There is also a manual mode for those that desire but paddle shifters have not found their way into the Maxima.
When it comes to a comfortable ride, quiet interior, good brakes and steering, the 2007 Nissan Maxima delivers a good all-around package. If I were to ask for improvements, it would be in the steering, which I felt was too light and in the handling, which I felt under steered too much.
With all the glass in the 2007 Nissan Maxima, there are no blind spots. Large side mirrors and a good view out the rear window make for easy driving and lane changes.
Fun to Drive
The 2007 Nissan Maxima is a car that does everything well but doesn't excel in any one area. The sharp looking design sets it apart from the crowd, but it isn't a head turner. Inside, it is quiet and comfortable, but doesn't give you the feeling of luxury or sportiness. When it comes to handling, there isn't anything to write home about. The engine is torquey and the transmission seamless, but there just isn't a memorable aspect that makes the Nissan Maxima unforgettable.
Nissan designers did a good job making the interior comfortable, from the seats to the interior controls. All of the necessary controls and switches are within easy reach and are intuitive to use. The front seats are well cushioned and the eight-way adjustable driver seat has power lumbar support that should satisfy even the most finicky of drivers. The Maxima is also equipped with a seat memory system that moves the seat and steering wheel up and back allowing for easier entry and exit.
Getting into and out of the rear of the 2007 Nissan Maxima is a breeze, thanks to a wide opening door and lots of interior room. The back seat is spacious with lots of head, leg and foot room and a fold down center arm-rest adds to the comfort. The seats are well- cushioned and an assist handle is also available if needed for easier egress. Something I expected and didn't find in the rear of the Nissan Maxima was a separate climate control system. This would be a nice addition for a flagship model.
The interior of the 2007 Nissan Maxima is surprisingly quiet. Wind noise is almost non-existent with just a bit of road noise transferring from the tires and suspension. Engine noise is also minimal until you decide to hit the go pedal, then a growl invades the cabin filling it with a high revving mechanical symphony. Inside there was an intermittent rattle from the sunroof area that couldn't always be duplicated, but overall the interior proved to be quiet and comfortable.
Loading bulky or heavy bags into the trunk of the Nissan Maxima can be a challenge due to the high liftover height. Overall, the trunk is very spacious with 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space but closing the lid without an interior pull results in hand and fingerprints all over the deck lid. Another bad design is the release mechanism for the folding rear seats. Dropping them almost requires crawling into the trunk to reach the pull straps to release the seats and then either leaning further in to push them forward to ensure they have released or walking around to the door to pull them down.
Our Maxima test car fell short of build quality expectations. Inside, there were gaps where plastic met trim, especially on the center console. Poor trunk and hood fitment haunted our test car along with large seams around the deck lid and uneven front door seams from side to side. A loose front fascia and even looser grill made us wonder what condition the Maxima would be in after a year or two of driving.
The initial feeling upon entering the cabin is one of mediocrity. The use of the real aluminum trim doesn't outweigh the decision to use low-grade plastics throughout the cabin. Soft touch surfaces are used on only the upper dash, door inserts, arm-rest and center console lid. The leather doesn't have a supple feel of a car in this category either. Nissan needs to work on designing an interior that can communicate an upscale feel such as the exterior design does. Simply upgrading or limiting the use of plastics would accomplish this.
The Maxima gets a new front grill, hood and headlights, front and rear bumpers and more aggressive sills and a rear spoiler to adorn the rear. Also at the rear are quad tailpipe tips. The 2007 Maxima rides on either 17-or 18-inch 7-spoke alloy wheels which if bumped to 20-inch would keep the looks of the Maxima more in line with today's trend. Inside, the Maxima gets a light refreshing with a new center stack configuration and gauge display. Adding to the comfort are improved shoulder bolsters and an adjustable center console lid for arm support. Designers also used real aluminum accents throughout the interior.
Storage in the 2007 Nissan Maxima is pretty typical with a standard glovebox and a small covered compartment forward of the shifter. Between the seats you get a center console box and a covered area that can be used as a cupholder or a storage compartment thanks to a removable insert. There are also storage areas in the door panels and a concealed compartment for sunglasses in the overhead area between the visors. The big downside of using the cupholder area for storage leaves you no alternative but to hold your hot java the old fashioned way, between the legs! A fold-out holder from the dash or center console would be a nice alternative addition to resolve this.
Basic controls are done with old-fashioned presets and knobs while the display is incorporated into the navigation screen. Controls are intuitive and the display makes them easy to read, even while driving. The navigation is also a basic setup but the downfall is the small toggle switch that must be used for the enter button. It is difficult to keep centered when pushing and required a second or even third attempt at times. I was surprised to find the DVD based navigation information up to date, something I have found not to be the case in many other DVD based systems.
Sticking with the basics of what works is a welcome sight in a new car these days and Nissan chose to follow this mantra with the climate controls in the Maxima. A simple dial for the driver and passenger to control temperature and a series of well-marked buttons to control everything else keeps things simple and efficient. Adjustments and settings are shown on the navigation screen for easy reference.
For the most part, Nissan designers did a good job with the secondary controls of the Nissan Maxima. I appreciated the large trunk and gas release buttons located at the rear of the driver door. I also appreciated the small rubber release on the exterior door handles that allowed the unlocking of the car without using the key fob. The keyless entry works well with this in that the key can be left in your pocket at all times.
Test Vehicle: 2007 Nissan Maxima SE
Price of Test Vehicle:$35,765.00 (includes $605.00 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 3.5-liter V6
Engine Horsepower:255 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque:252 at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: CVT w/ manual mode
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway):21/28
Observed Fuel Economy:17.5
Competitors: Chrysler 300, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Subaru Legacy, VW Passat
2nd Opinion – Chee
Nissan Maxima– Brian Chee's Opinion:
As a sedan, the Maxima is a fine, sporty unit. As an upscale sedan it falls short, inside and out. Though the restyled sheetmetal is pretty and all, it makes for only a revised new look and not the all-new attitude some may be counting on. It's actually more subdued than its predecessor, and while the style is improved, I was looking for more sophistication. And though braking, acceleration and handling are capable and sharp, the vehicle complains pretty loudly when you push it. Inside, the Maxima is roomy and comfortable, but cheap-looking plastics and too many hard surfaces compromise what would otherwise be a stellar interior.
2nd Opinion – Wardlaw
Nissan Maxima– Christian Wardlaw's Opinion:
Nissan is advertising the Maxima as "new" for 2007, but it's not. It looks a little different, it's got a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and the interior has been upgraded, but this is the same car that's been on sale since 2004. That's not a bad thing, because the Maxima is fundamentally pleasing. One of knocks against the Maxima has been torque steer, and the new CVT does a pretty good job of lessening its impact. But the Maxima is still a nose-heavy machine, and when you pitch it into a corner the tires howl in pain even though the steering is sharp and the body roll is kept in check. Drive the Maxima less enthusiastically, and you'll be happy.
Photos by Ron Perry