2009 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Review – the original 4-door sports car continues to deliver

Tuesday May 19th, 2009 at 9:55 AM
Posted by: berrichondanny

2009 Nissan Maxima 19 inch aluminum alloy wheels, HID Xenon headlights

Performance

Back to the good. Acceleration is fantastic in this Maxima. You feel the 261 lb-ft of torque propel the car quickly off the line and the transmission is very smooth. The 290 horses are also great at passing cars on the freeway. You can knock the gear shift left from Drive to the manual slot when you’re driving and it automatically downshifts for you, which is awesome as you’re passing up that unsuspecting 3-Series doing 70 on the 280 freeway. Then you start using the paddle shifts and the car really responds right away. You can definitely tell that the car is front wheel drive, though, when you try to accelerate on a turn. Especially in the rain. You’d also know that this car has a LOT of power. The Maxima is a big car and pretty hefty at 3,579 lbs., but the 3.5 V6 had no problems pulling this car around. You certainly do not get the sense that the engine is struggling at all, there’s always this feeling that there’s an overflowing power source as you step on the gas. Braking was good and the car stayed very straight. I was able to stop behind the line every single time the red light sneaked up on me on Central Expressway. As I mentioned, the car is not light and the brakes were perfectly proficient.

Handling

The suspension is tight on this Sport Package-equipped Maxima, you definitely feel the bumps in the road but it also handles well on curves. The Maxima negotiated turns and curves on Highway 17 pretty well despite the light steering feel. The suspension was stiff and handled curves at high speeds very well. There’s very little body roll and I felt very comfortable at swerving quickly in traffic (not that I pulled any dangerous maneuvers in the test car). The biggest issue I have is with the steering feel. It feels very light and has too much give. This is fine at slow speeds or in the parking lot (I love the rear back-up camera by the way) but at highway speeds it becomes a little twitchy. I had to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. It almost felt like driving a Pontiac Grand Prix, which is extremely horrible at steering feel.

2009 Nissan Maxima

Styling

OK, this latest generation of Maxima is not without controversy in the styling department, but it is miles ahead when compared to the previous two generations. This one is a leap forward just like the third generation Maxima that broke from the pack back in 1989, the first 4DSC. The rectangular grille is very distinctive and I like how it protrudes from the rest of the car. The car looks very striking from the front. The swoosh headlights are weird. They’re just plain weird. I thought they were weird when I saw the 370Z at the L.A. Auto Show, and I think they look weird on the Maxima. I also like the front wheel flare outs. These are matched by the prominent flare outs above the rear wheels, which give the Maxima a very wide stance and add visual interest to the side of the car. I like the chiseled edges all around this car, they break up the otherwise flat expanses on many surfaces of the new Maxima.

The profile looks very sleek, much like the new Altima and the G35. The proportions are a little off, however. I’m guessing it’s because it’s front wheel drive and Nissan designers did this to add more interior room, but the front wheels are way too close to the windshield and way too far from the front corners of the car. This gives the car profile the same proportions that you might find on any GM vehicle from the 1990s. The proportions on the G35/37 sedans are much better, with the long elegant hood and the front wheels pushed to the corners.

The designers also ran a little wild with the chrome around the rear door, a little overkill in my opinion. The taillights look good, the designers actually used a 3D software this time around. Maximas have struggled with good tail light designs for quite a few generations now. But where’s the corresponding swoosh to the one in the headlights like on the 370Z?

2009 Nissan Maxima

Value

Overall, the Maxima delivered more than what I expected. The performance was stunning and the handling confident. Plenty of interior space for the driver and passengers. The seats were extremely comfortable and snug. The build quality was fantastic, on par with luxury brands. In many ways it IS a four door sports car. I could do without the rear spoiler, though. Its many amenities like integrated navigation, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone connectivity, back-up camera and steering wheel-mounted controls all make the Maxima on par with the best luxury cars out there. I found myself using the navi system all the time, even when I was heading home. I know my way home, but liked the reassurance, I suppose. I did not use the voice recognition functions as much as I would have liked, because it requires that I either import the phonebook from my phone or programming things. I did not bother with that since I my time with the Maxima was limited. Interior quality has vastly improved and in many ways rival that of the best from Europe. Styling is bold and different, and definitely a good step forward for the Maxima line. The MSRP for the 3.5 SV with the Sport Tech and Sport Package was $37,380, however, which overlaps with that of the Infiniti G35/37. This begs the question as to how much the Nissan badge is worth.

