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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Nissan Maxima Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Nissan Maxima Overview

All Dressed Up and Every Place to Go

Nissan's Maxima gets a big boost in power and prestige with the launch of the 2004 model. Completely redesigned from the ground up, the new Maxima will never be confused with past models, though it may convince a few passerbys that the 350Z now comes in sedan form.

For 2003, the Maxima line has been simplified to two models: the sporty SE and luxurious SL. SE models come with a six-speed manual transmission, sport tuned suspension and more aggressive tires while the SL comes only with the automatic transmission and has a much softer ride. We found both trim levels to exhibit extremely good handling and road holding, though if you love to really push your car hard, the obvious choice is the SE. In this trim, the Maxima feels so light on its feet you'll forget you're driving a sizable sedan; in the areas of turn in, braking and straight-line tracking the Maxima earns straight A's.

Built on the same well-balanced platform as the new Altima and Murano, the Maxima makes the most of this design by maximizing (sorry for the pun-like wording) interior space while still retaining sport car-like ride and handling. Though this same platform is also the basis for the dynamite new Infiniti G35—a rear drive car—Nissan chose to stay with the Maxima's front-wheel-drive layout, primarily because that's what their research showed customers wanted.

While a front-drive car does give the driver better traction in snow and rain, it also exhibits some steering control issues as the horsepower beneath the hood rises. In the case of the Maxima, Nissan engineers have done a pretty good job of minimizing the amount of torque steer and understeer (a front-wheel-drive car's tendency to "plow" forward even when the wheels are telling it to turn) by utilizing both mechanical and electronic controls. On models equipped with the manual transmission, you can opt for a helical limited-slip differential while automatic models use a combination of traction control, vehicle skid control and ABS to control the car.

No matter which trim you choose, you'll find the same 3.5-liter V6 engine waiting for you under the hood. We fell in love with this engine and we think you will top. Why? Because it is absolutely power happy, without a flat spot or weak point anywhere in the rpm band—and because it loves to run and play like a big gas-thirsty V8, while returning a respectable EPA highway fuel rating of 28 miles per gallon. With 265 horsepower just waiting to be released by your itchy little foot, the Maxima can turn even the most mundane road trips into thrilling little excursions to be savored like a vintage wine.

And just when you thought it couldn't get better, it does. Look inside the Maxima and you'll find an attractive, even innovative interior filled with sights and sounds that fill you with that same giddy feeling you got when you bought your first new car. Above your head is a longitudinal fixed skylight, somewhat resembling a giant piggy-bank coin slot; this feature lets light into the cabin, making it feel larger and more airy and is standard on all Maximas except those with the optional power moonroof. Order the Elite package, and the Maxima's front bucket seats are mirrored in the back, creating a two-person seating environment that further enhances the Maxima's intended goal of feeling like a four-door sport coupe.

The dash and door panels are very well laid out, with proper backlighting for all buttons and switchgear. The instrument panel mimics the three-pod motif found in the Z car and Altima, a nice tie-in to the family line. On the safety front, you'll find the Maxima comes fully prepared with seat belt pretensioners, built-in crumple zones, front side-impact airbags and a full-length set of side-airbag curtains.

Standard equipment on the Maxima SE includes a six-speed manual transmission, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, aluminum alloy wheels, height-adjustable center console lid, automatic dual-zone climate control and an eight-speaker AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD. The SL trim adds a Bose audio system, HID headlights, woodgrain accents and leather seats. Options include on-board navigation, power glass moonroof and a series of packages including the four-seat Elite option.

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