I am sure you have seen the newly redesigned Nissan Maxima for the “09 model year, if not in person than online. If you have ever driven a previous Maxima this decade you may have realized that, frankly, the exterior styling meshes too closely with the Nissan Altima and began losing sales quickly. Consequently, the ’08 model year sold less in the whole year than the ’09 model has in the first 2 months after the release. Two months…really? Main reason is, in my opinion, it is no longer a Nissan Altima 3.5 SE. The Maxima has gone back to its roots of a 4 Door Sports Car leaving behind its family sedan styling.
The new Maxima has borrowed many attributes from its siblings under the Infiniti nameplate. Interior refinement and design is directly from the new ’09 Infiniti EX, FX and G; as a result it is superior to anything Nissan has ever done previous. Buttons, nobs, plastics, cloth and leather are great complementing the easy to use computer functions and navigation interface. Enough of that, lets discuss what we are really here for, performance!
You read the title, “Torque Steer,” and there is a reason for that…it is virtually gone! If you ever drove the last gen Maxima, the 3.5L engine would torque you right or left when you stomp on the throttle. It was necessary to hold on for dear life to keep the car on the straight and narrow. Bad news is that nearly every front drive car with reasonable horse power and torque suffers from this disease. I have had plenty of time behind the wheel of the Altima 2.5L 4 cyl and even that 175 hp engine can torque the car to either side when hard on the gas. So what happens when you throw a 290 hp V6 in the new Maxima? Nothing! That’s right, torque steer is virtually eliminated! Get on a straight road, take your hands off the wheel, put your foot to the floor and beauty begins. Dead straight all the way even in this front drive beast. It took Nissan many man hours to figure this out as they are one of the first manufacturers to perfect this even with a near 300 hp engine.
The transmission is the same in all Maximas, a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Now you purists in the sports car realm might balk at the lack of a 6 speed close ratio transmission but trust me when I say this CVT is stellar. Since there are no gears in a CVT, just smooth power delivery, there is no shift shock or hunting for gears up hills (cue the Altima commercials a few years back of the woman trying to apply her lipstick). Nissan has perfectly mated the CVT to their award winning VQ series V6 power-plant. This CVT is not Nissan’s normal CVT like what they use in the Versa but is now sport tuned with manual mode, sport drive mode and available paddle shifters. The sport mode is going to hold the RPMs up near red line when pushing the car hard. This is naturally assisting performance by squeezing all available juice out of the V6. If you use the manual mode in your Maxima, you may be surprised to know that the sport mode allows the car to pull 0 to 60 times quicker than shifting it yourself with the the manual mode. This is the best example I can give of how well this CVT is mated to these 290 hp.
The available packages allow you to make this a more sports oriented car with upgrades like 19 in alloys and sport tuned suspension or a premium luxury cruiser with amenities like climate controlled seats which heat and cool (yes air cooled perforated leather seats) as well as a hard drive based navigation system with hard drive space left to rip your own music. For a car of this stature starting at a price of $29,290 is reasonable but ticking off all the boxes can reach $40,000 quickly. Lets face it though, in a similarity equipt Infiniti, BMW, or Acura you can easily pay a $10,000 – $15,000 premium. Not bad for a 4 Door Sports Car with the handling to match. Be on the lookout for the 2010 Maxima clean diesel and lets all cross our collective fingers for an AWD model.
Update: As of 2012, no diesels in the near future for any of Nissan’s USA models. Don’t think its a big enough market for diesels in the States.