Who should buy it?

Since you can buy an Infiniti G35/37 for pretty much the same money, why would anyone go with the Maxima? The G has more power even though it’s the same engine, and more brand cachet. I think there are two types of people. The first type is people looking for a bigger car and more interior space. My head hits the ceiling in my G35, but there’s at least 2 inches of space between my head and the Maxima ceiling. The Maxima is also a lot wider than the G, and the rear legroom is actually usable on the Maxima. The other type of buyers who should consider the Maxima is not concerned with brand or the perception it rubs off on the driver. The Nissan badge tells people that you don’t care for such trivial things and that you’re perfectly happy driving a regular people’s car that’s front wheel drive.  You should not buy the Maxima if you want a true, rear-wheel drive sports sedan. The Maxima will feel too big for you and you won’t be happy with the steering.

dual panel moonroof

Conclusion

So in summary, the Maxima is a very good and solid sedan. It is plenty powerful, handles relatively well, and has lots of room and a plethora of high tech amenities. Styling is controversial but at least you won’t lose it in the parking lot, and people will stare for good and bad. The navigation system was too complex even for me, and I’m usually pretty good at figuring this kind of stuff out, I never read owner’s manuals. I would not buy the Maxima although I am biased since I own a G35. I’m one of those people who do care about the brand and what it represents, plus I care about RWD and the styling, which is far superior on the Infiniti.

Build

Interior

Performance

Handling

Styling

Value

Overall

Rating

5.0

4.5

4.5

4.0

4.0

4.5

4.4


Nissan Maxima Photo Gallery

Nissan Maxima Specs

Nissan Maxima Specs

NissanThe official site for Nissan cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers and hybrids – www.nissanusa.com

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4 Responses to 2009 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Review – the original 4-door sports car continues to deliver

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  2. Lewis deSoto says:

    I tried my old 2nd generation iPod and it worked as well, though once an hour or so, it would “disconnect” itself and then start up after 10 seconds of off time.

    My vehicle has the Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A tires, but I felt that they had some road feel and good feed back over uneven surfaces. Not as much as I would like, but I feel the tires are too new. What I’ve found is that Nitto NT555 Extreme tires give nice feed back and feel.

    Yesterday I scrabbled through the backroads of Napa County, using the paddle shifters to great effect. Nice to get such a small car feeling from such a large vehicle.

  3. Derek says:

    Our test car was shod with Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A tires. Basically, they are a max performance summer tire according to the category assigned by TireRack.

    Connectivity to my 4th generation iPod worked perfectly. I didn’t connect up an iPhone and cannot fathom why Danny’s iPhone wouldn’t work.

  4. Lewis deSoto says:

    I would like to comment on your review of the Maxima. First of all, I purchased an SV/Sport with Tech package about a month ago. I ordered it with the summer tires, which gives more resistance and road feel in regard to steering feel that the all season tires do. You did not mention whether you were shod with the summer tire combo. Also in regard to the iPod interconnection, I found that my iPhone (while it does not charge, you need an adapter for that), if does play music perfectly, including the iPod Touch. So I’m wondering if you had a bad cable or if it wasn’t plugged in properly. I have not bothered with attempting to transfer phone #’s from my phone to the car (I hear that iPhone transfers do not work), but realistically, there are probably only ten phone #’s I would want input anyway, so that is not an issue.

    When I looked for a car, I was also tempted by the G series sedans, but I found them too narrow and claustrophobic inside, though I enjoyed the performance. The itsy trunk was also problematic for me; the Maxima’s trunk was deep and wide enough to accommodate my photo gear.

    I was also pleasantly surprised that when I went to purchase one, the Nissan dealer was more generous than the Infiniti folks and the disparity in price rose from a few thousand to six thousand out the door.

    I find the styling is striking and different, I also see the styling cues from the Z models and GTR incorporated, so the car looks decidedly more performance oriented than the G37, which has a sad, kind of jelly bean look to it, in particular the character line which droops past the rear wheels (I think the G35 was a better design).





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